Responding to online complaints in webcare by public organizations: the impact on continuance intention and reputation

Sandra Jacobs*, C. Liebrecht

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose – Since public sector organizations provide services to citizens but struggle with poor perceptions of their functioning, it is valuable to examine how their online responses to complaints on social media could impact their reputation. Yet, surprisingly little is known about effects of public organizations’ webcare. Therefore, this study assesses the impact of the webcare’s tone, response strategy and user’s involvement on participants’ continuance intention and perceptions of reputation.
Design/methodology/approach – Two experimental studies (Study 1: N 5 424; Study 2: N 5 203) with an interval of one week were carried out to assess the effects of singular and repeated exposure to webcare by a Dutch public transport organization on the participants’ continuance intention and perceived organizational reputation. Study 1 examined the effects of the webcare’s tone (corporate vs conversational human voice (CHV)) and response strategy (accommodative vs defensive); Study 2 contained tone of voice and user’s involvement (observer vs complainer). The effects of repeated exposure to the webcare’s tone were also examined.
Findings – The results indicate that perceptions of CHV in webcare contribute to webcare as reputation management tool, since it leads to immediate higher reputation scores that also remain stable after repeated exposure. Furthermore, people’s continuance intention increased after repeated exposure to webcare responses that were perceived as CHV, thus a natural and engaging communication style, indicating this is an effective strategy for customer care as well. No substantial impact was found for response strategy and user’s involvement in the complaint handling.
Originality/value – The novelty of this study is that the authors assess the effects of the webcare’s tone combined with response strategy and user’s involvement in a public sector context with a sector-specific conceptualization of reputation and continuance intention measured after singular and repeated exposure to webcare.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Communication Management
Early online date6 Dec 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords

  • Governmental communication
  • Reputation
  • Social media
  • Strategic communication

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