The Effect of Fellow Customer on Complaining Behaviors: The Moderating Role of Gender

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International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

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Purpose: This paper aims to examine the joint effect of the focal customer’s gender and fellow customer’s gender in influencing voice complaint intentions and intention to convey negative word of mouth (NWOM). Design/methodology/approach: Participants were randomly assigned to one of the two dining conditions (same-gender fellow customer vs opposite-gender fellow customer). Their intention to voice a complaint and to spread NWOM were measured after reading a scenario describing a service failure. A 2 (focal customer gender: male vs female) × 2 (fellow customer: same gender vs opposite gender) between-subjects quasi-experimental design was conducted to test the hypotheses. Findings: The results demonstrate that female customers’ voice complaint intentions were significantly higher when a fellow customer’s gender was female rather than male. In contrast, regardless of the fellow customer’s gender, no significant differences in voice complaint intentions were found among male customers. The results further indicate that voice complaint intentions mediate the impact of a fellow customer’s gender on intention to spread NWOM among female customers. However, both female and male participants show equally high levels of voice complaint intentions in the context of fine-dining restaurant. Practical implications: This study broadens the understanding of customer complaining behavior and also provides insights to practitioners on how to manage customers who are in same- and mixed-gender situations. Originality/value: This research extends the literature on agency–communal theory and complaining behaviors by examining the role of a fellow customer’s gender influencing the focal customer’s intentions to voice complaints and to spread NWOM.


Gender; Service failures; Native word of mouth; Customer complaint behavior; Fellow customer; Focal customer


Hospitality Administration and Management



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