Author: Chen, Jingli
Title: (lm)politeness, impression management, and customer communication in E-commerce discourse : how E-retailers battle against critical reviews
Advisors: Feng, Dezheng William (ENGL)
Tay, Dennis (ENGL)
Degree: DALS
Year: 2023
Subject: Business communication -- Computer networks
Chinese language -- Discourse analysis
Electronic commerce
Politeness (Linguistics)
Corporate image
Hong Kong Polytechnic University -- Dissertations
Department: Faculty of Humanities
Pages: xv, 210 pages : color illustrations
Language: English
Abstract: With the proliferation of e-commerce, online shops are bombarded with negative reviews. Well-crafted responses serve as powerful weapons to maintain, remedy, and rebuild a damaged image. In previous studies, the use of linguistic resources exhibited in the review response genre for different responding strategies has not been sufficiently explored. Most of the existing studies focus on online customer review responses that are polite and aim to build a good rapport with customers, while responses that are perceived as impolite and face-threatening have not been systematically investigated. Besides, most of the studies target the hospitality industry and analyze data in English. Few studies in this field have examined pragmatic strategies and the consequent impression management in other domains and languages other than English. To fulfill these gaps, this study examines the discursive construction of e-shop responders’ (im)polite responding attitudes and strategies by drawing upon the appraisal framework, theories in crisis communication, impression management, and (im)politeness.
The study takes a corpus-based discourse analysis approach to investigate the linguistic features of responding attitudes and strategies in the e-commerce communication. A Chinese review response corpus is compiled from the naturally occurring e-shop retailers’ asynchronous responses to customers’ negative reviews on the Internet-based Taobao, one of China’s biggest e-commerce platforms for online shopping. Two analysis steps are conducted to reveal a complete picture of the linguistic features in review responses. The first step is concerned with “what are the attitudes” by examining multiple aspects of the targets and contents of the review responses. The attitude system in Martin & White’s (2005) Appraisal framework is adopted for the attitudinal analysis. Step 2 aims to analyze “how are the attitudes expressed” by exploring various linguistic strategies employed in the responses based on theories of review response, (im)politeness, and impression management. As an integration of linguistic pragmatics and business communication in the e-commerce context, the proposed frameworks integrate theories of (im)politeness with impression management to analyze the discourse semantics of online review responses.
The findings reveal vital patterns of e-shop responders’ attitudes and a series of exploratory strategies embedded in the responses and purposefully constructing the impression. It is identified that e-shop responders refute negative reviews by targeting four objects: the negative reviewers, the e-shop staff, the e-shops, and the reviews. E-shop responders’ attitudes toward these four objects are a mixture of positive and negative evaluations. Reviewers are negatively judged to be dissatisfied, incompetent, uncooperative, immoral, and dishonest, while e-shop staff, including the individual review responders, the organization, and customer services, are judged positively to be responsible, honest, and trustworthy. E-shop products and services are appreciated as authentic, genuine, and valuable, while review contents are evaluated negatively to be misleading and exaggerating.
Furthermore, these attitudes are realized linguistically by responding strategies varying from accommodative, defensive, to offensive. The accommodative strategies identified include thanking, acknowledging, apologizing, wishing, welcoming, and promising to take corrective actions. The defensive strategies are assuring, denying, justifying, and excusing. The offensive strategies are accounting, swearing, intimidating, ridiculing, and suspecting. In response to different targets, the frequency of the strategies varies accordingly.
The study examines the review responses to show how the e-shop representatives use linguistic resources to battle against the negative reviews and manage their impressions. It enriches studies on review response, (im)politeness, impression management, and customer relationships in the specific context of e-commerce platforms. In addition, concerning China’s significant role in the global e-commerce market, the current study has practical implications for e-commerce communication in the Chinese context.
Rights: All rights reserved
Access: restricted access

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