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Title: How complaining customers make companies listen and influence product development
Authors: Christiansen, John K.
Gasparin, Marta
Varnes, Claus J.
Augustin, Ina
First Published: 25-Jun-2015
Publisher: World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd
Citation: International Journal of Innovation Management, 2016, 20, 1650001
Abstract: The analysis in this paper shows how complaining customers can make companies listen to them by spurring the mobilisation of various actors into a hybrid collective strong enough to influence companies' product development. Customers as sources of innovation have been analysed previously in the literature, whereas the process of how complaining users mobilise support to influence companies has received less attention and is not well understood. This study uncovers the processes that made it possible for a 17-year-old Norwegian to become pivotal in constructing a problematisation, which emerged to become so strong as to alter the Norwegian Coca-Cola Company's earlier decision to cease production of a product in a certain size. The analysis uses constructs from actor–network theory (ANT) and shows how a single dissatisfied individual was able to become a spokesperson who, through different processes, mobilised a heterogeneous group of consumers into a loosely connected hybrid collective. The spokesperson acted on behalf of the hybrid collective and put growing pressure on a multinational company, influencing its decision making. In this case, the complaining customer did not exit, nor did he become a lead user, but rather became a hybrid customer who actively tried to mobile others in his desire for a product. The study reports on a process analysis of the means by which the company was induced to reinstate a discontinued product. The analysis is divided into three episodes, each marking a critical phase for the collective. This opens up the way for an examination of the processes of mobilisation, interessement, enrolment and mobilisation, revealing the margins of manoeuvre and how these are negotiated and delimited in the process.
DOI Link: 10.1142/S1363919616500018
ISSN: 1363-9196
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © World Scientific Publishing Co Pte Ltd, 2016. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License ( ), which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, School of Management

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