A Study on Consumers’ Negative Online Reviews and Merchants’ Responses Discourse Strategies Based on Rapport Management Theory

Yingjuan Yao, Yun Li, Lijie Guo


Online shopping is an important consumption channel, and customers can express reviews about products on the platform. Negative reviews can inform merchants about defects of products and services, providing references for other consumers. Negative reviews and responses reflect merchants’ and customers’ adjustments to interpersonal relationships. Based on Spencer-Oatey’s rapport management theory, this paper collects 400 negative consumer reviews and corresponding merchant responses from Tripadvisor. Then the writer conducts data statistics and case analysis on the corpus, aiming to obtain the proportions of strategies for complaints and responses and to analyze rapport management tendencies of communicators. Research shows that consumers mainly adopt rapport-challenge orientation, and the most commonly used complaint strategies are “explicit complaint”, “expression of annoyance or disapproval” and “below the level of reproach”. Most merchants take rapport-enhancement orientation and rapport-maintenance orientation. They frequently employ strategies of “expressing emotion”, “apologizing”, “committing and acting” etc. This paper intends to provide references for establishing harmonious interpersonal relationships and favorable business environment.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22158/sll.v8n2p9


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