Main Article Content
For any business organizations, it is of great importance to handle customer complaints effectively. This is particularly vital in the service industry as complaining customers are found not very collaborative and tend to be emotional in the process of complaining  and sometimes the exchanges between agents and complaining customers become interpersonally sensitive. Following Orthaber and Reiter’s  definition of “interpersonally sensitive exchange”, this study addresses two research questions: (1) what pragmatic strategies are employed by call center agents in interpersonally sensitive interactions in complaint responses? 2) and what are the effects of these strategies on interpersonal relationship in complaint responses? Based on a corpus of 42 outbound calls (approximately 7.5 hours) made by the agents in the Complaint Centre of one Chinese airline, four conventional and two unconventional complaint response strategies are found to be employed by the agents. These strategies produce positive outcomes in some cases while lead to opposite effects in others. An effective strategy can either enhance the rapport between the agent and the complaining customer, or benefit the progressivity of complaint handling. Conversely, it deteriorates the originally sensitive rapport and sometimes even leads to upgraded complaint.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Authors wishing to include figures, tables, or text passages that have already been published elsewhere are required to obtain permission from the copyright owner(s) for both the print and online format and to include evidence that such permission has been granted when submitting their papers. Any material received without such evidence will be assumed to originate from the authors.
. Orthaber, S., and R. M. Reiter, When routine calls for information become interpersonally sensitive. Pragmatics and Society, 2016.7(4): pp.638-663.
. Rajain, P., Customer Complain Behavior: A Study of Airline Customers. Innovare Journal of Social Science, 2016. 4(3): pp.11-14.
. Wyke, S., M. Trena, and P. David, “Here’s the link”: Hyperlinking in service-focused chat interaction. Journal of Pragmatics, 2017. 115: pp.56-67.
. Metwally, D., Complaint Handling in the Airline Industry: The Way to Enhance Customer Loyalty. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 2013. 4: pp.299-311.
. Spencer-Oatey, H., Culturally Speaking (2nd Edition), 2008, New York: Continuum, New York.
. Gelbrich, K., and H. Roschk, A Meta-Analysis of Organizational Complaint Handling and Customer Responses. Journal of Service Research, 2014. 14(1): pp.24-43.
. Davidow, M., The bottom line impact of organizational responses to customer complaints. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 2000. 24(4): pp.473-490.
. Davidow, M., Organizational responses to customer complaints: what works and what doesn’t. Journal of Service Research, 2003. 5(3): pp.225-250.
. Karatepe, O. M., Customer complaints and organizational responses: the effects of complainants’ perceptions of justice on satisfaction and loyalty. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 2006. 25(1): pp.69-90.
. Einwiller, S. A., and S. Steilen, Handling complaints on social network sites – An analysis of complaints and complaint responses on Facebook and Twitter pages of large US companies. Public Relations Review, 2015. 41(2): pp.195-204.
. Stauss, B., and A. Schoeler, Complaint management profitability: what do complaint managers know? Managing Service Quality, 2004. 14(2): pp.147-156.
. Boris, A. G., P. María, and I. Carlos, A novel approach for classifying customer complaints through graphs similarities in argumentative dialogues. Decision Support Systems, 2009. 46: pp.717-729.
. Clark, G., P. Kaminsk, and D. Rink, Consumer Complaints: Advice on How Companies Should Respond Based on an Empirical Study. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 1992. 9(3): pp.5-14.
. Yilmaz, C., K. Varnali, and B. Kasnakoglu, How do firms benefit from customer complaints? Journal of Business Research, 2016. 69: pp.944-955.
. Goodwin, C., and I. Ross, Consumer Evaluations of Responses to Complaints. What’s Consumer Marketing, 1990. 7(2): pp.39- 47.
. Cambra-Fierro, J., I. Melero-Polo, and J. Sese, Can complaint-handling efforts promote customer engagement? Service Business, 2016. 10: pp.847-866.
. Kevoe-Feldman, H., The interactional work of suppressing complaints in customer service encounters. Journal of Pragmatics, 2018. 123: pp.102-112.
. Ho, V., Exploring the effectiveness of hotel management’s responses to negative online comments. Lingua, 2016. 216: pp.47-63.
. Schegloff, E. A., On complainability. Social Problems, 2005. 52(3): pp.449-476.
. Liu, P., and H. Liu, Responding to direct complaints-The role of MPEs in common ground construction in institutional telephone interactions. Pragmatics & Cognition, 2017. 24(1): pp.4-32.
. Pino, M., Invoking the Complainer’s Past Transgressions: A Practice for Undermining Complaints in Therapeutic Community Meetings. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 2018: 51(2), pp.194-211.
. Monzoni, C. M., Direct complaints in (Italian) calls to the ambulance: the use of negatively framed questions. Journal of Pragmatics, 2009. 41: pp.2465-2478.
. D’hondt, S., J. Östman, and J. Verschueren, The Pragmatics of Interaction, 2004, Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press: Shanghai, China.
. Leech, G. N., The Pragmatics of Politeness, 2018, Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press: Shanghai, China.
. Davidow, M., and H. Leigh, The effects of organizational complaint responses on customer satisfaction, word of mouth activity and repurchase intensions. Journal of consumer satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining behavior, 1998. 11: pp.91-102.
. Heritage, J., Epistemics in Conversations, In Handbook of Conversation Analysis, 2012, Blackwell: Malden, Massachusetts, the United States.