Dealing with conflicts in consumer-brand relationships : a focus on emotional intelligence
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Conflicts can occur in a variety of brand-relationship contexts, whether pertaining to poor service or product failure or to companies’ violations in regard to moral or legal issues. Though addressing relationship conflicts has become a pervasive issue in brand-relationship research, little is known about factors influencing consumer responses to conflicts. The goal of this research was to address this issue by exploring how consumers utilize their emotional intelligence in coping with problems when conflicts arise. For this purpose, two experiments were performed in this study. The first experiment showed that consumer emotional intelligence (CEI) was critical in predicting coping responses. When encountering conflicts in relationships, consumers who were highly capable in CEI were more likely to direct their emotions positively and productively, and they were less likely to exit the relationships than were those low in CEI. The second experiment further investigated a moderator and mediator of the association identified in the first study. The study demonstrated that the type of conflict moderated the effect of CEI on coping behaviors; the CEI effect on intention to exit the relationship was more pronounced when a conflict had directly caused problems for individual consumers (vs. to society as a whole). The results further demonstrated that consumers’ appraisals of a company’s intention in regard to conflicts mediated the association between CEI and coping responses. Specifically, low-CEI consumers were more likely to attribute negative intentions to the company; therefore, they were more likely to exit the relationship than were high-CEI consumers. This research demonstrated that CEI is an important construct in explaining why some consumers react destructively to relationship conflicts whereas others do not. Findings of this research provide a greater understanding of the role of individual differences in the maintenance and dissolution of brand relationships.