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This article aims to examine the negative effects of loyalty programs from the perspective of frustration theory. It seeks to develop a model of customer frustration on the basis of frustration theory and an exploratory qualitative study.
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Customer frustration in
loyalty programs
Bernd Stauss, Maxie Schmidt and Andreas Schoeler
Department of Services Management,
Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt, Ingolstadt, Germany
Abstract
Purpose This article aims to examine the negative effects of loyalty programs from the perspective
of frustration theory. It seeks to develop a model of customer frustration on the basis of frustration
theory and an exploratory qualitative study.
Design/methodology/approach – First, frustration is defined as a special form of dissatisfaction
and a general model of frustration in business relationships is developed by evaluating the literature
on frustration theory. Second, an explorative and qualitative focus group study among participants of
a loyalty program for frequent travelers is conducted. A multi-level iterative content analysis of the
participants’ statements reveals the existence of different categories of frustration incidents. Third, the
findings of the study are used to develop a system of propositions that generate a specific model of
customer frustration in loyalty programs.
Findings Seven categories of frustration incidents that were triggered by the loyalty program and lead
to frustration sensation and subsequent frustration behavior, like protest or avoidance, could be identified.
With four categories of incidents inaccessibility, worthlessness, qualification barrier and redemption
costs customers’ frustration sensation and behavior are directed on the program itself (program-related
frustration incidents). For the other three – discrimination, economization and defocusing frustration
sensation and behavior also affect the perception of the relationship with the firm (relationship-related
incidents).
Research limitations/implications The exact differentiation of frustration from related constructs
should be the topic of further research. The findings of the empirical study are of limited generalizability
because the object of investigation was a single company’s loyalty program in a special industry sector.
Hence, the introduced propositions should be further specified and tested in a large-scale quantitative
study in different sectors and with a number of companies and programs. Further work is necessary to
allow deeper insights into the relationships between the elements in the customer frustration model.
Practical implications Several implications for planning and implication arise from the results of
the study. Management has to make sure that program-related and relationship-related negative
effects are avoided. That calls for offering only those benefits that represent genuine additional value
to customers and for ensuring that the benefits can be claimed at any time and without any additional
effort by the customer. Furthermore, the perceived quality of the program should be monitored to
obtain prompt information about possible customer frustration and indications of protest (i.e.
customer complaints) should be viewed with particular attention.
Originality/value – This paper provides new insights into the so far highly neglected negative side
effects of loyalty programs. Also, innovative is the first-time application of the frustration construct to
the analysis of customer behavior in the context of loyalty programs. The contribution is of high value
for all who research in the field of customer relationship management and customer loyalty.
Keywords Customer loyalty, Customer relations
Paper type Research paper
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/researchregister www.emeraldinsight.com/0956-4233.htm
The authors wish to thank the participating company and students involved in the empirical
research project for their assistance and support.
Customer
frustration in
loyalty programs
229
Received 14 September 2004
Revised 3 February 2005
Accepted 3 February 2005
International Journal of Service
Industry Management
Vol. 16 No. 3, 2005
pp. 229-252
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
0956-4233
DOI 10.1108/09564230510601387
Introduction
Loyalty programs recently gained considerable practical and academic attention in the
context of customer retention and customer relationship management. The
fundamental managerial objective of these programs is to reward loyal customer
behavior with special services or rebates and thereby at the same time to promote this
loyal behavior in order to realize the economic benefit of long-term business
relationships (Reichheld, 1993, p. 64; Sharp and Sharp, 1997, p. 474). The extent to
which loyalty programs actually achieve this objective has become increasingly the
subject of scientific study (Stauss et al., 2001; Bolton et al. (2000); Verhoef, 2003; Yi and
Jeon, 2003; Noordhoff et al., 2004). Usually, such studies have focused on the question of
how strong the supposed connection between participation in a loyalty program and
increased customer satisfaction and loyalty actually is.
Supplementation of this perspective appears to be necessary. Everyday observation
and media reports on problems that customers experience in loyalty programs suggest
that these programs may also cause negative emotional and/or cognitive effects. If
these effects do occur, it is possible that the loyalty programs are not only falling short
of their goal of increasing customer retention, but may even be leading to a reduction in
loyalty. In view of the considerable investment required to set up and maintain loyalty
programs, it appears especially relevant, both scientifically and practically, to examine
the type and extent of negative effects of loyalty programs.
This examination is conducted on the basis of the “frustration” construct.
Frustration involves a highly negative emotion that occurs when a potentially
rewarding act or sequence of behavior is blocked (Colman, 2001, p. 291). Loyalty
programs explicitly promise customers rewards for certain loyal behavior patterns.
This makes the relevance of the frustration concept in this context evident: if the
customer does not receive the promised reward or if the indicated benefit proves
worthless to him, customer frustration may arise.
It is, therefore, the goal of the present study to examine the negative effects of
loyalty programs from the perspective of frustration theory. To this end, the main
features of loyalty programs are presented and initial indicators of negative effects
described. A basic model of frustration will subsequently be developed by evaluating
the literature on frustration theory. This model is then applied to loyalty programs by
using the findings of an explorative and qualitative study. The paper ends with a
summarizing conclusion, a discussion of limitations of the study and research
questions that remain to be answered, as well as managerial implications.
Loyalty programs
Loyalty programs are marketing efforts which reward and, therefore, encourage loyal
customer behavior in order to increase the profitability of stable customer relationships
(Sharp and Sharp, 1997, p. 474). Firms aim at increasing customer-specific turnover
and profit margins by intensifying customer dialog, developing customized service
packages and thereby stimulating repurchase and cross-buying behavior. At the same
time, they strive to increase the efficiency of marketing by carefully targeting customer
communication (Dowling and Uncles, 1997; Palmer et al., 2000; Rapp and Decker, 2003).
It is characteristic of all loyalty programs that they grant benefits to customers,
depending upon the volume of sales that they generate. These benefits can consist in
monetary or non-monetary incentives like rebates, bonuses or services. In practice,
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loyalty programs differ with respect to the importance which they attach to the various
types of benefits and whether they grant them exclusively their most valuable
customers (Rapp and Decker, 2003).
Research on loyalty programs has increased in the last years. The effect of loyalty
programs on loyalty and their critical success factors were investigated in the context
of various industry settings such as automotive industry (Stauss et al., 2001), packaged
goods (Roehm et al., 2002), financial services (Bolton et al., 2000), airlines (Whyte, 2002),
retail stores (Noordhoff et al., 2004) or telecommunication (Gustafsson et al., 2004). The
results of an empirical study of Stauss et al. (2001) indicate that the membership in an
automotive customer club has a remarkable impact on the customer’s relationship
satisfaction and retention. Bolton et al. (2000) show that participants of a loyalty
program of a financial service provider actually tend to realize increased revenues and
higher service usage levels and to overlook negative service experiences.
Several studies reveal the importance of a careful program design. Roehm et al.
(2002) demonstrate that the loyalty of customers of packaged goods brands increases
when the incentives are closely connected to the brand. The study of Hallberg (2004)
yields similar results. Another aspect of successful program design is elaborated by
Kivetz and Simonson (2003). They provide evidence that by heightening the level of
effort required to receive benefits, the attractiveness of loyalty programs can be
increased.
Yi and Jeon (2003) investigate how different program rewards influence the
perceived value of a program and show that customer involvement has an important
moderating role on the program’s success. Noordhoff et al. (2004) find out that a small
number of alternative loyalty programs in a market and only little familiarity of
customers with these programs positively affect the success of the program. This is in
accordance with the results of the study of Whyte (2002) who finds an especially high
level of spurious loyalty among members of frequent flyer programs who are
participating in several different programs.
Indications of negative effects of loyalty programs
The aim of loyalty programs is to create a win-win situation for the initiating company
and its customers. The customers receive monetary and non-monetary benefits for
proven loyalty, which is supposed to increase their satisfaction and their inclination to
engage in further loyal customer behavior (Sharp and Sharp, 1997). The providers
benefit from positive effects on turnover and profits of loyal business relationships.
These supposed benefits for both market partners result only when customers find
participation in the program to be rewarding and have no negative experiences.
There is, however, evidence to indicate that this is not always the case. An analysis
of CRM activities has already shown that the use of certain instruments of customer
retention may have quite a negative effect that weakens customers’ commitment
(Stauss and Seidel, 2002). Hansen (2000, p. 429) demonstrates that
customer-value-oriented differentiation in loyalty programs may be perceived by
customers as discriminatory and unfair. In a recent study Gustafsson et al. (2004)
provide some indications that operational problems in collecting promised incentives
for loyal behavior and complicated operational procedures of a telecom company’s
customer club are perceived negatively by customers.
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Further evidence of negative effects is found in practice. Critical customer voices
about loyalty programs can be found in internet chat rooms. The American web site
eopinions.com, for instance, has established a separate category for customer opinions
regarding mileage programs or frequent flyer programs; and in Germany, ciao.com
allows customers to share their experiences with loyalty programs in various
industries. The critical statements made by customers in these forums show that
participants in loyalty programs experience problems that evoke great emotional
annoyance. Customers complain, for example,
.that firms do not keep their promises because they do not provide a sufficient
supply of the products advertised as rewards, so that customers are turned away
or put off;
.that the rewards can only be obtained with some difficulty or not at all because
the required number of loyalty points is very high, because rewards are
associated with a disproportionately high purchase volume or because
accumulated points expire after a certain period of time;
.that the promised rewards prove to be of little value; and
.that provisions for privacy protection are violated.
In view of these observations, it seems sensible to focus intensively on the negative
effects of loyalty programs. For this a frustration-theoretical perspective is adopted.
Reasons for choosing the frustration construct
In general, when negative affective and/or cognitive effects are discussed, one is faced
with the problem of the underlying construct for these effects. In accordance with
conventional research into customer behavior, it seems reasonable to choose the
dissatisfaction construct, since dissatisfaction is the result of a negative assessment of
a customer experience. Furthermore, it can be assumed that dissatisfaction leads to a
reduction of customer loyalty in terms of decreased willingness to engage in repeat
purchases and word-of-mouth recommendations. Consequently, it seems obvious to
analyze aspects of customer dissatisfaction with loyalty programs and its influence on
the reduction of customer loyalty.
However, both practical experiences and scientific empirical insights have raised
doubts about the legitimacy of the conceptual dominance of the satisfaction construct.
In particular, it turns out that the correlation between customer satisfaction and
customer retention on one hand, and between customer dissatisfaction and customer
defection on the other hand, is not always as close as is traditionally supposed (Stauss
and Neuhaus, 1997; Oliver, 1999; Anderson and Mittal, 2000). This leads to the
conclusion that the correlation between customer satisfaction and loyalty behavior
should be looked at in a more differentiated fashion. Among the results of such
analyses is the finding that, along with other factors, it is strong customer emotions in
particular that induce loyal customer behavior in positive cases and defections in
negative cases. With respect to positive emotions, this finding has resulted in the fact
that an independent construct in the form of “delight” has increasingly become the
focus of interest in practice and research (Oliver et al., 1997; Schneider and Bowen,
1999, p. 36; Rust and Oliver, 2000; Keiningham and Vavra, 2001).
With regard to highly negative emotions associated with pronounced customer
dissatisfaction, the above discussion has rarely had an equivalent. This is astonishing,
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as it is specifically those customers with highly negative emotions that tend to defect
(Schneider and Bowen, 1999, p. 36). Among them a higher percentage of “terrorists”
(Heskett et al., 1997, p. 85) can be expected, who take advantage of every opportunity to
express their dissatisfaction within their social environment and thus can have a
particularly damaging effect on business.
Only rather few contributions discuss the relevance of specific negative emotions
like frustration, anger, fear, or rage for disloyal customer behavior. Nguyen and
McColl-Kennedy (2003), for instance, analyze the role of customer anger provoked by
service failures. So
¨derlund (2003) shows that the explanation of repatronage intentions
can be substantially improved by taking customer frustration into account. Mattsson
et al. (2004) investigate the influence of anger, sadness, and fear of complainants on
loyalty. All these contributions show that specific and highly negative emotions from
customer experiences may represent an alternative or special case of dissatisfaction
and possess a stronger predictive power with respect to the negative loyalty effect.
In the context of loyalty programs the construct of customer frustration seems to be
of particular relevance. Frustration involves a highly negative emotion that occurs
when a potentially rewarding act or sequence of behavior is blocked (Colman, 2001,
p. 291). Loyalty programs explicitly promise customers rewards for loyal behavior. If
the customers do not receive the promised reward or if the indicated benefits prove
worthless to them, customer frustration may arise.
Definition and theoretical foundation of frustration
Frustration is a concept from psychoanalysis in the Freudian tradition. Freud focuses
originally on explaining aggression, which he conceptualizes in his early works by the
occurrence of frustration. He uses the term “frustration” to describe unpleasant inner
conditions, which primarily emerge when expected rewards are lacking or targeted
goals are missed (Freud, 2000a,b). Later Freud gives up his early theories and puts
aggression in the context of his dualistic instinct theory (Freud, 1933; 2000c).
Building on Freud’s early works Dollard et al. (also known as the Yale Group) in
1939 published their monograph Frustration and Aggression to explain the origin and
consequences of human aggression and develop the frustration-aggression hypothesis,
identifying aggression as a consequence of frustration (Dollard et al., 1939, S. 1). They
relate to frustration as an external instigating condition and attribute it to the
“interference with the occurrence of an instigated goal-response at its proper time in
the behavior sequence” (Dollard et al., 1939, p. 7). In accordance with this
understanding, many authors define frustration as the “blocking or prevention of a
potentially rewarding or satisfying act or sequence of behaviour” (Colman, 2001, p. 291;
Britt and Janus, 1940, p. 455; Popplestone and McPherson, 1988, p. 137; Anderson and
Bushman, 2002, p. 37; Bessie
`re et al., 2004). Frustration sensation is thus triggered by
frustrating incidents which are the negative experiences of not achieving a goal aimed
at or to miss an expected and anticipated reward (Berkowitz, 1989, p. 60). This
frustration sensation leads to subsequent behavior such as aggressive protest or
avoidance designed to prevent the recurrence of the frustration.
Frustration as a special form of dissatisfaction
Facing the fact that frustration is defined as a negative customer emotion following
from unfulfilled expectations, the question comes up where to draw the line between
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frustration and the customer satisfaction construct, which mostly is defined as
disconfirmation of expectations and, therefore, includes similar definition components.
The differentiation between the two constructs can be made considering the following
five aspects (Stauss, 2004):
(1) The satisfaction construct regards both positive and negative expectation
disconfirmations (satisfaction/dissatisfaction). In contrast to this, frustration is
exclusively the result of a negative expectation discrepancy.
(2) Dissatisfaction may refer to the whole spectrum of unaccomplished
expectations. But frustration only refers to the negative consumer events in
which the expected goal or reward is not reached.
(3) Frustration is defined as a strongly negative emotion. In this respect there is a
difference to dissatisfaction, where the arousal can also be weak.
(4) Dissatisfaction may appear ex post, without the customers being aware of their
expectations before the consumption. In contrast, frustration postulates ex ante
an explicit goal, i.e. the customers have a definite idea about the aspired
situation or the expected rewards.
(5) A necessary precondition of frustration – but not of dissatisfaction – is that the
customers assume that they will reach the aspired goal because of their
previous experiences or explicit promises by the company.
Thus, frustration is the special case of a strongly felt dissatisfaction, which appears if
individuals do not reach goals that were thought as feasible or do not get rewards that
were pledged.
General frustration model
Model elements
According to the definition above, the following three elements of frustration may be
differentiated (Britt and Janus, 1940, p. 453; Sta
¨cker, 1977, p. 7): frustration incident,
frustration sensation and frustration behavior.
A frustration incident is understood to be the withdrawal of a positive affirmation
or a non-affirmation following an affirmation that occurred previously. Frustration
thus implies the expectation of a reward based on a preceding reward experience or at
least the antecedent promise of a reward (Sta
¨cker, 1977, p. 15; Smith and Ellsworth,
1985, p. 833). A number of frustration incidents have been differentiated in frustration
research (Sta
¨cker, 1977, p. 17). In business relationships primarily the following forms
of frustration are involved: refusal of reward, reduction of reward and postponement of
reward. In the case of a refusal of reward, the expected reward is completely withheld
from the person in question; in the case of a reduction of reward, a part of the reward is
withdrawn or withheld; and in the case of a postponement of reward, the reward is
made available later than promised before. In the frustration-aggression hypothesis it
was assumed that frustrating incidents lead directly to aggressive behavior. But as
Berkowitz (1989, p. 68) argues, frustration is an aversive event which does not
instantaneously lead to an (aggressive) behavior but in an intermediate step evokes
negative affect in the sense of a frustration sensation.
The frustration sensation triggered by frustration incidents is a negative
emotion and is described as “very unpleasant” (Smith and Ellsworth, 1985, p. 833).
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This negative emotion is associated with a high degree of arousal and particular
attentiveness toward the causing incidents and the person who can be made
responsible (Janis, 1971, p. 152). This is confirmed in the study by Smith and
Ellsworth (1985), who determine in their comparative empirical analysis of 15
different emotions that frustration was accompanied “by a stronger desire to
attend to the situation than for any other negative emotion” (Smith and Ellsworth,
1985, p. 833).
Frustration behavior involves the actions following the frustration sensation,
seeking to lessen or eliminate the negative feeling (Berkowitz, 1989, p. 68). These
subsequent actions may be basically classified as protest, intensification of effort and
avoidance.
Protest is a form of aggressive behavior that has been the main topic of
psychological frustration research for a long time. Aggressions as the consequence of
frustration have attracted a great deal of attention, primarily in the context of the
frustration-aggression hypothesis (Dollard et al., 1939; Miller et al., 1941; Alcock, 1994).
According to this theory, an aggressive activity designed to remove or to break
through the frustrating barrier is carried out as the consequence of the aversive
emotion. Such activities include not only physical violence, but also thoughts of
revenge and verbal punishment and protests. Frustration behavior is primarily
directed against the person (or even thing) that is regarded as being responsible for the
fact that the target was missed (Harriman, 1961, p. 143). Alternatively, however, this
behavior may also be directed toward persons – or objects – that cannot be made
responsible for the problem at all (Anderson and Bushman, 2002, p. 37). Originally, it
was assumed that “the existence of frustration always leads to some form of
aggression” and “aggression is always a consequence of frustration” (Dollard et al.,
1939, S. 1). Based on empirical studies, however, this assumption was revised and
nowadays it is acknowledged that other behavioral reactions are possible (Miller et al.,
1941, p. 339; Berkowitz, 1989).
Frustration behavior may also involve actions that can be interpreted as
constructive in the sense of an intensification of effort toward coping with the problem.
As a result of the emotional activation, energy is produced that is then used to
overcome the frustrating barrier. In this case, the failure in the expected performance
leads to compensatory reactions that make achievement of the goal seem possible
(Sta
¨cker, 1977, p. 67).
Avoidance is a collective term for various forms of withdrawal behavior.
Individuals display avoidance tendencies in order to evade situations that lead to
frustration incidents and hence to frustration. This avoidance behavior may have a
passive character in the form of evasion, withdrawal and refusal (Sta
¨cker, 1977,
p. 69) and, therefore, be of a resigned type. However, active avoidance is also
conceivable. In this case, individuals develop a strategy in order to achieve their
goal, preferably while eliminating or reducing the frustrating conditions.
Figure 1 shows an overview of the general frustration model.
Relationships of model elements
The relationships between the model elements that is, the relationships between
frustration incidents and frustration sensation on one hand, and between frustration
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sensation and frustration behavior on the other hand will be examined more closely
in the following section.
The relationship between frustration incidents and frustration sensation is
primarily a matter of which types of frustration incidents lead to a stronger or weaker
frustration sensation. Frustration research has chiefly emphasized four aspects:
(1) the extent of the (withheld) reward;
(2) the time of the withdrawal;
(3) the perceived deliberateness or arbitrariness of the reward withdrawal; and
(4) the expectation of the reward withdrawal (Sta
¨cker, 1977).
Extent of the reward withdrawal. The intensity of the negative arousal that is, the
intensity of the frustration sensation tends to be greater, the larger the anticipated
(and then withheld) reward (Alcock, 1994, p. 42).
Time of the reward withdrawal. The time of the reward withdrawal also plays a
major role. Empirical frustration research shows that the intensity of the frustration
sensation grows when the withdrawal happens at a time shortly before realization is to
occur that is, shortly before the goal is achieved. The sensation is less intense, on the
other hand, when the withdrawal occurs long before the intended goal is to be
achieved. The later the frustration incident occurs, therefore, the longer the aversive
feeling can be expected to last (Sta
¨cker, 1977).
Perceived deliberateness or arbitrariness of the reward withdrawal. The perceived
deliberateness or arbitrariness of the reward withdrawal is also of fundamental
importance in determining the intensity of the frustration sensation. Stronger arousal
can be expected if the withdrawal is perceived to be deliberate/arbitrary (Janis, 1971,
p. 156; Berkowitz, 1989). This perception influences the frustration behavior in such a
way that protest behavior becomes more likely and intensification of efforts, in terms
of a constructive search for solutions, decreases. It is also likely that there is a direct
effect on frustration behavior that is to say, aggressive behavior is encouraged by
perceived deliberateness or arbitrariness (Sta
¨cker, 1977, p. 53).
Expectation of the reward withdrawal. The intensity of frustration also depends on
whether individuals expect that they will be frustrated when trying to achieve their
goals. Insofar as frustration incidents have already been anticipated, the situation
becomes less unpleasant, the arousal is less intense when the frustrating incident
occurs, and a change in the frustration behavior takes place (Berkowitz, 1989). If
Figure 1.
General frustration model
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individuals assume, based on their experiences, that their expectations will be
frustrated and that protests will change nothing about the situation, a high tendency
toward avoidance can be expected as these individuals attempt to evade situations that
lead to frustrating incidents and thus to frustration sensation (Sta
¨cker, 1977, p. 58).
As far as the relationship between frustration sensation and frustration behavior is
concerned, there are established findings that the intensity of activation/arousal
determines the frustration behavior. In general, this means that greater arousal leads to
an intensification of the subsequent behavior. As Berkowitz states: “It is not the exact
nature of the aversive incident that is important but how intense the resulting negative
affect is” (Berkowitz, 1989, S. 68). The type of the frustration behavior is further
determined by a number of influencing factors (such as situational conditions) (Sta
¨cker,
1977, p. 60). Some general statements are, however, possible. The probability of
aggressive behavior increases as the arousal intensifies. The greater the arousal, the
more likely is protest behavior. Accordingly, efforts toward finding constructive
solutions decrease when large rewards are withdrawn from individuals or when the
deliberateness/arbitrariness of the reward withdrawal leads to greater arousal.
In considering the relationships between the model elements, frustration tolerance
should be considered the primary moderating variable. The assessment and
processing of frustration incidents are dependent upon the personality
characteristics and the conditioning of the individual, which are reflected in the
frustration tolerance (Rosenzweig, 1938). Frustration tolerance is the ability of an
individual to tolerate a frustrating situation for a longer period of time without
distorting the objective factors of the situation (Rosenzweig, 1938, p. 153; Rutishauser,
1994, p. 36), “without making efforts either to resolve the tensions indirectly or to
satisfy the motive directly” (Harriman, 1961, p. 144) or “without disruption or
disordering of one’s behaviour” (English and English, 1974, p. 217). The more
pronounced the frustration tolerance, the fewer aggressive forms of behavior are found.
Individuals with high frustration tolerance will thus tend to exhibit either a
constructive intensification of efforts or avoidance behavior.
Figure 2 shows the detailed general frustration model with its relationships, which
will form the basis of the following examination of frustration in loyalty programs.
Research questions and methodological approach
In order to analyze the extent to which frustration incidents that lead to customer
frustration and frustration behavior occur in loyalty programs, an exploratory
qualitative study was conducted among participants of a loyalty program. The
empirical study had a two-fold purpose. First, the existence and type of customer
frustration in the specific loyalty program was examined from a descriptive
perspective. To that effect the following research questions were defined:
.Do customers experience frustration incidents?
.What types of frustration incidents can be observed?
.What subsequent effects do the triggered frustration sensations have with
respect to the behavior of customers?
Second, the findings of the exploratory study were used to develop a system of
propositions that generate a specific model of customer frustration.
Customer
frustration in
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Figure 2.
Detailed general
frustration model
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The research object was a loyalty program for frequent travelers of a transportation
service provider. The program has a clear emphasis on status components aiming to
identify, get to know and bind valuable customers to the firm. For each trip,
participants in the program are credited a certain number of points, depending on the
price of the ticket. Accumulated points expire one year after they are earned. If a
certain number of points is exceeded during this year, the travelers are awarded a
special status that remains in effect for at least 24 months and is associated with
various exclusive services that are either not available for customers without this
status or only upon payment of a fee.
There is a highly explorative character to the research problem, since up to this
point neither proposals for the operationalization of the frustration construct nor
extensive knowledge about customer frustration in loyalty programs exist. For this
reason, a qualitative research approach was selected (Flick, 1998). In order to obtain the
most comprehensive and precise insight into the frustration experience of customers in
their roles as participants in loyalty programs, the focus group method was adopted.
Particularly for the exploration of so far unknown customer evaluations the focus
group method has considerable advantages (Morgan, 1988; Frey and Fontana, 1991;
Krueger, 1994; Flick, 1998; Fontana and Frey, 1998). The method allows participants to
depict their experiences with the program in the content and language of their choice
and to reflect and analyze these experiences in the course of their conversation with the
other participants (Krueger, 1994, p. 24; Fontana and Frey, 1998, p. 53). The
communication situation largely corresponds to everyday discourse, which makes it
possible to record opinions and attitudes as they would be expressed in private
discussions. On one hand, this process prevents research-led directing of the test
subjects. On the other hand, the moderator can ensure that participants precisely depict
their experiences, their impressions and the resulting actions (Fontana and Frey, 1998,
p. 53; Chrzanowska, 2002, p. 19; Imms and Ereault, 2002, p. 78). Deep insights could
thus be expected in terms of which specific incidents triggered frustration, how strong
the frustration sensation was in each case and which behavioral steps frustrated
customers took.
Since it was to be expected that the potential frustrating incidents would differ for
varying customer groups, depending upon whether the customers had already
qualified for the exclusive status or were still in the qualification phase of reaching the
required point total, the customers were divided into groups. This division is based on
the assumption that members of the groups differ in their expectations and
experiences, especially with regard to the experienced frustrating incidents. Therefore,
they might feel a different amount of frustration sensation or display different
frustration behavior. The division into groups fulfills the methodological requirement
to establish reasonably homogeneous focus groups whose members share particular
and similar experiences (Imms and Ereault, 2002, p. 77).
For dividing the customers into groups, first, customers who had already reached
exclusive status as a result of having reached the required number of points
(“Qualified”) were differentiated from those who were accumulating points but were
not yet among the status customers because their point total was still too low
(“Non-Qualified”). Second, the group of “Non-Qualified” was further divided into the
sub-groups “Just Missed” and “Bound to Fail”, in terms of their chances of reaching
“Qualified” status. The “Just Missed” group included all customers who traveled
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frequently and consequently were able to accumulate a large number of points, but fell
short of the point limit, as they only had 50-99 percent of the necessary points.
Customers in the “Bound to Fail” group also accumulated points, but had or have no
real chance of ever reaching the status level, since their point accounts showed less
than 50 percent of the necessary number of points.
The “Qualified” group of customers and the two sub-segments of “Non-Qualified”
(“Just Missed” and “Bound to Fail”) were examined separately. For each of the three
sub-groups, two focus group discussions were conducted, in which on average six
customers participated. The potential participants were selected from the program
provider’s customer database based on their membership in the respective customer
segments. The customers were contacted by telephone and the final 36 participants
were acquired after a total of 418 telephone contacts had been made. All group
discussions were recorded on video and subsequently fully transcribed as a necessary
base for a thorough qualitative analysis (King, 1995, p. 25). Afterwards, a qualitative
content analysis of the discussions was conducted (Krueger, 1994). The goal of this
qualitative content analysis was to find out to what extent the members of the loyalty
program experienced frustrating incidents, perceived a feeling of frustration and
showed frustration behavior. Therefore, as a first step, during a multi-level iterative
content analysis customers’ statements in the different groups were analyzed for
negative customer emotions that could be interpreted as frustration sensation. That
was the case when the incidents causing the emotions could be interpreted as refusal,
reduction or postponement of a reward. Then, in a second step, the frustration
incidents were assigned to categories (Strauss and Corbin, 1998, p. 113). Afterwards,
the results of the different customer groups were compared with respect to kinds and
frequencies of the perceived frustration incidents and the occurrence of frustration
behavior.
A total of 169 participants’ statements contained depictions of experiences that were
associated with negative customer emotions related to loyalty programs. Of these, 123
incidents were judged to be frustration incidents and a total of seven categories of
frustration incidents could be identified. Furthermore, for each customer depiction of a
frustration event, it was analyzed how pronounced the frustration sensation was (low
medium – high) and what type of frustration behavior resulted from it. The results
of the content analysis are presented below in the context of developing the specific
model of customer frustration in loyalty programs.
Developing a model of customer frustration in loyalty programs
The customer depictions of frustration incidents could be classified into seven
categories. During the analysis it turned out that the customers’ statements differed
regarding their point of reference. Some were directed mainly at the loyalty program
while some were directed at the company itself. A total of 86 out of 123 customer
statements related directly to the loyalty program and could be assigned to four
categories. “Directly related” means that the frustration sensation in these 86 cases was
not only triggered by experiences connected with the loyalty program but also that
both the frustration sensation and the subsequent behavior of customers were directed
towards the program. The four program-related categories are “Inaccessibility”,
“Worthlessness”, “Redemption Costs” and “Qualification Barrier”. The remaining 37
frustration incidents were also directly triggered by participation in the loyalty
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program; however, participants’ frustration sensation and frustration behavior were
not focused simply on the program itself, but rather affected their perception of the
relationship with the firm as well. These relationship-related frustration incidents can
be assigned to the categories of “Discrimination”, “Defocusing” and “Economization”.
The following presentation first refers exclusively to the program-related categories of
frustration incidents, after which the relationship-related categories will be addressed
in detail in a separate section.
Program-related frustration incidents
The four categories derived from the content analysis can be characterized as follows:
Qualification Barrier. Frustration incidents that belong in the category
“Qualification Barrier” are related to circumstances in which the reward is tied to
conditions that are difficult or impossible to fulfill. Non-qualified program participants
complain about the amount of required points that has been set, because they view it as
an insurmountable barrier (example: “... for me as a private customer it is simply
impossible to collect the necessary number of points in 12 months – that is something
for the business customers”; “... it can be pretty difficult to collect the points and it is
usually quite an effort”).
Inaccessibility. A different category of frustration incidents exists when customers in
fact do overcome the qualification barrier, but cannot access the expected reward in the
form of program benefits e.g. because the provided capacity is insufficient, or
because employees are poorly trained and hence do not or cannot perform the promised
service (example: “... when I wanted to actually use the preferred support, I found out
that in my hometown there just is no such exclusive counter”).
Worthlessness. Frustration incidents fall into the category “Worthlessness” when
customers do not see the program benefit they receive as being a reward because they
find the additional value to be too low (i.e. worthless). Participants report their
disappointment about the fact that the benefits either prove not to be exclusive or that
the value of the benefits bears no relationship to the volume of sales the customer must
generate in order to receive them (example: “... there are no real advantages because
the benefits are totally irrelevant to me ...”).
Redemption Costs. It is also frustrating to customers when they can only access the
reward by investing additional material or mental costs. With respect to the loyalty
program investigated, qualified participants of the program reported situations that
overtaxed them because they had to make their demands during the presence or even
at the expense of the “Non-Qualified” participants, which partly deterred the qualified
from claiming the benefits at all (example: “The system is designed in a way that I have
to overcome certain inhibitions to come to my right. It was really embarrassing that I
had to ask other customers to leave their seat and make room for me, so I waived my
privilege”).
All customer depictions included in the analysis are rightly designated frustration
incidents, since each represents a form of reward refusal, reward reduction and/or
reward postponement, and since each triggered strong negative emotions. Clearly,
inaccessibility is to be classified as reward refusal. A qualification barrier can also be
interpreted as a reward refusal, provided that the reward proves to be unattainable, in
spite of loyal behavior. Should the required number of points and, therefore, the reward
be actually acquired, but later than expected, this incident can be classified as
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241
postponement of reward. Worthlessness and redemption costs represent reductions in
the expected amount of the reward from the customers’ perspective.
Based on these results, we may make the following proposition:
P1. Program-related frustration incidents do occur in loyalty programs.
A comparison of the various customer segments (“Qualified”, “Just Missed” and
“Bound to Fail”) showed that the different categories of frustration incidents occur with
differing frequencies. In the group of qualified customers, most of the frustration
incidents are attributed to a perceived worthlessness of the program. Next are the
perceived redemption costs and the inaccessibility. Worthlessness also clearly
dominates among non-qualified customers. In view of the fact that they are not yet able
to claim the benefits, however, this perceived worthlessness may also be regarded, at
least to some extent, as the result of a dissonance reduction, in that the services that
cannot be or have not been procured are devalued. For non-qualified customers,
frustration about the height of the qualification barrier ranks second. In light of this
division between the two groups, the following proposition may be formulated:
P2. Different frustration incidents occur, depending upon the possibility of
claiming the reward.
Program-related frustration sensation
Considerations in frustration theory have indicated that the level of the frustration
sensation is dependent upon the extent of the reward withdrawal, upon the time of the
reward withdrawal, upon the perceived deliberateness/arbitrariness and upon the
expectation of the onset of frustration.
Participants of the “Qualified” group primarily displayed highly negative emotions
in the case of frustration incidents of the “Inaccessibility” and “Redemption Costs”
categories. With reference to the theoretically ascertained determinants of the
frustration sensation, this result would appear to be quite plausible. When the
promised benefit is refused or high material or mental costs must unexpectedly be paid
by the customer in order to claim the reward, then the extent of the reward withdrawal
is judged to be high. Moreover, the withdrawal occurs only after what is sometimes a
long qualification phase and when the actual claim is made; that means the time of the
reward withdrawal is late. In addition, the results from the “Inaccessibility” and
“Redemption Costs” categories cannot be interpreted as random or temporary
occurrences from the customer point of view, but rather as the intentional results of a
concept that was planned by the provider. Furthermore, occurrence of inaccessibility or
redemption costs was not anticipated, meaning that no reduction of the frustration
sensation could occur for this reason.
Also in the case of the numerous frustration incidents in the “Worthlessness”
category, many program participants experienced a strong frustration sensation,
because they viewed the reward withdrawal as serious in view of the great effort they
had expended in accumulating points, because the reward withdrawal occurred late
and because the incident was clearly the result of a purposeful decision on the part of
the company. The frustration sensation was, however, less clearly pronounced in the
case of some participants, since these participants had already scrutinized the
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promised reward before making their claim, had determined its value to be low and
thus had also expected the onset of frustration (Table I).
The following proposition can thus be phrased:
P3A. The frustration sensation of participants in loyalty programs is greater, the
more intensely they experience the extent of the reward withdrawal, the later
the reward is withdrawn and the more the reward withdrawal is seen as
deliberate or arbitrary.
In terms of the “Qualification Barrier” category, the empirical findings for the
“Non-Qualified” group are especially insightful in illustrating the reducing influence of
expecting the frustration on the frustration sensation, as is implied in proposition P3B
(see below). The findings provide clear indications that the problem of falling short of
the high number of points required led to a high frustration sensation among the
members of the “Just Missed” segment, whereas this was not the case to the same
extent among the “Bound to Fail” group. This result appears to be likely when taking
into consideration the determinants of the frustration sensation. For the “Just Missed”
group, the reward withdrawal occurs late that is, shortly before the minimum
number of points is reached and the frustration is unexpected, as long as overcoming
the barrier is still seen as a possibility. The reward withdrawal for those “Bound to
Fail”, by contrast, is recognized early on, and the frustration is thus to be expected and
therefore frustration sensation is lower.
On the basis of these findings, the following proposition may be formulated:
P3B. The frustration sensation of participants in loyalty programs is lower when
the participants expect that they will be frustrated.
Program-related frustration behavior
Findings in frustration theory suggest that differing types of frustration incidents or
varying degrees of the intensity of frustration sensation also lead to varying
expressions of frustration behavior (protest, intensification of efforts or avoidance).
According to the general frustration model, protest behavior can particularly be
expected, when the reward withdrawal is perceived to be deliberate/arbitrary and
when the frustration sensation is intense, whereas avoidance behavior tends to occur
when the onset of frustration is expected.
A corresponding relationship can also be observed in the exploratory study. Those
“Qualified” participants, that were especially frustrated by incidents in the categories
of “Inaccessibility”, “Redemption Costs” and “Worthlessness” respond with protest
behavior that is to say, complaints against employees of the firm or intense negative
word-of-mouth in their social environment.
Concerning the frustration behavior of the “Non-Qualified”, a clear distinction can
be observed between the “Bound to Fail” and “Just Missed” groups. For customers in
the “Just Missed” group, barely falling short of the required number of points is
especially frustrating. Therefore, those customers who still believed that they could
reach the required number of points responded with an intensification of their efforts
that is, an increased accumulation intensity whereas the others were disappointed
and exhibited protest behavior. Participants in the “Bound to Fail” group indeed
Customer
frustration in
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243
Categories of
program-related
frustration incidents
Extent of the reward
withdrawal
Time of the reward
withdrawal
Perceived
deliberateness/arbitrariness
of the reward withdrawal
Expectation of the onset
of frustration
Resulting
frustration
sensation
Inaccessibility
High, as the benefit was
promised
Late, as only occurred
when benefit was
claimed
Low, as event not
foreseeable beforehand High
Redemption Costs
High, as the benefit has
already been “payed for”
Late, as only occurred
when benefit was
claimed
High, as the responsibility
for the result can be clearly
attributed
Low, as event not
foreseeable beforehand High
Worthlessness
Medium to high,
depending upon
customer-specific
assessment
Late, as only occurred
when benefit was
claimed
Medium to high,
depending upon
customer-specific
assessment
Medium to
high
Table I.
Characteristics of the
frustration sensation of
“Qualified” participants
with program-related
frustration incidents
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experienced the deliberateness/arbitrariness of the reward postponement in an intense
way, but they had been expecting the onset of this frustration for a long time.
Consequently, they exhibited heightened avoidance behavior by abandoning further
attempts to accumulate points.
Therefore, we can formulate the following propositions:
P4A. Highly frustrating frustration incidents tend to lead to protest behavior
among qualified participants of loyalty programs, less frustrating frustration
incidents to avoidance behavior.
P4B. Highly frustrating frustration incidents lead to an intensification of efforts
among non-qualified participants of loyalty programs, provided that they
expect to overcome the qualification barrier; otherwise, such incidents lead to
protest behavior.
P4C. Non-qualified participants with no prospect of overcoming the qualification
barrier respond with avoidance behavior.
Relationship-related frustration incidents
The results of the focus-group discussions led to the conclusion that frustration
incidents occurred that differed from the program-related incidents in their relevance to
the customer relationship. Indeed, these frustration incidents also stemmed from the
loyalty program, but the frustration sensation was not primarily focused on the
program itself, but rather on the firm and the customer’s perceived relationship with
this firm. These frustration incidents will be referred to here as relationship-related
frustration incidents.
From the focus-group participants’ statements 37 could be attributed to three
categories of relationship-related frustration incidents whose reference point is the
company or the overall customer relationship. Those categories are “Discrimination”,
“Defocusing” and “Economization”.
Discrimination. Frustration incidents in this category occur when less valuable
customers are disadvantaged by the company treating the valuable status customers
favorably. The customers that are less valuable from the firm’s perspective may still
demonstrate a strong commitment to the firm and perceive themselves to be valuable
customers. As “Non-Qualified” customers, they see the denial of equal treatment as
discrimination. Interestingly, participants in the “Qualified” group, who were not
affected by the discrimination themselves, also criticized other customers’ unfavorable
treatment as being discriminatory (example: “I don’t like superior treatment of certain
groups. They can’t do that” (Non-Qualified), “Everybody should be treated equally,
nobody should feel discriminated” (Qualified), “How unimportant must I be for the
company that I do not even get this advantage” (Non-Qualified)).
Defocusing. Many customers rate the core service of the provider as only somewhat
satisfactory. This impression leads to a perception that the firm has wrongly focused
its priorities on the loyalty program instead of on the core service. The participants in
the focus groups thus see the program as a reduction of the possible value, in terms of
Customer
frustration in
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245
service quality that the firm could in fact offer to them, provided that the firm would
have directed the resources used for the loyalty program toward measures designed to
improve the core service (example: “What do I need points for when I arrive
unpunctually or receive wrong information. In the first place they should improve the
core service”).
Economization. Loyalty programs move the economic character of the relationship
to the forefront of customers’ consciousness. For some customers who had strong
emotional ties to the firm, this development led to a re-evaluation of the business
relationship, as there was no reciprocity on the part of the firm for the customer’s
emotional commitment (example: “For every point I receive I have to spend one Euro,
making me realize how much I really spend for the company to become a valued
customer”).
These three categories of relationship-related customer statements are frustration
incidents because each of them was a form of reward refusal or reward reduction and
because they triggered highly negative emotions. The discrimination is a willful
refusal of a possible reward. The defocusing can be understood as a reward reduction
because the service received in return for the price paid by the customer is diminished
by supposedly incorrect corporate investments in the loyalty program. Economization
may also be taken as a reward reduction, as the emotional reward for the customer’s
emotional ties is withdrawn.
In the case of these relationship-related incidents participants cannot intensify their
efforts as a possible reaction to the strong frustration sensation. Thus, the affected
customers chose either protest or avoidance as alternative actions. For instance, they
complained to the firm about the discrimination they experienced or decided to use the
core service less often in the future.
Accordingly, propositions P5A and P5B are as follows:
P5A. In loyalty programs frustration incidents occur that have negative effects on
the customer’s perception of the relationship with the firm.
P5B. Highly frustrating relationship-related frustration incidents lead to protest or
avoidance behavior with respect to the loyalty program and/or the core
service.
Discussion
Conclusion
More and more companies are implementing loyalty programs in order to enhance
their knowledge of their customers, to identify the valuable customers, to differentiate
and give personal attention to these valuable customers and especially to raise profits
by increasing customer retention and by a more efficient use of marketing tools. Few
firms, however, systematically verify whether the programs they implement actually
achieve these goals. An even more neglected question is whether customers as
participants of loyalty programs have negative experiences that frustrate them. The
consequence could be that the programs do not achieve the retention effect aimed at, or
even that the overall relationship with the firm is weakened.
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Discussions in internet forums provide initial indications that participating
customers are annoyed with loyalty programs. The present exploratory study firmly
supports this impression. Customers do in fact experience a number of different
incidents that greatly frustrate them. Chief among frustration incidents directly related
to the loyalty program are difficulty of access (qualification barrier), impossibility of
claiming the reward (inaccessibility), low value of the reward (worthlessness) and
being required to invest additional material and mental costs in order to enjoy the
benefits (redemption costs). In addition, customers experience frustrating incidents
that directly affect their relationship with the firm. They feel disadvantaged by the
favorable treatment of other customers (discrimination), believe that the firm has
wrongly focused its priorities on the loyalty program, in light of a perceived deficiency
in the core service (defocusing) and are offended by the exclusive focus on the economic
aspects of the relationship (economization).
The frustration incidents lead to highly negative emotions the frustration
sensation that leads to frustration behavior in the form of an intensification of
efforts, protest behavior or avoidance behavior. It is in the interest of the firm if
customers intensify their efforts in order to be able to enjoy the benefits offered in the
loyalty program. This effect only sets in, however, if customers actually achieve their
goal and are not left with negative emotions. Protest behavior as a sign of intense
customer frustration must certainly be taken seriously by the firm as evidence of
undesirable developments in the program. The most problematic situation arises when
the participants choose avoidance behavior without providing feedback, particularly
when the behavior is directed not only to the use of the loyalty program, but also
extends to the use of the actual core service or to the assessment of the overall
relationship.
Limitations and research implications
This research contributes to theory by revealing new research perspectives in two
regards. First, the general frustration-theoretical model presented offers an important
starting point for further research. Second, the study on frustration effects in loyalty
programs directs the attention toward the previously highly neglected area of
unintended negative side effects associated with customer-retention and
customer-relationship management measures.
So far, very few articles address the construct of customer frustration (So
¨derlund,
2003; Stauss, 2004). This paper moves beyond the existing discussion by developing a
general frustration model and examining its adequacy for explaining the specific
behavior of frustrated customers. As this succeeds, it seems reasonable to expand the
thought and, for example, to reflect the suitability of using the frustration construct to
explain the behavior of customers who experience other frustrating situations. Among
cases to be considered in this context would be, when customers complain
unsuccessfully or when customers have to encounter breach of companies’ guarantees.
However, the limitations of the theoretical perspective have to be considered. The
discussion as to the exact differentiation of frustration from related constructs (such as
dissatisfaction) is by no means concluded. Above all, further work is necessary that
would allow deeper insights into the relationships between the model elements: the
relationship between frustration incident and frustration sensation, the relationship
Customer
frustration in
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247
between frustration sensation and frustration behavior and the influence of frustration
tolerance.
Concerning the possible negative effects of loyalty programs, the qualitative
empirical study shows that participants of such programs in fact get considerable
negative impressions that unfavorably affect the success of the program or even the
relationship with the firm. This is a remarkable result. Nevertheless, the limitations of
the empirical study need to be taken into account. The object of the investigation was a
single company’s loyalty program in a special industry sector, which limits the
generalizability of the results. Furthermore, the findings were derived from a
qualitative, exploratory study, which underlines their preliminary character. Of
research interest is thus the further specification of the propositions and their
formulation as hypotheses that can be tested in a large-scale quantitative study in
different sectors and with a number of companies and programs. In this context, there
are a number of individual questions that are yet to be clarified, such as how the
different relationship types can be differentiated from one another in an exact and
practical manner, and how the intensity of the frustration sensation or the forms of
frustration behavior can be operationalized and measured. Only based on such a larger
study will more exact information about the effects of frustration incidents in loyalty
programs on customer loyalty become available, which will also provide important
details as to the profitability of these instruments for practice.
Managerial implications
Specific implications for the planning and implementation of loyalty programs arise
from the results of the study.
In the strategic planning of loyalty programs particular relevance should be given
to the question of target-group orientation (Rapp and Decker, 2003, p. 211). In doing so,
the extent to which frustration incidents and sensation differ according to target
groups should be a primary focus of analysis. Here, differentiating customers as
relational and transactional according to their type of relationship may be important
(Gro
¨nroos, 2000, p. 35). It is to be expected that relational customers—that is, those
more interested in a “real” relationship may be more sensitive to discrimination and
economization. Loyalty programs with a strong economic focus and distinct
customer-value differentiation would only appear to be appropriate when there is a
high percentage of transactional customers for whom the search for an acceptably
priced solution, not an emotional connection with the provider, is the primary focus.
In addition, when planning the implementation of loyalty programs it is imperative
to keep in mind that customers need to perceive the core service as satisfactory. If,
however, dissatisfaction with the core service is prevailing, the firm’s concentration on
loyalty programs may be largely seen as defocusing and produce intense frustration
effects.
As far as operative program planning is concerned, what is important is to
preventively ensure that program-related frustration effects are avoided to the greatest
extent possible. This calls for:
.using customer-based marketing research to establish a level of points required
for qualification that is regarded as appropriate by the majority of the concerned
target group in order to avoid frustration resulting from a qualification barrier;
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.offering only those service benefits that represent genuine additional value to
customers so as to avoid perceived worthlessness;
.making sure that the rewards can be claimed by customers at any time and in
any place in order to avoid inaccessibility; and
.making sure that customers are not overburdened by being required to invest
additional material or mental costs in order to claim benefits so as to avoid
redemption costs.
If loyalty programs have already been implemented, it is important that the quality of
the program perceived by the customer is constantly monitored on a customer
segment-specific basis, thus allowing the firm to obtain prompt information about
possible customer frustration. Furthermore, the behavior customers exhibit when
accumulating points and claiming benefits should also be monitored continuously, so
that the firm can recognize the first signs of avoidance behavior by customers in a
timely manner. Moreover, indications of protest such as customer complaints
should be viewed with particular attention. In this regard, not only must employees
having contact with customers be empowered to answer these complaints and to
conduct a dialog with the complainants, but also to forward the complaints, so that the
critical aspects and proposals contained in customers’ protests are also used to improve
the program on an ongoing basis.
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... The dissatisfaction with a service is driven by the individuals' importance associated with the service (Czepiel 1990;Stauss et al. 2005). For instance, delayed arrival of a train before an important appointment is more frustrating when compared to missing one without any appointments (Edvardsson 1998). ...
... In addition, dissatisfaction with a situation is commonly associated with frustration (Anderson and Bushman 2002;Stauss et al. 2005). For instance, research by Stauss et al. (2005) in a service context showed that dissatisfying events (e.g., accessibility of a service) led to frustration and affected the relationship with the firm. ...
... In addition, dissatisfaction with a situation is commonly associated with frustration (Anderson and Bushman 2002;Stauss et al. 2005). For instance, research by Stauss et al. (2005) in a service context showed that dissatisfying events (e.g., accessibility of a service) led to frustration and affected the relationship with the firm. Hence, a CA that is providing a dissatisfactory service can be expected to lead to frustration in users. ...
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Conversational Agents (CAs) are becoming part of our everyday lives, whether in the form of voice assistants (such as Siri or Alexa) or as chatbots (for instance, on Facebook). When looking at CAs, users frequently start to display aggressive behavior towards CAs, such as insulting it. However, why some users tend to harass CAs and how this behavior can be explained remains unclear. We conducted a two-conditions online experiment with 201 participants on the interrelation of human-like design, dissatisfaction, frustration, and aggression to address this circumstance. The results reveal that frustration drives aggression. Specifically, users with high impulsivity tend to severely insult a CA when it makes an error. To prevent such behavior, our results indicate that human-like design of CA reduces dissatisfaction, which is a driver of frustration. However, we also discovered that human-like design directly increases frustration, making it a double-edged sword that has to be further investigated.
... With respect to negative affect, consumers may feel skepticism arising from the broader privacy concerns of personal data used by LPs (Jai & King, 2016), or unfairness if they question the rewarding mechanisms (Steinhoff & Palmatier, 2016). Frustration has also been noted as a negative emotion relating to LPs; it is ignited by aspects such as the supply of rewards (e.g., number of reward seats available on popular routes), the ease of redeeming rewards (e.g., short expiry dates for points), perceiving the reward to be of little value (Stauss et al., 2005), or status demotion (Wagner et al., 2009). These affective states not only negatively affect attitudes and conation (Wagner et al., 2009) but can also modify behavioral outcomes of LPs through protest and avoidance (Stauss et al., 2005). ...
... Frustration has also been noted as a negative emotion relating to LPs; it is ignited by aspects such as the supply of rewards (e.g., number of reward seats available on popular routes), the ease of redeeming rewards (e.g., short expiry dates for points), perceiving the reward to be of little value (Stauss et al., 2005), or status demotion (Wagner et al., 2009). These affective states not only negatively affect attitudes and conation (Wagner et al., 2009) but can also modify behavioral outcomes of LPs through protest and avoidance (Stauss et al., 2005). Thus, we propose: ...
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Despite firms’ extensive usage of loyalty programs (LPs) and decades-long academic research on their effectiveness, LPs’ effects on customer loyalty are still heavily debated. We perform a comprehensive meta-analysis of loyalty programs across various LP designs and industries and spanning different performance metrics to identify moderators of LP effectiveness. Based on a data set with 429 effect sizes, published or available between 1990 and 2020, we find strong evidence that LPs enhance customer loyalty. However, while LPs particularly enhance behavioral loyalty, shifting consumers’ attitudinal loyalty is more challenging. Further, LP effectiveness differs systematically depending on LP design characteristics (LP structure, reward content and delivery) and industry characteristics. These effects are enabled by both cognitive and affective drivers, acting sequentially, as underlying mechanisms. Despite a wide range of methodologies investigating LPs’ effectiveness, methodological choices have little impact on the substantive results. We develop a comprehensive research agenda and managerial implications.
... However, in the context of HLPs, the empirical research on the effect of point expiration on customers is surprisingly scant (Breugelmans et al., 2015). Moreover, although the points pressure effect of point expiration may translate into financial benefits for a firm, empirical research has neglected its potential to turn customers against the customers (Breugelmans et al., 2015) with imposed barriers to redeeming points (Stauss et al., 2005), which may negatively influence customers' attitude and patronage intention toward the service provider. ...
... In loyalty program management, negative program changes, including an increase of reward tier requirements (McCall and McMahon, 2016) or termination of the reward program (Lepthien et al., 2017;McCall and McMahon, 2016;Melnyk and Bijmolt, 2015) have been found to evoke anger and reduce purchase intentions and customer loyalty. Researchers have also consistently proposed that point expiration is responsible for customers' negative experiences in loyalty programs such as feelings of frustration (Stauss et al., 2005) and pressure (Dorotic et al., 2014). Nevertheless, none of these studies investigated the impact of point expiration in the HLP context or compared its impact on customer behavior relative to other policies such as status demotion. ...
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Purpose In managing hierarchical loyalty programs (HLP), firms often use a reward point expiration and status demotion policy to reduce financial liability and to encourage repeat purchases. This study aims to examine how point expiration and status demotion policies affect customer patronage, the role of extension strategies in mitigating the negative effects of these policies on customers and the moderating role of status endowment in the effect of point expiration on customers patronage following status demotion experience. Design/methodology/approach Three experiments were conducted using the hotel industry as the context. The hypothesized relationships were tested using ANOVA and a serial moderated mediation analysis using SPSS PROCESS Macro. Findings Customers subjected to reward point expiration exhibited a higher level of anger and perceived severity of the problem than those subjected to status demotion in HLP. Consequently, when customers experienced both point expiration and status demotion, the point extension strategy rather than the status extension strategy was found to be a more effective remedy for reducing perceived unfairness, although there was no change in the level of patronage reduction between the two extension strategies. Importantly, the effect of point expiration on patronage reduction was stronger among endowed-status customers than earned-status customers, serially driven by heightened feelings of embarrassment and perceived unfairness. Originality/value The study adds to the existing literature on HLP by comparing the effects of point expiration and status demotion on customer patronage with practical insights for HLP managers.
... Prior scholars found that demoted customers experience reduction of loyalty program benefits (Wagner, Hennig-Thurau, and Rudolph 2009), negative affect (Wagner, Hennig-Thurau, and Rudolph 2009), perceived unfairness (Banik and Gao 2020), frustration (Banik, Gao, and Rabbanee 2019;Stauss, Schmidt, and Schoeler 2005), and social discomfort (Banik, Gao, and Rabbanee 2019), which ultimately diminish their satisfaction (e.g., Ramaseshan, Stein, and Rabbanee 2016;Ramaseshan and Ouschan 2017), trust and commitment toward the firm (e.g., Ramaseshan, Stein, and Rabbanee 2016; van Berlo, Bloemer, and Blazevic 2014), loyalty intentions (e.g., Banik and Gao 2020;Wagner, Hennig-Thurau, and Rudolph 2009) HLPs, an exploration of differential reactions to customer demotion is warranted. ...
... To date, loyalty programs have gained considerable practical and academic attention in the context of customer retention, customer relationship management (CRM), customer satisfaction and loyalty (Duffy, 1998;Noordhoff, Pauwels and Odekerken-Schröder, 2004;Stauss, Schmidt and Schoeler, 2005;Ho et al., 2009;Thompson and Tuzovic, 2020), the program efficiency (Meyer-Waarden, Benavent and Castéran, 2013) and potential outcomes (Baker and Legendre, 2020). In view of the considerable investment required to set up and maintain loyalty programs, it is crucial, both academically and practically, to examine the impact of loyalty programs on consumers, retailers and the marketing practice in general. ...
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This paper presents a history of retail loyalty programs in North America, tracing their evolution from the late 18 th century until today, including tokens, coupons, credit extension, trading stamps, proprietary currency and finally, loyalty cards. Design/methodology/approach-Secondary data sources were analyzed in order to create this historical account. Research Limitations-The research is dependent upon the historical sources that are accessible, especially during the various restrictions imposed upon travel and archival institutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Elnahla, N. & Neilson, L. C. (2021). Extended abstract: History of retail loyalty programs in North America. Proceedings of the 20th Biennial Conference on Historical Analysis and Research in Marketing (CHARM 2021): Vol. 20, 92-95. https://ojs.library.carleton.ca/index.php/pcharm/article/view/3279
... Many empirical studies suggest that a loyalty program has a positive impact on customer loyalty [54][55][56], and it also alters purchasing that is customer purchase volume/frequency and share-of-wallet [48,57,58]. However, some research publications are devoted to the negative aspects of loyalty programs [59,60]. These publications noted the dark side of loyalty programs connected with negative experiences among non-member customers. ...
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The purpose of the study is to identify factors affecting the intention to change an energy supplier. This is in a country, Poland, where competition in the energy market has been intensifying over several years, but incumbent suppliers still have an extremely strong position on the market, and the tendency to change an energy supplier is relatively low. The survey was conducted in 2020 on a sample of 1216 adults. The research results were used for a multigroup SEM (Structural Equation Modelling) analysis using AMOS 26. The main findings indicated a strong impact on a general image of a company, as well as the lack of importance of a green image of the current energy supplier. In the general research approach, there are no visible differences in the impact of the perceived price transparency on the intention to switch the supplier. However, taking into consideration two groups (a low energy bill vs. a high energy bill), some interesting differences are visible. In the markets with low consumers' intention to switch, the strong position of incumbent suppliers is due to their exceptionally strong image in these markets. Spending time on maintenance is the biggest disadvantage for new energy suppliers who, when entering the market, have to look for differentiators.
... Customer frustration affects customer loyalty [46]. The loyalty represents the repeat purchase behavior. ...
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Consumers considering whether or not to queue make their decisions based on queuing size and the expecting waiting time. If a consumer is frustrated because he / she cannot know how long will wait, he / she will quit from a Consumers who are frustrated because they do not know how long they must wait will quit a queue or ask someone for help if the good is worthy to pay more money to own. If a good is worth waiting to purchase, a consumer will chose waiting or buying the privilege to get the good. However, a long wait causes customers to have negative feelings about the queue. Frustration also has a substantial effect on customer loyalty to a good. Therefore, the relationship between perceived waiting time and paying for queuers to buy the good is worth studying. Frustration is a moderating effect that is also worth studying. In the formal study, to make the frustrating emotion, the authors asked all participants to have a contest before they can take the tickets to enter a queue for taking the ticket to a famous concert in Taiwan. The questions used in the contest had different levels of difficulty. However, the difficulty of the questions must be verified before the formal experiment. Therefore, the 60 participants in this pilot study were asked 40 questions in history, mathematics, and Chinese to find the most difficult ten questions and the less difficulty ten questions for the formal test.
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In a quest to engage customers in a long-lasting relationship, many companies adopt a Customer Loyalty Programme (CLP). Currently, over 3.3 billion customers are enrolled in one or more CLPs (Berry, 2015). However, 88% of customers suggest that retailers could improve CLPs to earn their long-term loyalty (Clarus, 2019). A literature review is constructed in this research to help the author to establish a strong understanding of the research topic and to demonstrate the type of topics important for the present study. This study seeks to investigate the effectiveness of CLPs as a Customer Engagement (CE) strategy by identifying types, benefits, challenges and improvements from a fashion retailer's perspective. With a multiple case study approach, this study will use semi structured interviews and direct observations as primary data collection tools. The suitable participants for the study would be the store managers from selected fashion retailers. This study aims to fulfil three key study gaps; a) limited research on the effectiveness of CLPs in fashion industry, b) inadequacy in addressing CLPs from a retailer's perspective, and c) NZ's wealthy fashion market that needs to be studied on its own context. Hence, this study findings would be helpful to fashion industry management teams to use CLPs effectively. 4 Acknowledgement
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As the importance of the concept of customer loyalty increases, organizations are investing more towards loyalty programs which could lead towards retaining their existing customers as well as attracting new customers. This study critically analyzes the previous literature on the customer loyalty programs and its impact on customer retention in order to synthesize some arguable areas such as types of customer loyalty programs and its impact on customer retention. This research is carried out as a systematic review which evaluates ten research articles that has been published within the last ten years but due to the high relevancy a research articles from the year 2005 and 2007 has been taken in to consideration. Based on our analysis it is identified that there are four major categories of customer loyalty programs in the retail industry namely, point system, rewarding system, loyalty card system and gift card system. Further, it is identified that a rewarding system is the most effective type of loyalty program in the retail industry where retailers can provide additional rewards based on the customers' loyalty levels. Through this study, it is found that all four types of customer loyalty programs are positively correlated with customer retention and the rewarding system has the highest co-relation with customer retention.
Article
Retailer loyalty programs (LPs) are pervasive in grocery retailing. However, participant spending and redemption typically wear off over time and traditional communication has not revealed very effective at maintaining program engagement. We study the impact of in-app mobile push notifications on consumer participation and reward collection in store-loyalty programs. Using a unique data set covering consumer spending before and during such a program, we estimate the effect of push messaging on expenditure and reward redemption during the program. We report positive effects of push messages on spending, and even stronger effects on redemption, relative to a control group not receiving such messages. Due to the savings dynamics, the total spending impact is larger for messages sent early on rather than late in the program, while the opposite holds for the total number of stamps redeemed. Conditioning on observable consumer characteristics, we allow for heterogeneous treatment effects and find that the spending and redemption effects of push messaging increase with high levels of pre-program spending. Our findings reveal which loyalty-program stakeholders benefit the most from mobile marketing campaigns, and help to formulate rules for campaign scheduling and targeting.
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Full-text available
Evidence indicates that satisfied customers defect at a high rate in many industries. Because satisfaction alone does not translate linearly into outcomes such as loyalty in terms of purchases, businesses must strive for 100 percent, or total, customer satisfaction and even delight to achieve the kind of loyalty they desire. Current studies attribute a higher degree of emotionality to the dissatisfaction end of the satisfaction continuum than in the past. For example, customers who have experienced service failures feel annoyed or victimized. Although victimization is felt at a deeper emotional level than irritation, both can result in outrage. By focusing on more intense customer emotions, such as outrage and delight, the authors explore the dynamics of customer emotions and their effect on customer behavior and loyalty. Schneider and Bowen base their conceptualization on people's needs rather than the more conventional model that focuses on customer expectations about their interactions with a firm. The authors propose a complementary needs-based model far service businesses that assumes customer delight and outrage originate with the handling of three basic human needs - security, justice, and self-esteem. By recasting a situation as one that has violated any of a customer's fundamental needs, the deeper emotional outcome (e.g., outrage) does not seem incongruous. The authors describe each need and offer specific managerial tactics for avoiding outrage and creating delight. Recent emphasis on relationship marketing - that is, attracting, developing, and retaining customers is pertinent because building relationships requires that companies view customers as people first and consumers second. Service is an exchange relationship in which customers swap their money and loyalty for what Schneider and Bowen argue is need gratification - a psychological contract with service firms to have their needs gratified. The authors discuss strategies that help firms gratify and, in some cases, delight customers. while avoiding the perception that they do not respect customer needs. Companies must manage how they show concern for customer needs in all actions, including the activities of the back office (e.g., billing, shipping), not just front-office personnel who directly contact the customer.
Chapter
Kundenzufriedenheit hat im letzten Jahrzehnt einen hohen Stellenwert in Marketingpraxis und -Wissenschaft eingenommen. Verschärfte Käufermarktsituationen rückten die Notwendigkeit einer stärkeren Kundenbindung durch Kundenzufriedenheit vermehrt in das Bewusstsein der Marketingmanager. Auf marketingwissenschaftlicher Ebene spiegelte sich dieser Bedeutungszuwachs in einer zunehmenden und vertieften Beschäftigung mit vielfältigen konstruktbezogenen sowie messtechnischen Aspekten der Kundenzufriedenheit wider (siehe Silberer 1987b, Schütze 1992, Oliver 1996, Stauss 1999, Hinterhuber & Matzler 2002, Silberer, Magerhans & Wohlfahrt 2002, Homburg 2003).
Chapter
The growing application of relationship marketing has social implications which need to be given more attention in the future development of the concept. The author uses an outline history of relationship management as a springboard for assessing the costs and benefits for consumers of long-term relationships with business enterprises. The core of the chapter examines the different problems and difficulties which relationship marketing might bring the individual consumer. These issues need to find a careful response in both marketing science and practice, if society is to continue to accept a concept which claims to focus on customer orientation.
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This paper explores the effects of market structure on the effectiveness of loyalty programmes. A literature review led to the proposition that effectiveness is dependent upon firms' existing customer information deficit and their ability to segment markets with differentiated products. A case study examines two sectors with differing market characteristics: civil aviation and car ferries. Loyalty programmes appeared to be less successful in the latter, where information about customers was more readily available than for airlines. Opportunities for segmentation were less. Although questions are raised about how the effectiveness of a loyalty programme can be measured, the proposition that market characteristics can influence the effectiveness of a loyalty programme is accepted.