Is the customer always right? A qualitative study of illegitimate complaining behaviour

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With a growing number of fraudulent complaints which cost businesses a lot of time, energy and financial costs, research was needed to learn more about these illegitimate complaints. Earlier conducted research pointed out that several variables were surrounding this phenomenon, namely: Drivers of illegitimate complaints, Types of illegitimate complainants, Neutralization techniques and Relationship variables. Therefore, semi-structured interviews were conducted to learn how these variables are interrelated, since that is wat earlier research failed to establish. By learning more about this phenomenon, businesses can prepare themselves more carefully to this growing problem. 29 interviews were held with people who claimed to have filed an illegitimate complaint or claim. These interviews resulted in the discovery of 33 Drivers and 3 Types of complainants, namely capital seeker, justice seeker and nudged complainant. Furthermore, 18 Neutralization techniques were discovered and the effects the complaints had on the relationship with the firm after filing the complaint were studied, which were mainly positive. The results also indicated that there is no clear connection between the type of complainant and the neutralization techniques that are used. Moreover, no clear connection was found between the type of complainant and the effect the complaint has on the relationship with the firm. This thesis concludes with several implications for both theory and practice. The theoretical implications entail the discovered Drivers, Types and Neutralization techniques. Furthermore, no clear link was found between the formulated types of complainants and the kind of neutralization techniques they use. Also, there seems to be no connection between the formulated types and the effect an illegitimate complaint has had on the relationship with the firm. Also, the neutralization techniques are used before filing the complaint. The practical contributions involve the realization that the use of neutralization techniques should be countered before complaints are being filed. Furthermore, Loyalty is expressed by many respondents. However, price fluctuations make customers look for better deals elsewhere, implicating very little loyalty. Lastly, the solving of illegitimate complaints can be very beneficial for the relationship a firm has with its customer. The limitations to this research are the lack of explanation about how types of complainants are related to neutralization techniques and relationship variables. Also, the fact that most respondents had filed illegitimate claims with insurance companies, which make the nature of these claims somewhat different from other complaints. Therefore, suggestions for further research are given so that the phenomenon of illegitimate complaints can be further understood.
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