Frequent (flier) frustration and the dark side of word‐of‐web: exploring online dysfunctional behavior in online feedback forums

Tuzovic, Sven (2010) Frequent (flier) frustration and the dark side of word‐of‐web: exploring online dysfunctional behavior in online feedback forums. Journal of Services Marketing, 24(6), pp. 446-457.

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Following the perspective of frustration theory customer frustration incidents lead to frustration behavior such as protest (negative word‐of‐mouth). On the internet customers can express their emotions verbally and non‐verbally in numerous web‐based review platforms. The purpose of this study is to investigate online dysfunctional customer behavior, in particular negative “word‐of‐web” (WOW) in online feedback forums, among customers who participate in frequent‐flier programs in the airline industry.


The study employs a variation of the critical incident technique (CIT) referred to as the critical internet feedback technique (CIFT). Qualitative data of customer reviews of 13 different frequent‐flier programs posted on the internet were collected and analyzed with regard to frustration incidents, verbal and non‐verbal emotional effects and types of dysfunctional word‐of‐web customer behavior. The sample includes 141 negative customer reviews based on non‐recommendations and low program ratings.


Problems with loyalty programs evoke negative emotions that are expressed in a spectrum of verbal and non‐verbal negative electronic word‐of‐mouth. Online dysfunctional behavior can vary widely from low ratings and non‐recommendations to voicing switching intentions to even stronger forms such as manipulation of others and revenge intentions.

Research limitations/implications

Results have to be viewed carefully due to methodological challenges with regard to the measurement of emotions, in particular the accuracy of self‐report techniques and the quality of online data. Generalization of the results is limited because the study utilizes data from only one industry. Further research is needed with regard to the exact differentiation of frustration from related constructs. In addition, large‐scale quantitative studies are necessary to specify and test the relationships between frustration incidents and subsequent dysfunctional customer behavior expressed in negative word‐of‐web.

Practical implications

The study yields important implications for the monitoring of the perceived quality of loyalty programs. Management can obtain valuable information about program‐related and/or relationship‐related frustration incidents that lead to online dysfunctional customer behavior. A proactive response strategy should be developed to deal with severe cases, such as sabotage plans.


This study contributes to knowledge regarding the limited research of online dysfunctional customer behavior as well as frustration incidents of loyalty programs. Also, the article presents a theoretical “customer frustration‐defection” framework that describes different levels of online dysfunctional behavior in relation to the level of frustration sensation that customers have experienced. The framework extends the existing perspective of the “customer satisfaction‐loyalty” framework developed by Heskett et al.

Impact and interest:

22 citations in Scopus
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15 citations in Web of Science®

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ID Code: 86243
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Consumer Behaviour, Customer Loyalty, Online Operations, Internet, Service Delivery
DOI: 10.1108/08876041011072564
ISSN: 0887-6045
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > MARKETING (150500) > Marketing Management (incl. Strategy and Customer Relations) (150503)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations
Deposited On: 06 Aug 2015 00:35
Last Modified: 18 Aug 2015 01:21

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