Procedural Justice and Customer Post-Complaint Behaviour in Fast Food Firms in Port Harcourt, Nigeria


The study examined the effects of procedural justice on customer post complaint Behaviour. This paper is imperative as any customer dissatisfied and lost becomes a convert to the competitors, thereby reducing the company’s revenue. Data were drawn through questionnaire from 200 employees of fast food firms in Rivers State. Descriptive and inferential statistics were utilized in analyzing the data. The study found that procedural justice is not positively related to repeat purchase, word of mouth and commitment. The study therefore concluded that effective and efficient service delivery anchored on sound grasp of customers’ needs matched with appropriate distributive justice will enhance good post complaint behaviour. We recommend that fast food business should adopt policies such as robust customer collaborative, market intelligence as a means of reassuring customers of super value proposition in their service delivery.

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Chituru Ogonu, G. , Gladson Nwokah, N. and Chinyere Acee-Eke, B. (2019) Procedural Justice and Customer Post-Complaint Behaviour in Fast Food Firms in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. American Journal of Industrial and Business Management, 9, 385-402. doi: 10.4236/ajibm.2019.92026.

1. Introduction

Customer satisfaction is increasingly used for standard of customer related activities and a superiority standard for any business organization [1]. Consequently, service failures are quite frequent and subsequent reduction in customer satisfaction and, on occasions, customer complaint. As negative service encounters, or service failures may cause the defection of customers that are becoming increasingly intolerant of mediocrity, understanding the service recovery process could be fundamental. Although a service failure has the potential to destroy customers’ loyalty, the successful implementation of service recovery strategies may prevent the defection of customers who experience a service failure [2]. Complaints are a natural consequence of any service activity because mistakes are an unavoidable feature of all human endeavor and thus also of service delivery [3]. Recently, the importance of consumer complaint handling has been recognized. Ineffective handling of buyers’ complaints increases their dissatisfaction and harms a marketer’s reputation [4]. In a service recovery perspective, complaints expressed to the firm can be also seen as an opportunity to strengthen the bond between the customer and the firm [5].

According to [6] an unfavorable service experience can create “terrorists”, that is, customers who are so dissatisfied that they actively and systematically seek opportunities to criticize or damage the company or its reputation. In this context, also it is imperative to pay attention to customers and their satisfaction after received services. Also, a major part of these affairs achieved through analysis and investigations of complaints and their reasons. Everybody that complains is more likely to buy again. Because of these reasons, recognition of complaint behaviour for each company will be needed and that is a crucial factor. In this study, appraisal shall be done to determine the effect of procedural justice on customer post-complaint behaviour.

2. Literature Review

2.1. Theoretical Foundation (Equity Theory)

Equity theory proposes that customer’s attitudes and behaviours are influenced by the appraisal of their contribution and the recompense they take [7] [8]. 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 [9]. Equity theory also implies that the existence of inequality creates pressures, which will commensurate weightiness of inequality. [10] 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. [11] contends that 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 to [12] 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 [13]. 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.

2.2. Conceptual Framework

In this paper, conceptual framework is seen as a network, or “a plane,” of interlinked concepts that together provide a comprehensive understanding of a phenomenon or phenomena. The concepts that constitute a conceptual framework support one another, articulate their respective phenomena, and establish a framework-specific philosophy. Conceptual frameworks possess ontological, epistemological, and methodological assumptions, and each concept within a conceptual framework plays an ontological or epistemological role. The ontological assumptions relate to knowledge of the “way things are,” “the nature of reality,” “real” existence, and “real” action [14].

The epistemological assumptions relate to “how things really are” and “how things really work” in an assumed reality. The methodological assumptions relate to the process of building the conceptual framework and assessing what it can tell us about the “real” world, [15]. Each of the four concepts (procedural justice, repeat purchase, word-of-mouth and commitment) identified below as collectively constituting the conceptual framework of Procedural Justice and Customer Post-Complaint Behaviour. As shown in Figure 1, these concepts have interwoven relationships with one another.

2.2.1. Procedural Justice

Procedural justice refers to whether the policies, procedures and criteria used by decision-makers to solve the problem are fair [16]. [17] states that procedural justice includes the methods a firm use to handle problems arising from service delivery in aspects such as accessibility, timing/speed, process control, delay and flexibility to adapt to the consumer’s recovery needs. [18] on the other hand

Source: Researcher’s Review of Relevant Literature (2017).

Figure 1. Conceptual Framework of Procedural Justice (a dimension of Complaint Handling Practices) and Customer Post-Complaint Behaviour.

suggests that procedural justice also involves policies, procedures, and tools that companies use to support communication with customers and specifically, the time taken to process complaints and to arrive at a decision. In service recovery context, procedural justice means the customer’s perception of justice for the several stages of procedures and processes needed to recover the failed service [19].

[20] concluded that a fair procedure must be consistent, unbiased and impartial, representing all the stakeholders and based on accurate and ethical standards. Procedural justice includes the meaning of how decisions are made and conflicts are solved. [21] stated that procedural justice theory is one of the reactive process theories. Procedural justice is very important in-service recovery.

2.3. Customer Post-Complaint Behaviour

Customers’ complaint behaviour refers to the responses triggered by perceived dissatisfaction that is neither psychologically accepted nor quickly forgotten in the consumption of a product or service [22]. Research by [23] suggests that customers’ complaint behaviour is a complex phenomenon which is reflected in the number of alternative definitions proposed to explain this kind of behaviour. Traditionally, the common determinant of complaining behaviour was described as dissatisfaction due to inadequacies of integrity, reliability, responsiveness, availability and functionality. Hence, consumer dissatisfaction is a result of the discrepancy between expected and realized performance [24]. Dissatisfaction is based on dis-confirmation of expectation [25] and it is a customer experience that is less than the perceived expectation. Orisingher, Valentini and Angelis [26] described customers’ complaint behaviour as a function of dissatisfaction. Osarenkhoe and Komunda [27] assert that dissatisfaction is a significant factor that attributes to complaints.

Marketing literature has focused on identifying various determinants of customer post complaint behaviour; including perceived costs; attitude towards complaining; environmental and demographic variables and the likelihood of a successful complaint [28]. Further, the existing models of customers’ complaint behaviour focused on the separation of private action from public action [29]. This categorisation has become increasingly irrelevant (and maybe even misleading) because of recent advances in Information and Communication and Technological (ICT) systems. In the past, when a customer experienced an unfavourable service experience, he or she talked to relatively few people; in contrast, the advent of the internet has dramatically increased the number of people available for negative communication [30]. In these circumstances, it becomes difficult to maintain a separation of the concepts of private action and public action. In response to these developments, the proposed model suggests new categories of complaining behaviour in terms of communication complaint responses and action complaint responses. This schema facilitates a categorisation of a wide range of complaint responses over time.

Complaint handling has been recognized as a critical task for service managers in mobile telephone services. There is a need to enhance the trustworthiness of mobile phone operators by keeping customers’ best interest at heart, providing customized services and exemplary behaviour of contact personnel to make the interaction a memorable experience. Based on post complaint behaviour, customers who are satisfied with complaint handling engage in positive word-of-mouth and are more loyal than customers who are dissatisfied with complaint handling of service quality of mobile telephone service providers.

2.3.1. Concept of Repeat Purchase

Repeat purchase borders on customers’ decisions to patronize the same service sometime in the future. Repeat purchase can be defined as the propensity of customers to consistently buy and utilize products/services from a particular service provider at some future time [31]. It represents a signal of customer loyalty which a business treasure highly [32]. Repeat purchase intention is a decisive factor in business success, since the cost involved in searching for a new customer is higher than those involved in retaining current customers [33].

Several researches have emphasized on classifying those characteristics influencing customer certification in terms of RPI. Tronvoll [34] identified nine attributes influencing consumer RPI and the service provider apprehension of the consumer in the Hotel industry through vigorous interview and focus group studies. The factors identified were security and access, location and image, price/value, competence, access, security, additional services, tangibles, and leisure facilities. [35] investigated 17 variables influencing consumer RPI in the Hotel Industry, but added only a single service quality variable and revealed a significant effect on RPI in line with other factors as security and image.

2.3.2. Word-of-Mouth

Word-of-mouth (WOM) communication is informal advice and information about products, services and social issue that exchanges between individuals and among them [36]. As an information source, positive WOM is a powerful input into decision making.

Very satisfied customers always act by publishing favorable word of the mouth and it actually convert to advertise or in the contrary. WOM is one of the strategies used by customers to reduce their post-decision dissonance [12]. Based on the company research in US, each unsatisfied customer overture its problem at least to 9 persons, then 13 percent of this people, overture this situation for more than 20 others [13]. Also, in average one satisfied customer tells his/her good experience to product/service to 3 persons [14]. With negative word-of-mouth and exit responses, the organization often loses the opportunity to remedy and learn from the situation, suffers from reputation problems, and forfeits its investment and any potential future gains from that customer’s patronage [15].

Word-of-mouth is one of the powerful methods in marketing from aspect of customers. The idea of word-of-mouth marketing brings value to marketing world of business. It helps to acquire, maintain customer loyalty and enlarge customer base [16]. Customers who have been successfully recovered not only remain loyal but can become advocates for the organization. Such advocates may then be a source of referral business because word of mouth can be very persuasive in terms of influencing customers to use an organization and its services. Furthermore, negative word of mouth is likely to result from dissatisfied customers not satisfied complaining customers [17].

2.3.3. Customer Commitment

Customer Commitment In relationship marketing literature, commitment has widely been acknowledged to be an integral part of any long-term business relationship. In most cases, it is described as a kind of lasting intention to build and maintain a long-term relationship, along with, it is believed that commitment to entails three different dimensions: Affective commitment describes a positive attitude towards the future existence of the relationship. Instrumental commitment is shown whenever some form of investment (time, other resources) in the relationship is made. Finally, the temporal dimension of commitment indicates that the relationship exists over time [18].

Commitment Studies of exchange relationships among companies have concluded that commitment is an important concept, referring to the degree to which close and persistent relationships with other parties are established and maintained [19]. [19] described commitment as a guarantee to maintain a relationship and the intent to sacrifice short-term benefits for long-term interests. Commitment is a persistent attitude that reflects the positive values of a relationship. Thus, commitment does not change frequently, as people would not make commitments to valueless relationships. As defined by Michel and Meuter [21] , commitment is the persistent desire to maintain a valuable relationship. Commitment, which can be viewed as the highest level of relational bonding, constitutes an indispensable part of a successful relationship. Therefore, the retailer’s commitment to its supplier can adequately reflect relationship quality of the two parties.

Crie [6] clearly noted that commitment to some channel relationships might be driven by economic or extrinsic concerns, such as the desire for economic rewards or the avoidance of economic harm, a type of commitment that is shallow and short-lived. By contrast, if commitment is based on non-economic or intrinsic concerns, such as identification with partners or internalization of similar values, commitment is comparatively long-lived.

2.4. Procedural Justice

2.4.1. Procedural Justice and Repeat Purchase

Procedural justice is primarily concerned with the perceived fairness of the procedures involved in the recovery effort as noted by Dean [7] or the means by which the ends were accomplished. The customers expect fairness not only in the outcome but also in the complaint process in terms of policies, rules, and timeliness. Procedural fairness may include speed as indicated by [8] or quick action on the complaint, fair treatment of customers and absence of hassle [9].

This dimension of justice is meaningful because its goal is to resolve conflict [9]. In fact, service recovery literature has suggested that acting fast and offering an apology are often sufficient to make amends [10]. This suggests that in the case of a service failure, a service firm that takes the shortest possible time to respond and resolve customer complaint is favored. From the point of the view of the customer, a delay in resolving the failure may mean that the frontline employee has forgotten about him, especially when he sees other customers being served first by that frontline employee. For instance, if the reservation of a customer is cancelled without notice, the frontline employee should immediately offer a free drink while customer is waiting for the next available table.

A quick recovery process without additional hassle to the customer is perceived to be fair and may turn the negative experience around. In both restaurant and hotel settings, customer satisfaction is enhanced with a quick recovery response to a service failure [27]. In the mobile service industry, procedural justice had a significant effect on customer’s satisfaction with the service recovery [27]. Lastly, the results of [28] showed a positive effect of procedural justice on satisfaction on complaint handling.

2.4.2. Procedural Justice and Word-of-Mouth

Word of Mouth Word of mouth can be defined as the message about an organization credibility, trustworthiness, how the company operating its business, communication between one person to another [29]. In comparison to, word of mouth is informal communication between private parties concerning evaluations of goods and services rather than formal complaints to firms. Word-of-mouth behaviour has been recognized as an important post purchase behaviour which according to customers frequently talk about products which are new, enjoyable, noticeable, personally experienced, complicated, and expensive products and services. Tronvoll [30] confirmed that satisfaction with service recovery would encourage positive word of mouth communication between the customer and the organizations. [31] in service recovery a naturalistic decision-making approach, said word-of-mouth (WOM) can be referred to as informal communication between consumers about the characteristics of a business or a product. From customer complaint perspective, if a customer finds it difficult to engage in a process, prolonged time involvement or cost, a complaint can be classified as falling into procedural justice dimension.

2.4.3. Procedural Justice and Commitment

The impact of trust on commitment trust has a direct positive impact on commitment: Trust diminishes the perceived risk and vulnerability in a relationship and thus leads to a higher commitment to the relationship [32]. Moreover, trust reduces transaction costs, as there is less necessity to establish expensive control mechanisms. Lower costs in turn increase the probability to continue the relationship in future and therefore increase the commitment to the relationship. Trust can even be called an essential antecedent of commitment: If a supplier is not perceived to be benevolent, honest or competent enough to show useful behavior regarding the relationship in question, the customer cannot rely on this supplier and thus will show no commitment towards the relationship [33].

3. Methodology

Design: Survey design was used because of its descriptive nature, causal relations, and power to draw inferences from particular to general through the use of appropriate test statistic. It is thus, a causal research since it determines the extent to which complaints handling practices can be used to explain or predict the variations in customers post complaint behaviour. The population of the study consists of sixty-six (66) registered fast food firms in Rivers State, whose authentic list was obtained from the business unit of the Rivers State Ministry of Commerce and Industry as at September, 2017 when the survey commenced. Considering the nature of the current study, the researcher opts to study the entire population. However, the number of participants in the study was three hundred and thirty (330), on a sample frame of five (5) respondents per firm. Thus, the sample respondents for the study were 330. The major sources of data for this study were both primary and secondary. The primary source was used to obtain firsthand information from respondents through the use of questionnaire administration, while the secondary data includes information from textbooks, journals, magazines, newspapers, internet, etc.

The researcher collected data for the study through the use of structured questionnaire. 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. Each part consisted of questions with different options and calibrations as follows: strongly Disagree = 1, Disagree 2, undecided = 3, Agreed = 4 and Strongly Agreed = 5. The analysis was made up of descriptive and inferential statistics with SPSS version 22.0 providing aid. The inferential statistics involved two parametric inferential tests-Pearson Product Moment Correlation and Multiple Regression Analysis. Pearson product moment correlation adds test of strength of the associations between variables at 0.05 two tailed.

4. Findings

4.1. Research Question One: Effect of Procedural Justice on Customer Post Complaint Behaviour

Table 1 shows the coefficient of determination also called R square as 0.684. This implies that the combine effect of the predictor variable (procedural Justice) explains 68.4% of the variables in customer post complaint behaviour of 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.

The analysis of variance (ANOVA) on Table 2 shows that the effect of procedural justice was 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 0.00 which is less than the acceptance critical value of 0.005.

4.2. Relationship between Procedural Justice and Repeat Purchase

Ho1: There is no significant relationship between procedure justice and Repeat purchase.

Table 3 shows that Pearson’s (r) = 0.378xx. This shows that a weak relationship exists between procedural justice and repeat purchase. The sign of the correlation coefficient is positive, indicating that the better the procedural justice of the firm, the more there is a repeat purchase from customers. This is not in accordance with the stated null hypothesis 4 (There is no significant relationship between procedural justice and repeat purchase, therefore the researcher rejects the null hypothesis and accepts the alternative hypothesis.

The relationship is insignificant (significant/probability value (pv) = 0.94 > 0.05) hence, the researcher concludes that an insignificant positive relationship exists between procedural justice and repeat purchase. The implication of this is that, no matter how good the procedural justice adopted by a firm is good to the customer, if the other attributes that are considered by the customer as very

Table 1. Effect of Procedural Justice on Customer Post-Complaint Behaviour.

a predictors (constant), PROCEDURAL JUSTICE. Source: SPSS 22.0 Window output (based on 2017 field survey data)

Table 2. ANOVA.

a. Dependent Variable: Customer post Complaint Behaviour; b. Predictors (constant), PROCEDURAL JUSTICE.

Table 3. Correlation Analysis showing the direction of relationship between procedural Justice and Repeat purchase.

important are not present, procedural justice alone cannot make the customer repatronize the firm, but the positive sign shows that procedural justice is very important to the customer.

4.3. Relationship between Procedural Justice and Word-of-Mouth Test of Hypothesis 5

Ho2: The is no significant relationship between procedural Justice and word-of-mouth

Table 4 shows that the direction of the relationship between procedural justice and Word-of-mouth is positive, and the strength of the relationship is weak (r = 0.175). The positive sign of the relationship is not in line with the stated null hypotheses 5 (procedural justice is not positively related with word of mouth) therefore, the null hypothesis is reflected and the alternative hypothesis that procedural justice is positively related to word-of-mouth accepted.

The relationship is insignificant (Significant/probability value pv = 0.102 > 0.05) hence, the researcher concludes that an insignificant positive relationship exists between procedural justice and word-of-mouth, the implication of this, is that as important as procedural justice may be, it plays a very insignificant role in determining word-of-mouth, that is, it is not a major contributor to word-of-mouth.

4.4. Relationship between Procedural Justice and Commitment Test of Hypothesis 6

Ho3: Procedural Justice is not positively related with commitment.

Table 5 shows that the direction of the relationship between procedural justice and commitment is positive and the strength of the relationship is very weak (r = 0.296). The positive sign of the relationship is not in line with the stated null hypothesis 6 (procedural justice, is not positively related with commitment) therefore, the null hypothesis is rejected and the alternative hypothesis that procedural justice is positively related with commitment accepted.

The relationship is insignificant (significant/probability value (PV) = 0.084 > 0.05). Hence, the researcher concludes that an insignificant positive relationship exists between procedural justice and commitment. The implication is that, in as much as the relationship is insignificant, procedural justice is not a major

Table 4. Relationship between procedural Justice and word-of-mouth Correlations.

Table 5. Relationship between procedural Justice and commitment Correlations.

contributor to customer commitment, but with the positive sign, if it is ignored will lead to non-customer commitment, that is to say, its presence may not do much to customer commitment but its absence will do a lot to elicit a non-customer commitment.

5. Discussion

Procedural Justice and Repeat Purchase, Word-of-Mouth and Commitment

The finding in hypothesis 1, confirms that a weak, insignificant and positive relationship exists between procedural justice and repeat purchase. From the finding, this could be explained from the fact that the Nigerian consumers pay less attention to procedural justice as to them this wouldn’t have much impact on repeat purchase. Procedural justice is not an objective criterion for repeat purchase. It could be said that the procedures for redress may be appealing, but repeat purchase may not be as expected. Procedural justice involves whether the methods, policies and criteria used by decision makers to solve problems are fair. Complaints need to be handled quickly to be meaningful. Delay in the handling of complaints and when customers believe that procedures were not fair, they tend to be more dissatisfied with one outcome they received. This finding does not agree with other findings by [3] , who found that quick action on complaints and fair treatment of customers are useful to make amends. It appears the way customers anticipates fair dealings and quick action on complaint, and a delay in resolving service failure may imply that the company does not have them in mind. There should be positive effect of procedural justice on complaint handling that will lead to repeat purchase. The absence of a quick response or prolonged time involvement, or difficulty to engage in a process can influence the customers to refuse patronizing the focal company.

The second hypothesis sought to ascertain the relationship between procedural justice and word-of-mouth. The finding shows that there is a weak, insignificant but positive relationship between procedural justice and word-of-mouth. This indicates the strength of the relationship existing between procedural justice and word-of-mouth is weak, but it has a positive influence. Consumers who are dissatisfied with the manner’s responses are given to their complaints engage in twice as much word of-mouth behaviour than do consumers who are satisfied with the company’s manner of response to complaints. This is in line with the findings of Komunda and Oserankhoe [19] that consumers whose complaints are handled poorly have higher negative word-of-mouth intentions and lower repurchase intention. This clearly shows that in as much as procedural justice is very important, it is not our objective criterion, but it is very vital in the analysis of the relationship between the variables. In conclusion, the weak, positive and insignificant influence of procedural justice on word-of-month doesn’t mean that procedural justice is not important but that for the surveyed sample it is not statistically significant.

The third hypothesis states that procedural justice is not positively associated with commitment. The finding shows that a positive and insignificant relationship exists between procedural justice and commitment. If companies are not honest or competent enough in the process of indemnifying consumers who have experienced loss due to the company’s mistake, the consumer cannot rely on this company and thus will show no commitment toward the relationship. Thus, commitment is an altitude that is persistently demonstrated and reflects the positive values of a relationship. This finding disagreed with that of [30] finding that committed customers will engage in repeated patronage of an organization and also recommended the business to others.

6. Conclusion and Recommendation

The study therefore concludes that effective and efficient service delivery anchored on sound grasp of customer’s need to be matched with appropriate procedural justice which enhances good post-complaint behaviour among consumers of fast food firms. The study recommended that management of fast food firms in Rivers State to adopt the complaint handling practices and customer post complaint behaviour conceptual framework which has been developed and translated into practical guidance for mangers. This conceptual framework provides specific boosters for creating the success of complaint handling in fast food firms and would allow manage to focus and priotize resources.

Besides, the study recommends that management should adopt the complaint handling practices and customer post complaint behaviour conceptual framework which has been developed and translated into practical guidance for managers. This conceptual framework provides specific boosters for creating the success of complaint handling in predicting positively, customer post complaint behaviour, and would allow management to focus and priotize resources. Finally, in order to enhance repeat purchase, word-of-mouth and commitment, management should design service recovery programs that are capable of enhancing positive customer post complaint behaviour that is favorable for the focal company.



Please tick or mark accurately the phrase that best describes how your firm acts or feels in daily operations.



a. Male

b Female


a. 18 - 27 years

b. 28 - 37 years

c. 38 - 47 years

d. 48 and above


a. Married

b. Single

c. Widow

d. Divorce

e. Separated


a. 1 - 10 years

b. 11 - 20 years

c. 21 - 30 years

d. 31 and above




c. MBA/MSc

d. Ph.D


a. Marketing Manager

b. Customer Service Manager

c. Chef/Pastry

d. Supervisor

e. Waiter/Waitress


This section is designed to measure the extent to which complaint handling practices in fast food industry influence customer post complaint behavior. Weighting will be assigned to the questions as express below:

Not at all............................................................. (1)

Slight extent.........................................................(2)

Moderate extent...................................................(3)

Considerable extent.............................................(4)

Great extent.........................................................(5)

Please tick appropriately to the best of your knowledge.

Conflicts of Interest

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


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