Purpose – This study aims to demonstrate that meta-perceptions play a contributing role in
customers’ direct complaint intention.
Design/methodology/approach – In an exploratory study, we identified different types of
meta-perceptions. In a scenario-based experiment, we tested the interaction effect of service failure
attribution and the perceived service failure severity on meta-perceptions and direct complaint
Findings – After experiencing service failure, customers amplify both positive and negative
meta-perceptions. Depending on how customers attribute the service failure and perceive the
magnitude of service failure, they evaluate these meta-perceptions differently which then determine
their subsequent actions.
Research limitations/implications – The use of hypothetical scenarios may not capture the
richness of an actual service encounter. The study is limited to two service failure contexts: cable TV
connection and restaurant booking.
Practical implications – Service managers should design marketing strategies that can elevate
customers’ positive social image associated with voicing complaints.
Originality/value – This study offers a new explanation, in that some customers do not engage in
direct complaining behavior owing to meta-perceptions that they develop during service failure.
Keywords Complaining behavior, Intention to complain, Meta-perceptions,
Service failure attributions, Service failure severity