This is the summary of an article by Tom Ryan. It talks about how consumers tend to be defensive when they are responsible for a product or service failure, and complain against the company instead to protect their sense of self worth. You can read more from the original behavioral targeting article here: Study: Consumers Complain More When its Their Fault.
More often than not, a consumer usually feels better after making a complaint about a product or service. However, in a recent study by the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, it was found that the situation becomes different when the consumer thinks that the problem is his or her fault.
Consumers’ Complaining Behavior
According to previous studies, a consumer tends to feel better about a problem with a product or service if the company where it is bought is the one responsible. On the other hand, if they themselves are the cause of the problem, they often develop a sense of being incompetent, and usually project the blame on the company.
In other words, the consumers complain as a way of preserving their feeling of self-esteem. This is what the study points out, as featured in the October edition of the Journal of Marketing Research.
Dean Darren Dahl, a marketing professor, explains to the Financial Post that people become defensive when they realize that they are at fault. Likewise, he states that when people feel threatened about their own inabilities with regard to using a product or service, they develop some sort of resentment for the company or organization where it came from.
An Experiment & Its Findings
In an experiment, a couple of groups were directed to put together a food processor and to make a smoothie based on a recipe. What they do not know is that the experiment was fixed to be a failure, but the difference is how the subjects were made to fool. Those belonging to the first group were made to believe as if the problem was their fault. Those in the second group, on the other hand, were told that since everyone was experiencing problems, there was most likely a problem with the product itself: the food processor.
Notably, the experiment discovered that the subjects who thought that the problem was their fault were more likely to project the blame to other sources (79%) than to blame themselves less for the problem (14%). Meanwhile, among those who were told that the problem was caused by the food processor, only 28.5% projected the blame on other sources, whereas 43% still put the blame on themselves. As for other experiments, the results were found to be similar.
Understanding the Customer
The findings of the study apparently support the old adage that “the customer is always right.” Nevertheless, Professor Dahl explains that perhaps a more “nuanced approach” to the situation is better. Other studies showed that when consumers are told that there was an outer source for the problem, their threatened sense of self-worth is actually eased.
Moreover, the professor shares that consumers are more or less complicated. And so, companies really have to employ more strategies when it comes to understanding them.
Another interesting finding of the study is that the number of consumer complaints is increasing, with majority of them posted via social media. Generally, it was also found that consumers are more likely to complain at any given opportunity, whether the problem is their fault or not.