Francisca Arabelle Treurnicht


Consumer and Food Sciences


MConSci Clothing Management

Consumers’ motives for complaint behavioural intentions following in-store service failures in the clothing retail context

Globalisation, together with increased competition amongst retailers, has applied immense pressure on retailers to become more consumer orientated. Retailers are, consequently, trying to differentiate their offerings by providing improved services to their consumers to obtain a competitive advantage. Service failure is, however, inevitable. An unfavourable service encounter (service failure) mostly leads to dissatisfaction. A consumer’s response to dissatisfaction is referred to as “consumer complaint behaviour”. Consumers’ complaint action can be categorised into three response behaviours namely: private action, public action and taking no action. Behind each complaint action lies specific motivations. Motivation research attempts to find the underlying why of an individuals’ behaviour. Marketers need to understand consumer motives as it provides them with the opportunity to anticipate and understand consumer complaint behaviour within the South African marketplace. Studies on the motives driving consumers’ complaint behaviour following an in-store service failure in the South African clothing retail context is lacking. This is surprising given the fact that an understanding of consumer complaint motives is critical in recovering service failures and handling complaints. An understanding of the motives for consumer complaint behaviour could help clothing retailers to understand the value of paying attention to and dealing with consumer complaints, specifically in a South African context. This research study, therefore, primarily focused on exploring and describing South African consumers non-complaint motives and complaint motives following an in-store service failure.

The study used an explorative, quantitative research approach. A survey was conducted in South Africa which included consumers 19 years and older who reside in major urban areas across South Africa. Respondents completed an online self-administered questionnaire which included adapted versions of established scales. Lastly, the data was captured and coded and then analysed by statisticians of the University of Pretoria by making use of descriptive and inferential statistics.

The findings of this study indicated that the respondents were motivated to take action following an in-store service failure, rather than deciding to take no-action. Respondents would also rather partake in private action as opposed to public action. The EFA on the non-complaint motives indicated that three factors are the underlying driving forces that keep consumers from taking action. These include protecting the self and convenience, the fact that it is not worth complaining, and willingness and ability to handle CCB. Through the descriptive statistical analysis, as well as the inferential statistical analysis (EFA), it became evident that the most important motive for deciding to partake in action, either private or public, were altruistic motives. Anger and the intention to harm the retailer appeared to be the least important motives for deciding to take action. From this study, it is recommended that clothing retailers and marketers in South Africa pay specific attention to use these motives, specifically altruism, to encourage customers to partake in public complaint behaviour. Apart from the useful considerations this study elicited for the industry, it also makes a valuable contribution towards the literature.


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  • Primary supervisor: Dr L Diedericks
  • Co-supervisor: Dr S Donoghue


  • South African Association of Family Ecology and Consumer Science (SAAFECS)
Published by Gertruida Erasmus

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