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The influence of (sub)standard language on credibility during critical moments in online customer communication

Bernard De Clerck (UGent) , Chloé Lybaert (UGent) and Mathias Seghers (UGent)
(2018)
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Abstract
In the current climate of customer empowerment, both organizations and consumers see themselves confronted with an exponential growth in customer reviews and complaints, the sheer volume of which is sometimes hard to manage and monitor. The easy access to online platforms has not only given rise to an avalanche of information with consumer feedback, the language with which the information is provided in many cases presents itself as deviant from ‘standard’ language, with blends that include spoken features in written form (emulating pronunciation), flooding, capitalization and colloquial patterns, alongside typical spelling mistakes, typos and bad grammar. While instances of the latter kind, i.e. ‘incorrect’ language use have amply been shown to have a negative impact on perceptions of source and author credibility and content reliability – even triggering companies to resort ethically questionable practices of cleaning up consumer reviews – much less attention has been devoted to the impact of the more hybrid language features that are typical of chatspeak in (informal) online environments on perceived credibility, reliability and expertise. This reveals an interesting tension between the possibly opposing forces of using ‘correct’ language on the one hand (to sound professional and credible) and the use of substandard language that reflect societal changes such as informalization, democratization and changes in standard language ideologies in Europe. In this study we pick up on this complex issue and will report on a number of experiments in which we probed into the effect of form (i.e. mistakes, substandard features and flooding) on the credibility of content in Belgian Dutch negative consumer reviews. Results confirm the negative impact of mistakes but a lso reveal that despite the coolness factor they have acquired in spoken language, substandard features, too, have a pervasively negative effect on consumer and review credibility and observed professionalism. Flooding in its turn seems to act as a catalyst and further fuels negative perceptions. Additionally, the experiments also reveal that reviewer gender has a substantial impact on perceptions in standard language scenarios.

Citation

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MLA
De Clerck, Bernard, Chloé Lybaert, and Mathias Seghers. “The Influence of (sub)standard Language on Credibility During Critical Moments in Online Customer Communication.” 2018. Print.
APA
De Clerck, B., Lybaert, C., & Seghers, M. (2018). The influence of (sub)standard language on credibility during critical moments in online customer communication. Presented at the Language in webcare – interdisciplinary perspectives.
Chicago author-date
De Clerck, Bernard, Chloé Lybaert, and Mathias Seghers. 2018. “The Influence of (sub)standard Language on Credibility During Critical Moments in Online Customer Communication.” In .
Chicago author-date (all authors)
De Clerck, Bernard, Chloé Lybaert, and Mathias Seghers. 2018. “The Influence of (sub)standard Language on Credibility During Critical Moments in Online Customer Communication.” In .
Vancouver
1.
De Clerck B, Lybaert C, Seghers M. The influence of (sub)standard language on credibility during critical moments in online customer communication. 2018.
IEEE
[1]
B. De Clerck, C. Lybaert, and M. Seghers, “The influence of (sub)standard language on credibility during critical moments in online customer communication,” presented at the Language in webcare – interdisciplinary perspectives, Universiteit Gent, 2018.
@inproceedings{8611571,
  abstract     = {In the current climate of customer empowerment, both organizations and consumers see themselves confronted with an exponential growth in customer reviews and complaints, the sheer volume of which is sometimes hard to  manage  and  monitor.  The  easy  access  to online  platforms  has  not  only  given  rise  to  an  avalanche  of information  with  consumer  feedback,  the  language  with  which  the  information  is  provided  in  many  cases presents itself as deviant from ‘standard’ language, with blends that include spoken features in written form (emulating pronunciation), flooding, capitalization and colloquial patterns, alongside typical spelling mistakes, typos and bad grammar. 

While instances of the latter kind, i.e. ‘incorrect’ language use have amply been shown to have a negative impact  on  perceptions  of  source  and  author  credibility  and  content  reliability – even  triggering  companies to resort ethically questionable practices of cleaning up consumer reviews – much less attention has been devoted to  the  impact  of  the  more  hybrid  language  features  that  are  typical  of  chatspeak  in  (informal)  online environments on perceived credibility, reliability and expertise. This reveals an interesting tension between the  possibly opposing forces of using ‘correct’ language on the one hand (to sound professional and credible) and  the  use  of  substandard  language  that  reflect  societal  changes  such  as  informalization,  democratization  and changes in standard language ideologies in Europe.  

In this study we pick up on this complex issue and will report on a number of experiments in which we 
probed into the effect of form (i.e. mistakes, substandard features and flooding) on the credibility of content in 
Belgian Dutch negative consumer reviews. Results confirm the negative impact of mistakes but a
lso reveal that despite the coolness factor they have acquired in spoken language, substandard features, too, have a pervasively negative effect on consumer and review credibility and observed professionalism. Flooding in its turn seems to act as a catalyst and further fuels negative perceptions. Additionally, the experiments also reveal that reviewer 
gender has a substantial impact on perceptions in standard language scenarios.  },
  author       = {De Clerck, Bernard and Lybaert, Chloé and Seghers, Mathias},
  language     = {eng},
  location     = {Universiteit Gent},
  title        = {The influence of (sub)standard language on credibility during critical moments in online customer communication},
  year         = {2018},
}