Consumer Grudgeholding: Toward a Conceptual Model and Research Agenda
Aron, David, Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior
The topic of consumer grudgeholding has received limited attention in the marketing and consumer behavior contexts. The act of holding a grudge is one of great importance because it describes what seems to be an irrational, intensely emotional behavior or set of behaviors on the part of the consumer, yet the behaviors associated with grudgeholding can have devastating effects on the marketing entity. Any member of the marketing channel, including product and service marketers, retailers, and advertisers, may lose a customer while receiving little reason why, or while being subject to negative word-of-mouth or other retaliatory measures. The current research offers a conceptual model of the consumer grudgeholding response, incorporating established theoretical research such as attribution, coping, voice and exit, perceived justice, consumer loyalty, and complaining behavior. A detailed model of grudgeholding behavior is presented with an agenda for future research.
The interaction between a marketer and each of its customers exists "to establish, maintain, enhance and commercialize customer relationships so that the objectives of the parties involved are met. This is done by a mutual exchange and fulfillment of promises" (Gronroos, 1990, p 5). Peterson adds that the definition of relationship marketing will emphasize the "development, maintenance, and even dissolution of relationships between marketing entities, such as firms and consumers" (Peterson 1995, p 279)
One form that the dissolution of a marketing relationship takes when a promise is not fulfilled is that of consumer grudgeholding. The act of holding a grudge conveys the visual image of an embittered individual, standing with back turned to avoid the offending object, arms crossed into an impenetrable barrier to communication. Grudgeholding might be considered to be overly emotional, irrational, and counterproductive to everybody except for the person holding the grudge. To the consumer who is experiencing dissatisfaction, grudgeholding is an emotiondriven attitude, a coping response to a breach of faith. Such a response may seem to be perfectly justifiable and appropriate given the grievance held by a customer against the object of the grudge.
From the marketer's perspective, grudgeholding represents a profoundly dysfunctional relationship with a past, prospective, or even current customer, a customer who may have removed himself or herself from any possible marketing communications, and who may have banished the offending marketer to his or her rejected set, barring consideration of any future relationship. A better understanding of grudgeholding and how this response develops is necessary, particularly given the growing importance of deepening and enduring relationships with customers.
The main objective of this research is the presentation of consumer grudgeholding as a distinguishable coping response, one that begins with a consumer's experience of a dissatisfying outcome to an aspect of the consumer-marketer relationship. For grudgeholding to occur, this outcome must provoke an intensely strong negative emotional reaction, a "flashpoint" that is followed by the formation of a negative attitude toward the marketer and then, either immediately or at a later time, by an appraisal of possible responses to the negative outcome.
The current research will focus on the factors influencing the bearing and perpetuation of the grudge, including the role that the marketer plays in meeting or failing to meet the consumer's demands for redress. Finally, an agenda for continuing research will be introduced with a focus on the implications for marketers. The framework of the proposed grudgeholding process is illustrated by Figure 1.
These research objectives will be pursued by integrating the innovative yet infrequent research on grudgeholding with research in related areas. …