The cruise industry experiences a rise of complaints through digital arenas

Many customers complain in order to express their dissatisfaction or vent a frustration about a particular event or product. Homans (1961) state that individuals share information because they expect to get something in return. The expected return could be financial, materialistic, emotional comfort, or social rewards (Rui et al., 2014). In general, people simply tend to write a negative comment rather than a positive one as they already payed for having a “good experience”, unless the trip was way better than expected.

Complainers can be perceived as annoying but actually the dangerous clients are those who quietly dump the company and do only engage through negative word of mouth with a third party. The research firm ‘TARP’ says that for every person who complains, there are 26 who do not, which can end up in further consequences. How can a business know that someone was not happy if he or she doesn’t express that? Hearing the voice of dissatisfied customers can offer potential benefits to the firm by touching problematic areas and turn it into gold dust by using it as a basis for improvement.

Cyberspace seems to foster the online disinhibition effect where consumers “loosen up, feel more uninhibited, express themselves more openly” (Suler 2004, p. 321). The online world gives consumers the possibility to spread negative words without revealing their identity. CruiseReport, TripAdvisor, ConsumerAffairs are some examples of highly used websites with reviews on cruises, which became a great resource during the shopping process. Complaints through electronic media such as the Internet have increased dramatically and will most likely continue to do so in the future (Tripp and Gregoire 2011; Strauss and Seidel 2004).

Social media are a phenomenon where individuals share opinions about products in a group atmosphere (Bacile, Hoffacker, & White, 2014). Once a consumer posts a comment on social media, the information spreads to others, and users form opinions (Bacile, Hoffacker, and White, 2014). Facebook and other social media sites add another layer of complexity to the complaint management and resolution process; the potential impact of electronic word-of-mouth is enormous, with an average of “3.2 billion Likes and Comments generated by Facebook users per day during the first quarter of 2012” (Facebook 2012).  […] Consumers are able to influence literally thousands of purchase decisions with a few sentences posted online (Mangold and Smith 2012, p. 150).

Nowadays people feel the need to first look for reviews upon a certain product, brand or company. Consumers find reading product reviews valuable and credible in decision making (Hong & Park, 2012). Yet, it shouldn’t all be taken too seriously as a review is just a snapshot of time and every person has different needs and wants, emotions, expectation, within a different environment going on the cruise. Chris Dikmen (2015) states that even the weather and sea conditions can impact a guest’s impressions. Moreover cruise ships are very dynamic and change the guest mix and crew members from time to time. One should always consider the credibility of a reviewer and question its objectivity.

Unfortunately, complaints can cause major public crises that need to be carefully managed by the company (Laufer, 2010; Laufer & Coombs, 2006). Not handling the situation right can conclude in losing customers and gives competitors the opportunity to steel them from you. A cross-industry study revealed that 88% of consumers are less likely to buy from a company that ignores online customer complaints (Drennan, 2011). Additionally, consumers feel unimportant when negative comments are not responded to (Dekay, 2012). From another perspective: firms should defend themselves.

Brands should directly dive into the conversation and waste no time. By proving you are dedicated to address the issue, you are able to win their trust again (TheSocialHabit, 2014). Dekay (2012) found that marketers should post fun messages integrated with the marketing message to ensure there is a minimal amount of negative feedback. Furthermore communication should be done with a certain level of empathy and concern. The company should always be honest with credible sources; otherwise it looks like there is something to hide. To protect information from being misinterpret and losing the focus, it is advisable to only have one platform on which all the complaints will be responded to. Last, reacting aggressively is absolutely not done.

Overall, the existence of consumer and professional reviews helps to improve the quality of the cruise industry. Social media provide a way for organizations and consumers to build a stronger relationship with the opportunity of self-expression (Alamaddine, 2013).


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