Revealing the expectations and preferences of complaining customers by combining the laddering interviewing technique with the Kano model of customer satisfaction

Purpose – This paper focuses on complaint satisfaction with a particular emphasis on the qualities and behaviours that affect customers during personal complaint handling encounters. Following a literature review of complaint satisfaction and the role of customer contact employees in complaint encounters, an exploratory study using both the laddering interviewing technique and Kano questionnaires is presented. Design/Methodology/Approach – A semi-standardized qualitative technique called laddering was combined with the Kano Model of Satisfaction. In total, 40 laddering in-depth interviews were conducted with mature students in a business management course. Following the laddering interviews, 35 Kano questionnaires were handed out to students in another business management course who also had complaining experience. Findings – The laddering results indicate that being taken seriously in the complaint encounter and the employee’s friendliness, listening skills and competence are particularly important. The fact that interpersonal factors are highly regarded indicates that customers want to satisfy these process needs first and their outcome expectations second. The Kano results show that employees’ active listening skills are the only must-be requirements while the two concepts “Apology” and “Respectful Treatment” are close to being must-be criteria. In addition, the employee’s feedback after the complaint handling encounter can almost be categorized as an excitement factor. Limitations/Originality/Value – By combing two research methods, the aim of this paper has been to develop an area of research that could reap considerable benefits for researchers interested in the area of customer complaint satisfaction. Due to the exploratory nature of the study and the scope and size of the chosen sample, the results outlined are tentative in nature.