Developing a deeper understanding of the attributes of effective customer contact employees in personal complaint-handling encounters

Purpose – The paper explores the nature of complaint satisfaction. It examines how contact employees should behave and which qualities they should possess. The study also aims to explore the comparability of results obtained from two laddering methods as the alternative techniques may lead to different sets of attributes. Design/methodology/approach – An exploratory study using the means-end approach and two laddering techniques (personal interviews and questionnaires) was conducted. Findings –While the personal interviews produced more depth in understanding, the results of the two laddering methods are broadly similar. The research indicates that being taken seriously in the complaint encounter and the employee’s listening skills and competence are particularly important. Research limitations/implications – Due to the exploratory nature of the study and the scope and size of its student sample, the results outlined are tentative in nature. Practical implications – If companies know what customers expect, contact employees may be trained to adapt their behavior to their customers’ underlying expectations, which should have a positive impact on customer satisfaction. For this purpose, the paper gives suggestions to managers to improve active complaint management. Originality/value – The study was the first to successfully apply the means-end approach and two laddering techniques to the issue of complaint satisfaction. The paper has hopefully opened up an area of research and methodology that could reap considerable further benefits for researchers interested in the area of customer complaint satisfaction.