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

Factors That Influence a Consumer Complainer's Rating of Service Received from a Third Party Complaint-Handling Agency - the Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs

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

Factors That Influence a Consumer Complainer's Rating of Service Received from a Third Party Complaint-Handling Agency - the Los Angeles Department of Consumer Affairs

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This study sought to understand the factors that influence a consumer complainer's rating of service received from a third party complainthandling agency in Southern California. The agency, the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs (LADCA) is an arm of the California State Department of Consumer Affairs. The Los Angeles office serves only those consumers with complaints in the Los Angeles County area. This population is unique because they have taken the necessary steps and filed a complaint with a third party complaint-handling agency. Complaint filers were randomly sampled; Spanish-speaking consumers were over sampled. Regression analysis revealed eight variables that significantly impacted service rating. Variables that had a positive impact on service rating include: being promptly notified of the case, being kept informed of the investigation and being female. Variables that had a negative effect on service rating include: being a first time user of the agency, having a higher income, being Asian, being African-American, and presence of children. Third party agencies can address these issues to improve their overall service rating. Further implications for agencies and future researchers are provided.

INTRODUCTION

Consumer dissatisfaction and complaining behavior is an area of on-going research and discussion within both academic and business worlds. As Hogarth, English and Sharma (2001) eloquently point out, research on complaining behavior has moved from looking at who complains, to looking at typologies of complainers, public versus private action, and third party complainers. Consumer complaining behavior is activated by dissatisfaction with a product or service, yet this dissatisfaction is not enough on its own for complaining to occur. Consumers make the choice to complain when they presume the outcome will be positive and will outweigh the time and costs involved in complaining (Singh and Pandya, 1991 ; Strahle and Day, 1984). If complaint-handling mechanisms are cumbersome, the consumer is less likely to complain (Singh and Pandya, 1991). When they do complain, consumers are satisfied with companies' responses to their complaints only 50-60% of the time (Andreasen 1988).

THIRD PARTY COMPLAINING BEHAVIOR

Third party redress may be the next logical step when consumers are dissatisfied with company responses. Third party redress is defined as "an individual or organization who is external to the consumer who initiates redress and is not directly involved in the dissatisfying transaction" (Singh, 1988). There are three times when consumers seek third party redress actions: 1) when they have exercised all other complaint options; 2) when they perceive success of voice responses to be low; 3) when the action is not related to other complaint actions (Singh, 1989). Complainer's anxiety level about the action is instrumental in determining their decision to seek third party redress (Urisic, 1985). If consumers are not comfortable with complaining to third parties, they most likely won't do it. Another view, as purported by Liu and McClure (2001), suggests that because third party agencies do not require direct confrontation with the manufacturer or retailer, the consumer may be more comfortable using the third party.

Consumers may not understand the importance of third party agencies. These agencies serve as mediators between consumers and businesses. Registering complaints with them is important in regulating the marketplace by disallowing business to become the authorities on complaint resolution, and ultimately taking advantage of the consumer (Best and Andreasen, 1977; Singh, 1989).

Evidence is such that complaining to third party agencies is a rare event for most consumers (Best and Andreasen, 1977; Hogarth, English and Sharma, 2001). A range of opinions on the exact numbers exists. In the 1970's, it was reported that between 7% and 12% of complainers seek third party redress (Best and Andreasen, 1977; Warland, Herrmann and Willits, 1975). …

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