Fishing for Compliments and Complaints: The Influence of Solicited Customer Feedback and Company Acknowledgment on Customer Attitudes and Intentions

Sterling A. Bone, Katherine N. Lemon, Katie A. Liljenquist, R. Bruce Money, and Kristen B. DeTienne, 2009, 09-113

While there is substantial research on the importance of the voice of the customer to customer loyalty, most focuses on customer complaints rather than compliments.

In this report, the authors seek to shed light on two key issues. First, can soliciting compliments influence customer loyalties? Second, how does a company’s acknowledgment (or non-acknowledgment) of feedback influence customer perceptions and behavior?

In three experiments, they examine the effect of soliciting and acknowledging compliments and complaints on customer attitudes and intentions. Study 1, involving a scenario with a hotel bellman, shows that consumers who are asked for feedback view their service encounters more favorably than those who are not solicited. Study 2, a field study of a large U.S. portrait studio chain, examines the effect of seeking compliments. Customers who were asked to share a compliment rated product quality, customer treatment quality, and their likelihood to recommend significantly higher than those who were not solicited for compliments. Study 3 finds that soliciting feedback affects both immediate attitudes and elicits expectations for acknowledgment that bear heavily on whether companies maintain the benefits of soliciting customer opinions; failure to acknowledge customer feedback (both complaints and compliments) is shown to be quite detrimental.

Managerial implications

The findings suggest that managers solicit compliments to groom positive attitudes in their customers and to actively participate in the feedback conversations that they initiate in order to preserve customer relationships and loyalty. Customers need to feel that their feedback, both positive and negative, is valued and will be acted on. Front-line employees need to feel ownership and encouragement in order to solicit and accept feedback. Managers must put in place processes to collect and acknowledge feedback, likewise reflecting this attitude of solicitation and acknowledgment to both front-line employees and customers.

The authors advocate a rigorous feedback management system that goes beyond recovering service failures and proactively cultivates positive customer attitudes.

Sterling A. Bone is Assistant Professor of Marketing, Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University. Katherine N. Lemon has an Accenture Professorship at the Carroll School of Management, Boston College. Katie A. Liljenquist is Assistant Professor of Organizational Leadership, R. Bruce Money is Professor of Marketing, and Kristen B. DeTienne is Professor of Organizational Leadership, all at the Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University.

Related links

Customer Engagement Behavior: Inputs, Triggers and Consequences
Katherine N. Lemon, Boston College (2010) [Conference presentation]

Harnessing the Power of Positive Feedback (2009) [Article]


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