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Open Access Research article

Consumer evaluation of complaint handling in the Dutch health insurance market

Sonja Wendel1*, Judith D de Jong1 and Emile C Curfs2

Author Affiliations

1 NIVEL, Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, P.O. Box 1568, 3500 BN Utrecht, the Netherlands

2 Open University, School of management, P.O. Box 2960, 6401 DL Heerlen, the Netherlands

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BMC Health Services Research 2011, 11:310  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-11-310

Published: 15 November 2011

Abstract

Background

How companies deal with complaints is a particularly challenging aspect in managing the quality of their service. In this study we test the direct and relative effects of service quality dimensions on consumer complaint satisfaction evaluations and trust in a company in the Dutch health insurance market.

Methods

A cross-sectional survey design was used. Survey data of 150 members of a Dutch insurance panel who lodged a complaint at their healthcare insurer within the past 12 months were surveyed. The data were collected using a questionnaire containing validated multi-item measures. These measures assess the service quality dimensions consisting of functional quality and technical quality and consumer complaint satisfaction evaluations consisting of complaint satisfaction and overall satisfaction with the company after complaint handling. Respondents' trust in a company after complaint handling was also measured. Using factor analysis, reliability and validity of the measures were assessed. Regression analysis was used to examine the relationships between these variables.

Results

Overall, results confirm the hypothesized direct and relative effects between the service quality dimensions and consumer complaint satisfaction evaluations and trust in the company. No support was found for the effect of technical quality on overall satisfaction with the company. This outcome might be driven by the context of our study; namely, consumers get in touch with a company to resolve a specific problem and therefore might focus more on complaint satisfaction and less on overall satisfaction with the company.

Conclusions

Overall, the model we present is valid in the context of the Dutch health insurance market. Management is able to increase consumers' complaint satisfaction, overall satisfaction with the company, and trust in the company by improving elements of functional and technical quality. Furthermore, we show that functional and technical quality do not influence consumer satisfaction evaluations and trust in the company to the same extent. Therefore, it is important for managers to be aware of the type of consumer satisfaction they are measuring when evaluating the handling of complaints within their company.