Universities research reveals which travellers likely to share negative experience online

Universities research reveals which travellers likely to share negative experience online

The study suggests companies need to rethink their response to individual customers

A study conducted by a group of universities has found that travellers who dwell on poor service are more likely to spread the world online.

Researchers from Nottingham Business School (NBS), part of Nottingham Trent University; The University of Edinburgh; University of Canterbury, New Zealand; and University of Padua, Italy; questioned more than 880 people on their experiences of services failures within the tourism and hospitality industry.

The research found that people react to customer service failures in three ways, impacting on whether they share their experience online.

Coping strategies of customers include those who respond ‘actively’ put the blame on the provider; ‘expressive’ complainers wish to demonstrate their anger and those who have a ‘denial-based’ reaction completely disengage with the organisation. 

The respondents were also sorted into four overlapping clusters depending on how they adopted or avoided each of these strategies; how they experienced anger, such as frustration, irritation, annoyance, and distress; and how this impacted on whether they ruminated on the experience. 

It found that those who used expressive coping, were irritated, and lingered on an incident, replaying it over and over again in their minds, were more likely to use online channels to warn others.

The study is the first to demonstrate that the coping style adopted by customers can impact on how they reflect on their experience, and whether they share their complaints via electronic word-of-mouth (e-WoM). 

The results suggest companies will need to rethink how they respond to individual customers.

Babak Taheri, professor of marketing and part of the Marketing and Consumer Studies Research Centre of NBS, said: “Service failure can negatively affect the wellbeing and resilience of consumers. 

“People inevitably react emotionally to poor customer service and, when they dwell on this, they often cope by sharing their complaints online, damaging the reputation of the provider. 

“However, this is not the default reaction of all customers, and our research suggests that responding in a one-size-fits-all manner is not effective. 

“Organisations need a better understanding of how coping strategies interact and shape consumer reactions so they can speak to specific segments and solve problems in a way that suits the individual customer.” 

The study outlines a number of examples of service recovery strategies, such as free-phone numbers and online complaint portals available for ‘expressive’ customers to vent their frustrations.

Others include proactive customer engagement action to identify problems among ‘denial’ consumers to prevent them moving to another provider and timely remedial action, such as taking responsibility, quick response times and financial compensation, to appease ‘active’ customers. 

Professor Taheri added: “Customer service teams should be trained and supported to act quickly and empathetically. 

“They need to be able to employ bespoke solutions to stop consumers’ initial complaints from developing into more damaging action, such as negative online reviews.”

The research also highlighted the use of social media as an opportunity for service providers to rebuild customer trust, post-failure.