When Your Best Customers Become Your Worst Enemies: Does Time Really Heal all Wounds?
Yany Grégoire, Thomas M. Tripp and Renaud Legoux
Customer revenge and avoidance in the context of online complaints by the public are hot topics. This article helps managers to understand the phenomenon and to prevent damage. Do online complainers hold a grudge—in terms of revenge and avoidance desires—over time? Results show that time affects the two desires differently: although revenge decreases over time, avoidance increases over time, indicating that customers hold a grudge. Then, we examine the moderation effect of a strong relationship on how customers hold this grudge. Indeed firms’ best customers have the longest unfavorable reactions. This is called the love-becomes-hate effect. Specifically, over time the revenge of strong-relationship customers decreases more slowly, and their avoidance increases more rapidly, than for weak-relationship customers. Further, we explore a solution to attenuate this damaging effect: the firm offering an apology and compensation after the online complaint. Overall, strong-relationship customers are more amenable to any level of recovery attempt.
Customer Relationship Management, Service Failure-Recovery, Customer Revenge, Customer Avoidance, Online Public Complaining