Complaint management expectations: an online laddering analysis of small versus large firms

This study explores complaint management expectations in business relationships, particularly the qualities and behaviours that affect buying companies as part of the complaint handling encounter with a supplier. An exploratory empirical study uses a hard laddering approach which also allows us to compare the expectations of large and small companies to understand size-effects. The research indicates that complaining companies perceive disruptions of their supplier relationships in the context of the business network within which they are embedded, especially vis-à-vis the benefits associated with long-term supplier ties. However, these network concerns are more pronounced for large companies. Issues of effective complaint management in business-to-business settings therefore need to be addressed not just as isolated managerial activities with limited benefits for the parties involved, but should be seen as being part of a wider activity set of strategic networking activities with an impact on whole business systems. Thus, the findings enrich the existing limited stock of knowledge on the context of complaint management in business relationships and networks.