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Beyond exit and voice: developing an integrated taxonomy of consumer complaining behaviour

Doga Istanbulluoglu (Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)
Sheena Leek (Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)
Isabelle T. Szmigin (Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 8 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to help researchers and practitioners to understand and respond to consumer complaining behaviour (CCB) by developing a taxonomy that addresses the inadequacies of previous consumer complaining taxonomies and models, simplifies the terminology and covers both traditional and new ways of complaining.


Based on a systematic review of 210 studies, a concept-centric analysis of CCB literature was conducted. Seminal taxonomies and models of CCB are revisited and a critical evaluation of these is presented.


An integrated taxonomy of CCB is proposed which enhances the understanding of complaining in the twenty-first century by clarifying the ambiguities and overlapping constructs in the previous taxonomies.

Research limitations/implications

The integrated taxonomy of CCB eliminates the ambiguity of previous approaches and introduces more coherent constructs in relation to the theory of CCB. The taxonomy comprehensively defines and describes the range of complaining actions to provide a complete framework. As a result, the authors’ understanding of CCB is developed through a focus on complaining actions, their characteristics and what these actions afford companies in their attempts to deal with complaints (i.e. audience and amount of information available).

Practical implications

Practitioners can use the integrated taxonomy of CCB to structure their complaint handling processes to obtain maximum customer feedback, to improve their product/service and to retain customers through satisfactorily addressing their complaints.


Although the literature on consumer complaining is mature, this is the first paper that offers a comprehensive taxonomy that explains CCB while addressing new developments in computer-mediated communications.



The authors would like to thank Professor N. Craig Smith and the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


Istanbulluoglu, D., Leek, S. and Szmigin, I.T. (2017), "Beyond exit and voice: developing an integrated taxonomy of consumer complaining behaviour", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 51 No. 5/6, pp. 1109-1128.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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