Triggers and inhibitors of illegitimate customer complaining behavior: Anecdotes from frontline employees in the hospitality industry

Zhuowei (Joy) Huang, Chen Zhao, Li Miao, Xiaoxiao Fu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The study aims to investigate the illegitimate customer complaining behavior (ICCB) in the hospitality industry from the perspective of frontline employees. In particular, this study identified ICCB incidents, ICCB triggering factors and inhibitors in the hospitality industry. Design/methodology/approach: A qualitative research approach was adopted in this study by using in-depth personal interviews. Twenty-six semi-structured interviews were conducted with frontline employees who had first-hand experiences with ICCB in the hospitality industry. The interviews were transcribed, coded and analyzed following the procedures of open coding, axial coding and selective coding. Findings: Analysis of the qualitative data has revealed 7 types of ICCB incidents, 11 ICCB triggering factors and 3 ICCB inhibitors in the hospitality industry, as perceived by frontline employees. The study also proposed a multiple-layer model of ICCB triggers and inhibitors based on the results. Four propositions are developed delineating three layers of driving forces and the dynamics between ICCB triggers and inhibitors that exert joint effects on ICCB. Research limitations/implications: Impacts of various cultural settings, different hospitality business settings (hotels vs restaurants) and profile information of frontline employees on ICCB need to be examined in future research. Originality/value: Findings of this study contribute to the customer complaining literature and the hospitality service management literature by offering the frontline employees' perspective of ICCB. Hospitality businesses can benefit from this study by using the research findings to develop more effective company policies and training programs to recognize, monitor and resolve ICCB incidents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)544-571
Number of pages28
JournalInternational Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Frontline employees
  • Hospitality industry
  • ICCB (illegitimate customer complaining behavior)
  • ICCB incidents
  • ICCB inhibitors
  • ICCB triggers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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