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Understanding Complaining, Service Failure Identification and Service Recovery Systems via Social Media
Authors: K. Jones (Aston University, UK), A. Lawson (University of Derby, UK), A. Hanlon (Evonomie & University of Derby)
The purpose of this research is explore the motivations and characteristics of consumer complaining via social media and in turn provide a robust methodology for dealing with theses online public complaints. Organisations cannot satisfy every customer and have learnt the value of managing their complaints systems carefully. However, social media has been a game changer. User-generated content (UGC) has become the norm, with customers exhorted to be brutally honest to help other customers make better decisions. Many firms have embraced social media but are finding that they are being hijacked by irate customers online. This even affects those organisations with no or limited social media presence as their products and/or services are discussed irrespective, showing the importance of the issue for all customer-focused firms.
The study of customer dissatisfaction and complaining behaviour has received significant research to date, resulting in numerous service recovery models in the late 1990’s, which provided organisations with systems and mechanisms for managing such situations. However, these frameworks are all pre social media, a medium which has not only created new channels for consumers to voice their complaints to the wider public, but has intensified the ramifications of this complaining behaviour. The central role of these newly empowered consumers has led to a need for both conceptual and empirical research exploring consumer complaining behaviour via social media.
The research design employed in this study is a mixed methods approach. Data from multiple sources, namely netnographic observations, online interviews and an online survey are triangulated to investigate the motivations and characteristics of consumers’ complaints on social media.
The major findings and implications of this research include; customers choose social media as a channel to complain as they recognise the public nature of the medium and expect success because of this. Conversely, they are conscious of their own online persona and can use humour including sarcasm to disparage the complaint in an effort to maintain and protect their own online reputation. Further, customers use social media as a channel of complaint as result of lack of service recovery in other more traditional channels (i.e. double deviation) and wish to escalate their grievance to a more public and potentially successful platform.
The implications of this research are firms need not only to identify and understand humorous social media complaints as an opportunity to publicly rectify service failures, but also as a chance to showcase brand personality and values to their online audience. Conversely, organisations must ensure other more traditional complaints management or service recovery systems and procedures are equally, if not more efficient, to ensure customer complaints do not escalate to the public and potential viral social media online arena.