Purpose: Customer complaints and service recovery via virtual customer service channels (VCSCs) present unique recovery situations unlike those commonly found in traditional complaint handling channels. Some of these distinct challenges include the presence of multiple customers during a recovery, which creates the possibility for uncivil customer-to-customer (C2C) exchanges to harm a complainant’s experience. To this end, this paper aims to explore customer- and firm-level aspects as they relate to social media complaint handling. A customer-level moderator (attitude toward complaining) and a firm-level moderator (relative promptness of the response) are examined. Design/methodology/approach: Data from three studies use partial least squares structural equation modeling to analyze hypothetical failure and complaining scenarios on VCSCs. Study 1A (a firm’s social media channel) and Study 1B (a firm’s online support community) investigate how a complainant’s predisposition toward complaining ultimately influences their experiential value (hedonic, pragmatic and sociability) during a virtual service recovery that includes uncivil communication from another customer. Study 2 further examines how the relative promptness of a service provider’s response either before or after uncivil C2C interactions hinders a complainant’s experiential value during the service recovery encounter. Findings: The results show support for the influence of attitude toward complaining and the relative promptness of response as impactful to a complainant’s hedonic, pragmatic and social experience in virtual service encounters that involve one customer rudely interjecting into a complainant’s online service recovery encounter. Originality/value: This research is one of the first to apply both customer- and firm-level moderating aspects associated with virtual service recovery encounters. The studies quantitatively assess the moderators’ influence on online dysfunctional behavior’s relationship with C2C fairness perceptions, and the subsequent experiential value a complainant receives on VCSCs. In particular, the investigation of relative promptness of a service provider’s response is a unique conceptualization that expands prior recovery studies’ focus on promptness or quickness of a recovery. The authors put forth a more prompt response that benefits the firm by purposively and symbolically closing out the encounter on VCSC, which somewhat reduces the negative effects of rude follow-up comments. This study is also novel because of the experiential focus on C2C interactions during recovery, rather than focusing on how a firm resolves a failure. In addition, this is the first service recovery study to assess multiple types of online customer service channels. Implications are put forth for service recovery theory and managers who attend to customer complaints on virtual channels.