Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Business Administration-Marketing

Committee Director

John B. Ford

Committee Member

Kiran Karande

Committee Member

Edward Markowski

Committee Member

Michael LaTour


This three-essay dissertation integrates the literatures on opportunistic claiming behavior, customer complaining and persuasion theories to examine the following research questions: (1) what factors influence frontline employee's perceived legitimacy of consumer complaints in a services setting? and (2) what drivers impact the consumer's propensity to make opportunistic claims?

More and more customers nowadays attempt to take advantage of service failures and claim what they can, rather than what they deserve given the service encounter circumstances. Given the narrow profit margins and fierce competition, the issue of opportunistic claiming behavior has become increasingly relevant over the past few years. Firms can no longer tolerate fraudulent complaints and illegitimate merchandise returns. Essay 1 advances our understanding of the opportunistic claiming behavior by conceptualizing a customer complaint as an attempt at persuasion on behalf of the customer. From the theoretical perspective, the major contribution to the marketing discipline is the direct application of persuasion theories to situations where firm employees and not the consumers serve as a target of persuasion attempts, whereas customers are regarded as a message source while voicing a complaint.

Building on the conceptual framework proposed in the first essay, Essay 2 examines the complaint legitimacy as it is perceived by frontline employees. Determining complaint authenticity is a crucial step towards detecting opportunistic claims since the employees must judge the legitimacy of the customer's complaint according to the rationale offered by the customer. The proposed model draws on source, context and receiver factors that have been identified in the persuasion literature to influence the target's behavior in various ways and suggests three bundles of antecedents important to shaping employee's perception of complaint's legitimacy: customer factors, employee factors, and situational factors. In essence, Essay 2 empirically tests whether the persuasion models work in reverse, i.e. where a customer plays no longer a role of a target but rather acts as a message source.

Finally, Essay 3 views a complaint action through the prism of transaction cost economics; dissatisfaction from the service failure is regarded as a realized transaction risk which affects customer's equity perceptions about the exchange during a service encounter and subsequent firm's recovery efforts. The cost-benefit analysis triggered by the equity perceptions leads to a subjective evaluation of whether it pays off to engage in opportunistic claiming behavior. Namely, economics and social psychology both suggest that the likelihood of carrying out such a dishonest act is a function of subjective evaluation of external and internal rewards which may favor this particular action.

As a result, the third essay bridges the gap between marketing and economics by introducing a construct of perceived customer power which is viewed as an integral part of the above mentioned cost-benefit analysis. In addition, the manuscript argues that expected material gain (external rewards) and the importance of moral identity (internal rewards) also affect propensity to engage in opportunistic claiming behavior.





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