Consumer reactions to unethical service recovery

Journal of Business Ethics 36 (3):223 - 237 (2002)
Abstract
Ethical business practices have been widely prescribed, but why? Consumers views on unethical business practices have been studied, but possibly more important to marketers and researchers are consumer actions and reactions to unethical business practices and the businesses themselves. Do consumers react negatively, or in such a way as to "punish" the unethical business? If so, what is the nature and extent of the punishment? This research seeks answers to these questions by examining consumer reactions, such as complaining and switching, to instances of unethical business practices. Using equity theory, this research proposes that consumers should be willing to tolerate some unethical behavior as long as they feel their investments and outcomes remain proportionately equal. Consumers who perceive that their outcome/investment ratio is proportionately unequal to their comparison other will respond by switching or complaining. In this research consumers were exposed to two types of service failures with different levels of service recovery in vignettes. Costs incurred by the consumer during the service transaction were also manipulated in the vignettes. Significant differences were found for complaint behavior in the failure recovery vignettes tested. Specifically, voice complaint was higher in the high cost service encounters in both types of services tested. The recovery attempt used (ethical, unethical, or none) led to significance differences in the variables of complaint, voice complaint, satisfaction, and quality. Higher satisfaction and quality ratings were found for the ethical recovery attempt and higher intentions to use complaint and voice complaint in the unethical recovery attempts. One significant interaction between cost and recovery attempt was found. Intentions to use voice complaint were higher in the high cost situations of ethical and unethical recovery, while approaching equality at the no recovery attempt
Keywords equity theory  ethics  services  service failure  service recovery
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