From power to punishment: consumer empowerment and online complaining behaviors

Zongchao Li (San José State University, San Jose, California, USA)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Publication date: 6 August 2019

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine how psychological empowerment affects individuals’ likelihood of publicly punishing a company with whom they had unsatisfactory experiences through online complaining behaviors.

Design/methodology/approach

A 3 (intrapersonal empowerment: high/low/control) by 3 (interactional empowerment: high/low/control) online experiment was designed using the priming technique. Following the priming tasks, participants were given a scenario in which a restaurant failed their expectations followed by dependent and control measures.

Findings

Results revealed a significant main effect of interactional empowerment: participants in the low interactional empowerment condition reported being less likely to engage in the revenge-motivated online public complaining behaviors than participants in the control condition. The study also found a significant interaction effect between interactional and intrapersonal empowerment.

Practical implications

The study findings yield practical application for crisis management and relationship management. Understanding the linkage between power and online complaining behaviors should help corporate communication professionals to better perform risk assessment, environmental scanning and crisis communication and management.

Originality/value

Limited empirical studies have investigated the linkage between empowerment and online complaining behaviors in the consumer context. The present study fills this gap by conceptualizing online public complaining as a revenge-motivated behavior. The study yields both theoretical and practical implications.

Keywords

Citation

Li, Z. (2019), "From power to punishment: consumer empowerment and online complaining behaviors", Internet Research, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/INTR-05-2018-0232

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Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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