The desired qualities of customer contact employees in complaint handling encounters

This paper explores the nature of complaint satisfaction with a particular emphasis on the qualities and behaviours that affect customers during the personal complaint handling encounter. The paper reviews the literature on complaint satisfaction and the role of the contact employee in the complaint encounter. An empirical study using the means-end approach and the paper-and-pencil version of the laddering technique provides a deeper understanding of attributes of effective customer contact employees and reveals the underlying benefits that complainants look for. The research indicates that complainants want contact employees to give positive nonverbal signals, to have sufficient product (service) knowledge and the authority to handle their problems adequately. They also want employees to be willing to try hard and spare no effort. Customers think that if employees take them seriously, this will lead to a problem solution and feelings of satisfaction. The paper concludes with suggestions to managers to introduce and improve active complaint management and reviews the limitations of the research method.