When Consumers' Complaints Fall Into Public Domain: Negative e-WOM on Social Media

When Consumers' Complaints Fall Into Public Domain: Negative e-WOM on Social Media

Daniela Langaro (Instituto Universitario de Lisboa, Portugal), Sandra Maria Correia Loureiro (Instituto Universitário de Lisboa, Portugal) and André Soares (Instituto Universitario de Lisboa, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8575-6.ch008

Abstract

Despite previous studies having revealed that the content created by users in social media is predominantly positive, recent studies have challenged this understanding revealing by means of sentiment analysis the predominance of negative and neutral brand related content. The current chapter focuses on the new hybrid form of negative e-WOM in which individual´s complaints are directed at firms, which were originally limited to the domain of offline customer care teams. Thus, previous studies are reviewed from the area of crisis management and service recovery strategies with the intent to offer a relevant scope of theoretical propositions that may be considered by managers and researchers while preparing response strategies to deal with this new hybrid form of negative e-WOM. In total, eight theoretical propositions are presented and organized in three groups of guidelines associated to responses´ format, content, and context with fait-holders and hate-holders being considered as part of the negative e-WOM rhetoric.
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Background

Negative Electronic Word-Of-Mouth (Negative e-WOM) in Brief

Word-of-mouth consists on an oral, informal, person-to-person non-commercially intended communication established between a sender and a receiver, regarding a brand, a product, an organization, or a service. (Higie, Feick, & Price, 1987; Katz & Lazarsfeld, 1995; Arntd, 1967).

With the development of social media, WOM has evolved with the electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) gaining magnitude as consumers started using the internet to create brand related information and share with others. (eWOM) (Coombs, 2015; Blazevic et al., 2013; Hennig-Thurau et al, 2004). EWOM affects brands in many different metrics such as, product sales, brand evaluations, purchase intentions and firm value (Chevalier & Mayzlin, 2006; Trusov et al., 2009; Sridhar & Srinivasan, 2012; Jalivand et al., 2011). Various characteristics are responsible for driving these results, namely i) the enhanced volume of conversations which are able to reach more consumers in a short period of time; ii) the higher coverage of effect as eWOM may be distributed across multiple platforms; iii) its persistence and observability as after being upload in the web, it usually stays there accessible to everyone; iv) its anonymity, with strangers influencing each other; v) its easiness for consumers to engage and share their views, and finally v) the salience and valence of impressions (positive or negative) which are organized for an instant interpretation (King et al., 2014; Kozinets et al., 2010).

Together, these characteristics set the context for the fast propagation of eWOM in social media. This is of particular importance for negative valence eWOM, with dissatisfied consumers engaging in higher word of mouth (WOM) than satisfied ones (Sundaram, et al., 1998) and while doing so, being able to influence a broad audience across various platforms, who are exposed to the comments and able to easily evaluate their valence and salience, reacting accordingly by means of showing support and sharing with others (Pfeffer, Zorbachb, & Carley, 2014). Due to its potential damage for businesses, it is generally accepted that organizations should dedicate efforts to manage the effects of negative eWOM and avoid its occurrence (Keller, 2003).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Service Recovery: When a company commit a failure, the customer complaints and the company is able to repair the failure somehow.

Crisis Management: The process by which an organization deals with unexpected or even disruptive events that may cause problems harming the organization or its stakeholders.

Word-of-Mouth: The oral information communicated from one person to another. For, instance, storytelling could be a form of word-of-mouth, where one person tells other a story about an event.

Electronic Word-of-Mouth: The information is communicated between partner through online platforms (e.g., e-mail, social media). This form of communication may create buzz marketing.

Public Relations: It is a tool that organizations use to spread corporate information from themselves to the public.

Customer Satisfaction: According to the disconfirmation paradigm, if the expectations of a customer about a service/brand is fulfilled when they experience such service/brand, then he/she will be satisfied.

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