(Im)politeness at a customer service centre: a cross-media comparison.
This talk will provide an insight into manifestations of (im)politeness in customers’ requesting and complaining behaviour in authentic Slovenian institutional interactions. Specifically, (im)politeness in technologically mediated interactions between representatives of a state-owned company and customers, in which customers request information or complain about a service received, will be examined. First, the normative behaviour in requesting information via telephone and email will be highlighted and then be compared with deviant cases where, following interactional trouble of some sort, the exchanges become unexpectedly inappropriate and thus open to evaluations of impoliteness. Evaluations of impoliteness are further explored in customer complaints to the same company. It will be demonstrated that the way complaints are articulated and responded to varies across media. On the telephone, face-threatening behaviour is targeted at the institutional agent and the customers appeal to the agent’s sense of fairness. On public social media pages, Facebook and Twitter, the customers distort the image the company aims to project. It will be argued that the customers’ flaming behaviour differs from that identified in complaint calls because of the public nature of social media. In other words, aggressive behaviour and humour are devised for different audiences as separate communicative goals, whereby the verbally aggressive behaviour is aimed at the company whereas other followers are meant to enjoy its humorous potential with the objective of providing support through likes and affiliative comments. Overall, it will be illustrated that complaints are managed in a rather non-accountable manner on both media and reveal the discrepancy between the infrastructural services and the pseudo-modern image, the company aims to project.
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