hould encourage dissatisfied customers to complain so that they can solve the problem and retain the customer. Unfortunately, organizations that do not rise to the challenge of handling complaint are turning down the important opportunity of reclaiming and improving a relationship with aggrieved customers, owing to the apparent importance of effective complaints handling, there is a research gap on how companies should treat all complaining customers to achieve customer satisfaction. Companies strive in the direction of improve service quality, but overall customer satisfaction remains a problem in organizations.

2.2. Theoretical Framework (Equity Theory)

Equity theory proposes that customer’s attitudes and behaviours are influenced by the appraisal of their contribution and the recompense they take. Equity theory stresses that individuals are interested in the ultimate levels of outcomes and fairness of outcomes for both parties participating in a business deal [21] . Equity theory also implies that the existence of inequality creates pressures, which will commensurate weightiness of inequality. Adam [22] stated that, “the presence of inequality will motivate the perceivers to achieve equity or to reduce inequality; and the strength of motivation to do so will vary directly with the magnitude of inequality experienced”. Equity stands as the foremost distribution code for estimating exchange fairness. When inequality within a transaction is acknowledged, the parties involved in activities that minimize pressure, or parties involved in activities that minimize pressure, the party of a relatively deprived position may elect to quit the relationship.

According [23] customers’ estimation of recovery can be clarified through equity theory. Equity theory becomes useful in a situation where an exchange occurs and is therefore compatible in endeavors to expound how recovery is arrived at. The perceived justice component of equity theory will direct customers to estimate if they have received a fair recovery strategy or not. Justice theory has been made manifest in many conflict resolution settings that has to do with buyer-seller, employee-management, marriage and legal disputes, and it has indicated vigorousness in construing responses to conflicts which involves complaint [24] . This paper applies the equity theory as the main theoretical foundation guiding it. This is so because it is used to resolve conflicts amicably more so with consumers.

3. Empirical Studies

3.1. Distributive Justice and Repeat Purchase

Distributive justice is seen as “outcome” justice that lays emphasis on “equity” issues in consumer’s mind, [25] asserts that compliant handling does not derive judgment from satisfaction with the organization’s responses, but by post complaint customer behaviour that are noticeable in repurchase intentions and word-of-mouth intension. Post-purchase intentions are normally perceived as an indicator for predicting consumers’ future behaviours [26] . Repeat purchase is then seen as a consumer’s intentions commitment to repurchase a product or service and portrays their experience linked with purchasing or utilization of the product or service. For most service organizations, economic efficiency is a function of an ability to maintain long-term relationship with customers who patronize their products constantly [27] .

Apprehending the reasons customers repeatedly buys from a service firm represent an issue of significant magnitude because service research has in these contemporary times identified a number of potential drivers of repeat purchase. In view of the above analysis, the study’s first tentative statement becomes―Ho1: There is no significant relationship between distributive justice and repeat purchase.

3.2. Distributive Justice and Word-of-Mouth

When complainants are treated with courtesy and respect even a partial refund, exchange, or discount can have a favorable impact drawing from word-of-mouth experience there by leading to patronage behavior. In general, according to [28] complainants who experience higher levels of distributive justice are more likely to patronize the retailer and are less likely to engage in negative word-of-mouth behavior (and vice-versa).

Contrary to expectations, Gruberfirst [29] found that distributive justice had no effect on subjects’ patronage intentions or on their word-of-mouth intentions. Although the high and low distributive justice conditions were perceived accordingly, having to come back the next day to talk to the manager apparently was of little consequence compared to the manner in which the complainant was treated and the amount of the exchange or discount that was offered. In their own study found that complainants may understand the need to speak to the store manager (especially in nonroutine situations), and realize that the manager cannot always be at the store. Hence, having to come back to the store the next day is not so unreasonable as to cause complainants to engage in negative word-of-mouth or to vow never to patronize the retailer. The key finding of [30] study revealed that distributive justice explained a significantly greater percentage of the variance of subjects’ post-complaint intentions than did distributive justice. Also, these findings point to the importance of training retail employees how to respond to customer complaints. Therefore, the study’s second conjectural statement is―Ho2: There is no significant relationship between distributive justice and word-of-mouth.

3.3. Distributive Justice and Commitment

From the works of [31] marketers have been made to know that by understanding the complaint process and the customer complaint behaviour, the service company can learn how to reduce the impact of an unfavourable service experience or complaint. Unhappy customers often voice their displeasure in the form of disloyalty and noncommitment to other current and potential customers.

[32] confirms that service and complaint handling enhance customer satisfaction and that service and complaint handling are the most important customer satisfaction determinants in banks. Customer commitment is by-product of customer satisfaction attained through effective and efficient service delivery. According to [33] satisfaction can be restored, but not enhanced, when a complaint is properly handled, which is why attempts to make it right the first time are preferred. Gruber first, [34] found that complaint handling through distributive justice system also improves customer commitment and satisfaction. In addition, [35] findings are supported by [36] who investigated the relationship between customer complaints and commitment and found that by encouraging customers to complain their commitment and satisfaction especially amongst dissatisfied customers are increased.

To exploit this capital, organizations must design, build, operate and continuously upgrade systems for managing customer complaints. Therefore, customer centricity in the 21st century in view of competitive market place occasioned by globalization should to be the goal of every bank world-wide and more so in developing countries like Kenya. Complaint handling can be a significantly superior investment for a service company and can generate 30 - 150 percent return on investment [36] . Accordingly, the third hypothesis for the study is―Ho3: There is no significant relationship between distributive justice and commitment.

4. Methodology

The aim of this study is to examine the extent of the relationship between distributive justice and customer post-complaint behaviour in the fast food industry in Rivers State. The study adopted a correlation research design to determine the extent of relationship between distributive justice and customer post-complaint behaviour. The population of the study consists of sixty-six (66) registered fast food firms in Rivers State. The simple random sampling technique was adopted to select 330 respondents from the registered fast food firms in Rivers State. The instrument for data collection was a structured questionnaire tagged “Distributive Justice and Customer Post-Complaint Behaviour Questionnaire (DJCPBQ)”. The questions in the questionnaire were intended to collect data on the study variables for the purpose of testing facts on complaints handling practices and post complaint behaviour. The instrument was adjudged by experts to be reliable and valid. The research question was analysed using descriptive statistics while the hypotheses were analyzed using inferential statistics (Multiple Regression Analysis) with the aid of a crone programme (SPSS version 22.0).

5. Results

Research question one: Effect of Distributive justice on customer post-complaint Behaviour.

In order to establish the statistical significance of the independent variable on the dependent variable (customer post complaint Behaviour) regression analysis of ordinary least square estimate was employed to show the coefficient of determination also called R square as 747. This implies that the combined effect of the predictor variable (Distributive Justice) explains 74.7% of the variables in customer post complaint behaviour 0.864 of fast food firms in Rivers State. The correlation coefficient of 0.864 indicates that the predictor variable has a strong and positive correlation with customer post complaint behavior (Table 1).

The Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) on Table 2 shows that the effect of distributive justice is statistically significant in explaining changes in customer post complaint behaviour in fast food firms in Rivers State. This is demonstrated by a P value of 0.000 which is less than the acceptance critical value of 0.05.

Table 3 shows that there is also a standardized coefficient of 0.864 which is perfect as well as corresponding P value (sig.) of 0.000 which is less than alpha (0.05). Therefore, we conclude that here is a significant effect of distributive justice on customer post complaint behaviour

5.1. Relationship between Distributive Justice and Repeat Purchase Test of Hypothesis 1

Ho1: There is no significant relationship between distributive justice and repeat purchase.

Table 4 shows that the Pearson’s r = 0.483. Thus, shows that a moderate relationship exists between distributive justice and repeat justice. The sign of the

Table 1. Effect of distributive justice on customer post-complaint behaviour model summary.

aPredictors (constant), DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE. Source: SPSS 22.0 window output (based on 2017 field survey data).

Table 2. ANOVA.

Dependent Variable: Customer Post Complaint Behaviour. Predictors: (constant), DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE.

Table 3. Coefficients.

Dependent Variable: CUSTOMER POST COMPLAINT BEHAVIOUR. Source: SPSS 22.0 Window Output (based on 2017 field survey data).

Table 4. Correlation analysis showing the direction and strength of the relationship between distributive justice and repeat purchase.

**Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailled).

correlation coefficient is positive, indicating that when distributive justice increases, repeat purchase also increases. This does not agree with the stated null hypotheses 1 (There is no significant relationship between distributive justice and repeat purchase).

Therefore, the researcher rejects the null hypothesis and accepts the alternative hypothesis that there is a significant relationship between distributive justice and repeat purchase.

The significant/probability value (pv) = 0.000 < 0.05. Therefore, the researcher concludes that a significant positive relationship exists between distributive justice and repeat purchase, implying that when a company is perceived as applying distributive justice in handling complaint, this will in turn influence the customer to repeat the purchase of company’s products.

5.2. Relationship between Distributive Justice and Word-of-Mouth

Ho2: There is no significant relationship between Distributive justice and word-of-mouth.

Table 5 shows that the Pearson’s (r) = 0.415**. This shows that a moderate relationship exists between distributive justice and word-of-mouth. The sign of the correlation coefficient is positive, indicating that when distributive justice increases, word-of-mouth also increases. This does not agree with the stated null hypothesis 2 (There is no significant between distributive justice and word-of-mouth). The significant/probability value (pv) = 0.001 < 0.05. Therefore, the researcher concludes that a significant positive relationship exists between distributive justice and word-of-mouth, implying that when a company is perceived as applying distributive justice in handling complaint, this will subsequently affect word-of-mouth positively.

5.3. Relationship between Distributive Justice and Commitment

Ho3: Correlation Analysis showing the direction of relationship between Distributive Justice and Commitment.

Table 6 shows that Pearson’s (r) = 0.461**. Thus, shows that a moderate relationship exists between distributive justice and commitment. The sign of the

Table 5. Correlation analysis showing the direction and strength of the relationship between distributive justice and word-of-mouth.

**Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

Table 6. Correlation analysis showing the direction and strength of relationship between distributive justice and commitment.

**Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

correlation coefficient is positive, indicating that when distributive justice increases, customer commitment also increases. This does not agree with the stated null hypothesis 3 (There is no significant relationship between distributive justice and commitment), therefore the researcher rejects the null hypothesis and accept the alternative hypothesis that there is a significant relationship between distributive justice and commitment.

The significant/probability value (pv) = 0.00 < 0.05. Therefore, the researcher concludes that a significant positive relationship exists between distributive justice and commitment, implying that when a company is perceived as applying distributive justice in complaint handling, it subsequently influences customer commitment to that company.

6. Discussion

Relationship between Distributive Justice and Repeat Purchase, Word-of-Mouth and Commitment. Basically, distributive justice is a substantive factor or determinant of customer post-complaint behaviour. Distributive justice is employed to repair and indemnify for rendered service in order to address the responses activated by the apprehensive dissatisfaction that is not disremembered in the consumption of products or service [25] . A very vital step in guaranteeing repeat purchase is to understand complaint from customers and address appropriately. As it is in our expectation and indeed supported by our findings, distributive justice has a moderate, positive and significant relationship with repeat purchase, word-of-mouth and commitment.

Thus, the first hypothesis sought to determine the association between distributive justice and repeat purchase using the Pearson’s product moment correlation analysis. The hypothesis was stated in the null form, statistically tested and rejected. The alternative hypothesis that distributive justice is positively related to repeat purchase was accepted. The concept of distributive justice as measured in this study dealt with issues on the availability of high-quality allocation of rewards depending on a Person’s commitment to an exchange process. To satisfy customers and make them loyal is judged by post complaint behaviours such as repeat purchase. [30] posits that repeat purchase focuses on the construct that customers have the intention to buy a given product repeatedly after deriving satisfaction from initial use or experience. Given that the customer experience service failure or inadequate product, the level of justice distributed to his complaint makes his post complaint behaviours as repeat purchase positive. From our findings, we understand that when complaints are positively handled, it rubs on positively on customers post complaint behaviour. Our findings agree and support the findings of [27] that complaint handling influence significantly post complaint satisfaction.

Actually, companies delivering sound distributive justice programmes as perceived by the customers have remained a major driver of repeat purchase. The dispensation of distributive justice alone is not enough to sustain the required level of customer patronage, but it is a basis for the execution and achievement of overall customer patronage.

It was hypothesized in the second hypothesis that distributive justice does not positively related to word-of-mouth, the outcome of the test revealed that distributive justice moderately, significantly and positively relates with word-of-mouth. It is possible to argue that distributive justice triggers word-of-mouth of a specific product over others, and this is based on subjective judgment. Word of mouth according to [28] distributive justice connotes the act of informing others about a satisfactory or unsatisfactory experience of a service. From time unknown, people have significantly made decisions and developed daily preferences based on word of mouth communication. When customers complaints are handled with courtesy and even a partial refund, exchange, or discount given, it can lead to a favourable impact that elicits word-of-mouth that will result to patronage behaviour. Our findings are not consistent with [34] findings that distributive justice had no effect on subject’s patronage intentions or in their word-of-mouth intentions. It is important to note that, it is only when complaints are treated with courtesy and respect that distributive justice has a positive effect on post-complaint behaviour drawn by word-of-mouth. To achieve this, the focal companies are to focus on the constructs identified in this study that is, provide high quality product, genuine, functional and durable products, and above all give customers what they consider to be just in line with the allocation of resources by the firm to remedy and compensate for service failure, then will customers have a positive attitude towards their companies.

In the third hypothesis, the relationship between distributive justice and commitment was found to be moderate, significant and positive thus, Ho3 was rejected and Ha3 accepted. The opinions of the participating firms confirmed that distributive justice represents the perceived fairness of the outcome of a service encounter that leads to the allocation of benefits to compensate for service failure or service not rendered properly. It relates to the level and nature of apologies and compensations given to individuals who complained after service failure. This single art leads to customer satisfaction. Customer commitment is a bye-product of customer satisfaction that emanate through effective and efficient service delivery. Our finding therefore, suggests that customers show commitment to companies who handles their complaints efficiently and to their satisfaction. Our research finding is supported by [30] findings that complaint handling through distributive justice system improves customer commitment and satisfaction. In conclusion, distributive justice has positive influence on customers’ repeat purchase, word-of-mouth and commitment.

7. Conclusions and Recommendations

This work focused on investigating the relationship between distributive justice and customer post complaint behaviour of fast food firms in Rivers State. The following conclusions can be drawn from the discussion of our findings and from the hypotheses. The study attempted to assess the extent to which responses from the respondents on distributive justice explain customer post complaint behaviour. It was assumed that such information would facilitate the formulation of appropriate complaint handling policies and marketing strategies by fast food firms. It is evident from the findings that there is implicit relationship between attributes of distributive justice and customer post complaint behaviour. Thus, given knowledge of the importance that firms attached to the various attributes of distributive justice, it will be fairly possible for firms to predict the outlet where consumers would prefer to do their business. Management should be key in distributive justice to customer post complaint behaviour, since the study unveiled a statistically significant relationship between the variables. Fast food firms should be skilled in packaging distributive justice to relate genuinely with customer post complaint behaviour. This implication is necessary because the study revealed that distributive justice was the most significant dimension of that predicts customer post complaint behaviour.

Management should position strategically, the two dimensions of complaint handling practices (distributive justice and interactional justice) to customer post complaint behaviour, since the study unveiled a statistically significant relationship between them. Management should be skilled in packaging distributive justice and interactional justice to relate genuinely with customer post complaint behaviour. This implication is necessary because the study revealed that distributive justice and interactional justice were the most significant dimensions of complaint handling practices that predicts customer post complaint behaviour.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.

Cite this paper

Ogonu, G.C., Nwokah, N.G. and Acee-Eke, B.C. (2019) Distributive Justice and Customer Post-Complaint Behaviour of Fast Food Industry in Rivers State, Nigeria. Journal of Service Science and Management, 12, 277-292. https://doi.org/10.4236/jssm.2019.123019

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