Social Customer Service: Responses to Customer Complaints

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 24 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Sara ORTHABER, University of Maribor, Faculty of Logistics, Mariborska 7, 3000 Celje, Slovenia
Rosina MARQUEZ-REITER, University of Surrey, United Kingdom
Over the past few years, companies have increasingly started to utilize social media to influence and build rapport with customers online. This is illustrated by the numerous marketing strategies modern businesses regularly engage in to attract new customers and maintain existing clients (Márquez-Reiter et al., 2015). Although the subscribed customers consume what the page administrator generates on the company’s profile, the affordances (Gibson, 1979; Hutchby, 2001; Herring, 2010) of such participatory websites allow them to complement or undermine the messages (Walther, 2012). Given that the customers increasingly understand Facebook as way of voicing their concerns, it is inevitable for companies not to provide customer service, although this may not be their primary aim.

Drawing on publicly available data from the Facebook page of a Slovenian public transport company called “I’m going by train”, the study examines interactional instances of polylogal interactions (Kerbrat-Orecchioni, 2004) between the company’s anonymous Facebook page administrator and its customers. The interactional analysis presented in this paper focuses on the way the customers post disparaging comments on the company’s Facebook page and rant about (a) particular issue(s) or event(s). To prevent the complaint from becoming a customer service disaster, the administrator uses strategies to block the complaint, preventing customers from seeking redressive action. This is achieved by means of sequential deletion (Jefferson, 1973), by posting generic, scripted responses or by refusing to respond to the complaint altogether. While customers’ complaints do not necessarily trigger remedial actions over the phone either (Orthaber & Márquez-Reiter, 2011), this type of asynchronous technologically mediated interaction, unlike the telephone, allows company’s agents to ignore them. The analysis provides further evidence of how open-comment platforms such as Facebook create ripe conditions for public outrage to erupt on corporate walls (e.g. Champoux et al., 2012; Matzat & Snijders, 2012; Bruxelles & Kerbrat-Orecchioni, 2004).