Negative Word of Mouth: Substitute for or Supplement to Consumer Complaints?

  • Diane Halstead


The predominant conceptualization of consumer complaint behavior argues that voice, private, and third party responses are related but independent complaint actions taken by dissatisfied consumers. Thus, negative word of mouth by dissatisfied consumers (a private complaint response) may occur in addition to other forms of complaint behavior rather than in place of it. This study focuses on whether or not communicating negative word of mouth about a dissatisfactory product experience replaces or supplements other forms of complaint behavior (e.g., voice or third party complaints). Over 400 U.S. carpet consumers were surveyed regarding their complaint practices after product dissatisfaction. The results indicate that negative word of mouth was greatest among consumers who had also voiced complaints to the seller, supporting the supplementary rather than substitution effect explanation.
Journal Articles