Customers who complain rate failed products lower

If a customer believes they are to blame if a product they are using fails, they are more likely to rate the product lower when given the chance to complain, according to a recent study.

Researchers divided participants into two groups and directed them to replicate the preparation of a smoothie. Set up to fail with a poor quality food processor, half of the participants were made to feel the smoothie failure was their fault and the other half was told that it was a machine malfunction.

When made to believe the failure was their fault, participants rated the machine lower on a nine-point scale after complaining compared with the same participants who were not given the chance to complain, according to study results. However, when provided with affirmative statements about their competence, participants in the self-blame group became more likely to rate a product favorably after complaining. Researchers also found that when made to believe the processor had malfunctioned, participants rated the device higher after given the chance to complain.

“It’s commonly assumed that giving customers a chance to voice grievances allows companies to maintain relationships. But our research shows that when a person feels implicated in a product’s failure — think building Ikea furniture — they’re more likely to shift blame to the product when complaining and increase ill will toward it,” Darren Dahl, PhD, a marketing professor of the Saunder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, stated in a press release. “With companies turning to social media to communicate with customers, the power of customer complaints has been amplified. Our study shows that companies shouldn’t just let people sound off. They need to be stroking egos as well.”

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