Customer Revenge as a Venting Outlet:The Place of Emotion Regulation in the Context of General Self-control

  • Eleni-Maria Gemtou

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Customer revenge is a response to perceived wrongdoing that is almost always accompanied by intense emotional states. When harm is experienced with a strong sense of unfairness, such as after severe service failures and failed service recoveries, customers are left to cope with a serious stress. One major theme that emerges from research in negative affect is that individuals who feel bad will spontaneously try to remedy or repair their emotions. The argument advancedin this thesis is that customer revenge is employed in the service of emotion regulation. It is argued that individuals have internalized beliefs about the cathartic properties of revenge and engage in such behaviour with the intent to feel better. In the case of revenge, the avenger seeks to eliminate the painful emotions and to restore the disturbed psychological balance. Revengeful acts provide individuals with a cathartic release because they externalize negativeemotions that build up inside the self and influence the psyche. Hence, this thesis suggests that when customers are personally harmed and hurt by the firm, the goal of emotion regulation may be activated and become the prime driver of customer revenge.Over five studies, the eleven hypotheses derived from the theoretical model proposed were tested. The studies employed a scenario-based experimental design while the sample consisted of UK university students. This thesis investigates first, the mediating role of certain discrete emotions in translating perceived unfairness into customer revenge. It then, examines the mainassumption of the thesis, i.e. whether customer revenge is driven by emotion regulation goals. Finally, it tests boundary conditions under which emotion regulation goals guide customer revenge: the role of goal conflict in both single and sequential revengeful behaviours.Findings from the studies demonstrate that: 1) the moral emotions of anger and contempt arise from perceptions of unfairness and in turn, influence customer revenge both directly and indirectly through the mechanism of forgiveness; 2) customer revenge is employed in the service of emotion regulation; 3) accessibility of conflicting goals influence customer revenge in opposite directions such that accessibility of emotion regulation goals results in a higherlikelihood of customer direct revenge, but no higher likelihood of indirect revenge, than the accessibility of impulse control goals; 4) when an initial customer action towards the goal of emotion regulation is interpreted as goal progress, individuals subsequently are less motivated to engage in customer revenge than when the same action is interpreted as goal commitment. These findings have important theoretical and practical implications.
Date of Award14 Feb 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorHaiming Hang (Supervisor) & Richard Fairchild (Supervisor)


  • Customer revenge
  • Emotion regulation
  • Services

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