Culture's impact on consumer complaining responses to embarrassing service failure

Lisa C. WAN

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

102 Citations (Scopus)


Prior cultural research generally agrees that Asian consumers (collectivists), who emphasize social harmony, are less likely to complain but more likely to switch and to spread negative word-of-mouth than Western consumers (individualists) in service failures. Drawing from the face concern and embarrassment literature, this paper argues that collectivists are not necessarily less likely to complain than individualists. In fact, the impact of culture on consumer complaining responses will be contingent on the degree of embarrassment involved in the service failure. Results from a cross-cultural experiment indicate that only in a non-embarrassing failure will collectivists less likely complain than individualists. In an embarrassing failure, however, collectivists will more likely complain, as well as switch and spread negative word-of-mouth. These results not only yield interesting insights into cross-cultural consumer behaviors, but also provide rich managerial implications.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-305
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Business Research
Issue number3
Early online date13 Sept 2011
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • Culture
  • Face concern
  • Service embarrassment
  • Service failures


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