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EMAC 2019 Annual Conference

Seeing the Good in the Bad – Leveraging Customer Complaints for New Product Development

Published: May 28, 2019


Andreas Polthier, University of Mannheim; Sergej von Janda, University of Mannheim; Sabine Kuester, University of Mannheim


Customer complaint management; New product development; Organizational inertia


Customer complaints constitute an organizational reality. Extant research has examined how companies should deal with complaints to prevent customer defection, but the role of complaints for new product development is rarely explored. Focusing on this research gap, this study draws on organizational inertia theory to investigate whether and how companies process complaint messages for new product development. In a field experiment with 80 firms, we differentiate between complaint messages with and without innovative potential. While established theories in complaint management predict that companies differentiate between the two message types, we find support for our counter-intuitive hypothesis that companies react similarly to both types of messages. Our study extends prior research by considering the firm perspective on complaint management in the light of a theory which is new to this research field while using a field experiment, increasing the external validity of our insights.