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Let down buyers at your peril, companies warned

Published 16/09/2010

Brands making big promises and failing to deliver are leaving consumers feeling "betrayed" and "likely to lash out", researchers have said.

Angry consumers confronting staff on the front line are fuelled by the promises marketing professionals have made, a study found, and rather than the consumer's character leading to abusive behaviour, it is the failure of brands to live up to the high expectations created by marketing staff that leads to "hatred".

Professor Michael Beverland, from the University of Bath, believes that marketing professionals "promise customers the world".

However, he adds: "When something goes wrong, consumers frame the conflict in a personal way, they feel betrayed and they're likely to lash out at front-line staff," he said.

Researchers carried out 52 in-depth interviews with 39 people who had experienced bad service and analysed their responses.

Statistics show that consumer conflict is most likely to be found in service settings, such as shops and banks, with between 10% and 15% of service staff experiencing verbal aggression from consumers every day.

The cost of consumer conflict to companies is thought to be huge in terms of staff turnover, sickness and damage to reputation.

The study has been published in the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science.

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