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Paper info: Negative Word-of-Mouth as a Consequence of Customer Relationship Termination


Negative Word-of-Mouth as a Consequence of Customer Relationship Termination


Inna Buyun and Markus Voeth

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 27th IMP-conference in Glasgow, Scotland in 2011.


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According to efficiency considerations, which demand an optimal resource allocation
within a customer portfolio, sellers should terminate long-term unprofitable customer
relationships. However, a seller-initiated relationship ending is a challenging task for sellers, as
negative consequences may arise. Customers with whom a business relationship has been
terminated might demonstrate negative reactions such as dissatisfaction, loss of trust, retributive
justice and anger. Moreover, these customers might exert a negative influence on other customers
by spreading negative word-of-mouth. Negative word-of-mouth can be considered as negative
publicity from a trustworthy source that is very difficult to control.
According to prior research, the extent to which a customer is inclined to spread negative
word-of-mouth depends on the manner in which the seller ends the business relationship. There
is a variety of communication strategies that companies can employ for ending a business
relationship. These strategies can be differentiated in terms of their directness and customerorientation.
The extent of directness and customer-orientation while terminating a customer
relationship is crucial in respect of negative customer reactions. However, to the best of our
knowledge, no research has yet quantitatively analyzed the variety of possible dissolution
strategies’ impact on negative word-of-mouth behavior in the B2B context.
Against this background, the aim of this paper is to analyze diverse dissolution strategies’
influence on customers’ negative word-of-mouth behavior. More concretely, we investigate the
dissolution strategies proposed by Alajoutsijärvi, Möller, and Tähtinen (2000). In this context,
our special interest is to ascertain which dissolution strategies are appropriate in terms of
reducing negative word-of mouth.
Keywords: negative Word-of-Mouth, Relationship Termination, Dissolution Strategies