Given the rising number of fraudulent returns and illegitimate complaints both in merchandise and service settings, the purpose of this paper is to advance our understanding of such behavior by examining employees’ perceptions of complaint legitimacy. Determining complaint authenticity is a crucial step towards detecting fraudulent claims since employees must judge legitimacy of the complaint according to the rationale offered by the customer. This research conceptualizes complaints as an attempt at persuasion by the customer and empirically tests whether persuasion models work in reverse, i.e. where a customer plays no longer a role of a target but rather acts as a message source. The proposed model draws on source, context and receiver factors and findings indicate that the fundamentals of persuasion research are also applicable to complaining episodes. Using survey data collected from the front line hotel employees, customer (customer trustworthiness and attractiveness), situational (severity of service failure), and employee (customer orientation and conflict avoidance) characteristics were found to have an impact on the target's perceptions concerning the cognitive legitimacy of the message itself. In essence, the present study suggests that the employee perception on whether the voiced complaint is legitimate or not go far beyond the actual message itself; rather, employees make their conclusions on complaint legitimacy based on peripheral cues and internal characteristics.
Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services – Elsevier
Published: Jul 1, 2018
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