It strikes fear in the hearts of marketers worldwide: the dreaded online consumer complaint that goes viral. What's a good company to do when one angry customer threatens to destroy its image? Is there any way to win her back once she's decided she hates you?

Some interesting new research looks into customer anger—specifically, the desire for revenge, which is to be most feared online—and offers some guidance for "hated" companies.

First, the researchers examined whether online complainers hold a grudge over time. The short answer: Yes, they do. But here's an important caveat: In general, an angry consumer's desire for revenge decreases over time.

Second, the authors examined the "moderation effect of a strong relationship" on how customers hold a grudge. Interestingly, they found that "over time, the revenge of strong-relationship customers decreases more slowly." Oh, swell.

So, what's a good company to do? Here's the authors' advice based on their research:

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