Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Complainant Identity: Things to Consider in Obtaining Customers' Feedback in Public Transportation

Academic journal article Review of European Studies

Complainant Identity: Things to Consider in Obtaining Customers' Feedback in Public Transportation

Article excerpt


This article investigates the factors that act as barriers in obtaining customer complaints in public transportation services in the city of Kaliningrad, Russia. It seeks to understand what external and internal factors discourage dissatisfied customers from filing a complaint to the service company, and allocate regularities with regard to personal attributes of the individual groups of respondents. Data were collected from a survey held in May and June 2014 using a judgmental sampling method. Research results suggest that complainant's gender, age, and income level predetermine individual perceptions over the influence of factors that might stop a customer from filing a complaint. On average, depending on the type of problem, up to 90% of dissatisfied customers do not voice their complaints to the service provider.

Keywords: customer feedback, customer complaint behavior, service quality, public transportation

1. Introduction

Public transportation services has long been a highly competitive market, represented by the ever growing modes of transportation-buses, trams, trolleybuses, metro, etc. (Atalik, 2009; Duval, 2007). Yet, in recent years, urban transport companies have stumbled upon a fearsome competition on behalf of the substitute services, such as car and bicycle city rentals, car sharing, etc. The market offerings in the niche of public transportation services are being constantly refined. Customers, given the variety of choices, are easily enticed by the 'competitors' (i.e. substitute offerings), often encouraged by the society, in example, due to environmental issues (e.g. in case of bicycles or electric vehicles). Clearly, the are plenty of reasons to the possible outflow of passengers in favor of other means of transportation, thus management goal is to maintain excellent service quality and set a dialogue with the customers. Customer feedback is regarded as an inexhaustible source of information on the service performance, whereas customer complaint is the most valuable piece of knowledge. While the importance of obtaining customer complaints is left undoubtable, researchers are faced with the challenge of non-complainants.

2. Theoretical Background

2.1 Barriers to Customer Complaint Behavior

Customer complaint barriers are extensively studied by Best and Andreasen (1977), Blodgett et al. (1995, 1997), Dabholhar, (1994), Keaveney (1995), McCollough et al. (2000), Oliver and Swan (1989), Singh (1989, 1990), Smith et al. (1999), Stephens and Gwinner (1998), Tronvoll (2008) to name just a few. Generally, scholars consider three main group of factors that strongly affect customer's intention to file a complaint. These factors are costs and benefits associated with filing a complaint, contextual resources, and customer's personal competences. Various individual factors within these broad categories reflect the subjective evaluation of the gap between the cost and benefit of complaint, i.e. whether the complaint is worth the effort. Tronvoll (2008) describes them as situational factors that influence the final decision, being context sensitive and heterogeneous. Among other important parameters that influence customer's evaluation of the complaint reasonability, self-confidence and recovery expectations are the perceived service importance (e.g. see Bloch & Richins, 1983; Blodgett et al., 1995; Day & Ash, 1979), failure severity (e.g. see Dunning et al., 2004; Goodwin & Ross, 1992; Hoffman et al., 1995; Smith et al., 1999), attribution of blame (e.g. see Krishnan & Valle, 1979), zone of tolerance (e.g. Mikhaylov & Mikhaylova, 2014) and a number of others. Hence, most of the conceptual developments on the topic of customer complaint behavior, including complaint barriers, focus on the matter of the service failure (i.e. the reason of complaint), leaving aside the individual differences of the complainant.

At the same time, scholars acknowledge the subjective nature of customer's evaluation of the service quality, and actions taken in case of the service failure. …

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