Academic journal article Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior

An Empirical Investigation of Complaint Behavior among Church Members

Academic journal article Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior

An Empirical Investigation of Complaint Behavior among Church Members

Article excerpt


Understanding how church members complain when dissatisfied is a topic that has been neglected in the marketing literature. Academicians have done a good job in looking at complaint behavior in retail, industrial, and service environments. However, one area that has not been investigated is how church members complain. Researchers have been slow to make use of modern marketing techniques in non-profit areas. This article develops a typology of complaint behavior response styles and identifies a set of variables useful in predicting complaint styles in a church environment. This type of research is needed in order to help these organizations be pro-active in the areas of loyalty, satisfaction, and retention of church members.


The service sector is the largest industry in the U.S. economy. Presently, the service sector represents 38.7 % of all establishments and accounts for 79 % of all employment. Projections for job creation in this sector will continue to be strong with it generating an additional 20.5 million jobs by 2010 (Berman, 2001). Given this tremendous projected growth, one might surmise that all segments of the service sector are growing rapidly. However, churches often not thought of as being part of the service sector have not benefited from the tremendous growth in the service sector. In fact, mainstream denominations in the United States have not seen any significant increase in worshipers over the last four decades ("Religious Makeup").

According to Wright (1996) the top five religions in the world are Christianity (33%), Islam (20%), Agnostics (15%), Hinduism (13%) and Buddhism (6%). Of these five religions, Christianity has had the most arduous time in satisfying and retaining worshipers (Parsons 1997). According to the U.S. Center of World Mission, the Christian religion is growing at a 2.3% annual rate, which is approximately equal to the growth rate of the world's population, while Islam is growing at a 2.9% rate, allowing this religion to capture more membership over time than any other group (Parsons 1997). Growth projections indicate that Christianity will represent only 25% of the world's population by 2025 down from 33% (Huntington 1998). Given the projections that forecast Christianity's decline, an anecdotal example is provided to demonstrate the need for retention strategies and policies to maintain a church's membership. One such retention strategy is that of managing the various forms of complaint behavior in churches.

Anecdotal Example for the Retention of Church Members

In one northeast Texas city there are approximately 456 churches that serve an area with a population of roughly 80,000 people. If one were to assume that everyone was an active member of a church in this town, there would be approximately 175 worshipers for each church. According to the Barna Research Group, about 36% of Americans attend church regularly, ("Religious Makeup"); leaving an average of 63 committed worshipers for each religious organization in this city. Obviously, with only 63 worshipers attending any given church, meeting the churches financial obligations just to keep the doors open would tend to be problematic. Given this scenario, all churches should recognize that maintaining their existing church body is essential to the churches' viability. In fact, the average U.S. service establishment loses half of their customers to customer disloyalty within five years, hence organizational performance declines 25 to 50% (Gnash, et al. 2000). Though the Gnash, et al. (2000) study did not include churches, it can be inferred that the pursuit of loyal church members should be a priority. In order to create church (brand/store) loyalty, the job of managing satisfaction among church members will be key.

This paper will extend the literature in the area of satisfaction and complaint behavior to a unique part of the service sector, namely churches. …

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