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In dyadic online chats with customers, agents commonly employ scripted responses and converse with several customers simultaneously in order to enhance efficiency. This research incorporates aspects of interactivity to the social information processing SIP theory of computer-mediated communication, that addresses conversational behaviors that affect interpersonal relations in the absence of nonverbal cues.
confirmed deleterious effects of non-contingency on outcomes. Contingency moderated latency effects.
Implications for a more comprehensive approach to SIP conclude the study. Real-time computer-mediated communication CMC chat systems have become a popular way for organizations to communicate with customers. Industry analysts claim that chats not only lower interaction costs with customers while providing critical purchase- and support-related answers, they also Online for chat positive relationships between organizations and consumers Cole, At the same time, there is growing recognition that variations in chat experiences can lead to frustration rather than elation, infuriate users, and turn potential customers from fans to detractors.
Ironically, some of the very communication strategies that organizations use to make chat efficient may actually incur negative relational outcomes. Organizations often direct their representatives to conduct several CMC conversations by their representatives with multiple customers simultaneously. The meta-construct, interactivity, has a substantial history in mediated and non-mediated communication research Walther, At the same time, the effects of interactivity on relational processes Online for chat been studied less often in connection with specific theoretical frameworks.
The present study examines the two particular aspects of interactivity in an online chat—latency and contingency—for their potential to affect relational judgments about both a chat agent and the organization with whom the agent is associated. The social information processing SIP theory of CMC Walther, provides a framework with which to understand the impact of these dimensions of interactivity on impression development and relational evaluations in CMC.
The theory posits that communicators can adapt the content, style, and timing of messages online to convey and to infer interpersonal impressions and relational messages of the nature that face-to-face communicators rely primarily on nonverbal communication to accomplish. research on SIP has demonstrated how online content conveys immediacy and affection, receptivity and involvement, liking, and attraction, among other outcomes. The application of SIP to interactivity and chat requires extensions to the theory that are consistent with its framework, yet ly unarticulated.
Specifically, although the theory has been applied to various forms of online conversational content and online chronemics, it has yet to be applied explicitly to non-content, implicit aspects of messages conveyed by conversational qualities such as the contingency dimension of interactivity, or interactions among contingency and latency.
This study provides a theory-based explanation for inadvertent problems in a practical setting, and prospective solutions to these problems as well. Finally, the anticipated and unanticipated interaction effects present challenges for future SIP research.
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The findings urge greater attention to how numerous code systems operate within and between CMC messages, with the potential of these codes and sub-codes to complement or undermine one another, just as nonverbal messages do in multimodal channels. The concept of interactivity has generated a considerable amount of research in CMC. The term, interactivity, has numerous meanings across domains of human—computer interaction, website feature de, and human—human interaction via CMC and face-to-face.
Generally, interactivity is the responsiveness one experiences from another entity, be it a computer system or person. Research on interactivity has examined the degree of user control and website responses e.
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Despite the longstanding association of interactivity with technological systems, Rafaeli argued that the construct is not tied to CMC: It is a property of language-based conversations. Interactivity is neither guaranteed nor prevented by the communication medium.
While real-time chat systems are strongly associated with interactivity and in Sundar et al. No matter the media, it appears, differences in interactivity may be associated with a variety of important interpersonal impressions and outcomes. Yet for all the recent research on interactivity in technology, little theoretical connection appears specifying how or why interactivity per se affects these outcomes.
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Rafaeli and Sudweeks suggested that greater online interactivity affects acceptance and satisfaction with a conversation, but they offered no explanation or evidence for this assertion. Research in interpersonal communication provides useful benchmarks, however. Before turning to these specific dimensions, we Online for chat the consideration of interactivity as a source of social information in CMC. SIP theory Walther, explains how communicators exhibit and interpret social information online without the nonverbal cues that generally provide this information in multi-modal media and face-to-face encounters, in order to form impressions and exchange relational communication.
It also asserts that this process is affected by time and rate of communication, which are determined in part by the symbol-carrying capacity of the communication medium. Although text-based cues are more potent in CMC than face-to-face interaction, messages transpire more slowly and with less social information per transmission than in face-to-face interaction where a variety of cue systems can convey a multitude of messages in a single utterance. By subsuming conversational contingency within SIP, the present research extends the scope, explanatory power, and organizing Online for chat of the theory to another quality of online discourse.
However, the theory is potentially broader than the effects of any single form of discourse, verbal content, or style, as the interaction effect hypotheses and of this study demonstrate. Although SIP research has involved one form of interactivity—chronemic response latencies—that research has been limited. Research using SIP has not considered the other dimension of interactivity on which the present study focuses, conversational contingency.
This work also embeds certain dimensions of the interactivity construct in a more elaborate theoretical framework than has tended to be done in the past. This is not to suggest that every quality that has been ascribed to the term, interactivity, should or could be integrated with SIP. Other approaches are often more platform-dependent; they may be connected to aspects of website control and customization in addition to or instead of conversational qualities e.
Response latency and contingency Online for chat theoretical and empirical roots in interpersonal communication that pre-date, yet inform, CMC research. One important feature of interactivity is response latency, i. Research on response latencies is found in both face-to-face and CMC contexts. Within CMC, Kalman, Scissors, Gill, and Gergle argued that the lack of other nonverbal cues may increase the potency of time cues on social judgments relative to their effects in offline communication.
Similar findings exist in studies of multi-user chats in virtual worlds e. Faster responses improved perceptions of copresence and service quality. In other studies, the effect of latency was moderated by context or a quality of a message sender. Walther and Tidwell found that messages between an organizational supervisor and subordinate that appeared to be separated by either 4 minutes, or by 24 hours and 4 minutes, led to ificant differences in the level of affection observers attributed to the exchanges in a task-related context; in a social context, the effect was reversed.
Practitioners using real-time online chats for customer support seem to be attuned to some aspects of latency, but not others. Chow and Klimczak n. Beyond initiating chats, however, no attention seems to have been paid to the matter of response latency within chat sessions.
Among other causes, latencies can occur when individuals engage in several dialogues at once. Yet many applications of real-time chat for customer support involve the deliberate allocation of a of simultaneous customer chat sessions to an individual chat agent.
Because organizational agents who staff multiple, simultaneous chats must juggle these conversations, they seem prone to committing delayed or extended response latencies. In summary, the literature from traditional communication as well as CMC suggests that inordinate response latencies incur negative interpersonal and professional attributions.
H1: A faster response le to more attractive perceptions of a responder than a slower response. H3: An organization whose agent provides a faster response is perceived to have a better Online for chat with customers than one whose agent responds with a slower response. Another quality of interactivity is the level of contingency among message sequences.
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Rafaeli defined this aspect of interactivity as the content-level inter-relationship of statements within a series of utterances, such that the meaning of a statement depends on and refers implicitly to ideas that were expressed in utterances prior to those statements. Burgoon et al. Research on contingency in face-to-face communication falls under the label of conversational coherence. Early CMC research asked whether and how conversation coherence can be achieved without the nonverbal cues that facilitate conversation management offline see Herring,for a review.
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Some researchers asserted that without nonverbal cues, conversational contingency is impossible in CMC e. Online for chat features of CMC platforms can make contingency among messages perceptually more salient, for instance, when a system displays the conversational history of asynchronous exchanges, or when real-time chat messages persist on-screen for some time Sundar et al.
Although the perception of contingency that may result from these displays is definitionally different than actual semantic contingency among utterances characterized by conversational coherence, perceived contingency has also been shown to mediate the effect of actual semantic message responsiveness on evaluations of the message source Sundar et al. Many applications of real-time chat for customer support include techniques to make the chats more efficient.
Executable by typing an abbreviation, shortcuts display messages in a chat as though they were typed by the agent, from simple greetings to complex, detailed descriptions of products or services. One trade publication Basu,p. We will put you up in a gorgeous five star hotel right on the river Thames and near all the attractions. Whether chat responses from an agent are scripted or original, however, their degree of contingency, like other forms of implicit relational messages, should affect interpersonal impressions of the agent and subsidiary evaluations, from a Online for chat perspective: H4: Responses that are more contingent create more attractive perceptions of an agent than responses that are less contingent.
H5: Responses that are more contingent create greater satisfaction than responses that are less contingent. H6: An organization whose agent provides more contingent responses is perceived to have a better relationship with customers than one whose agent provides responses that are less contingent. However, the interaction effect of latency by contingency may produce an ironic effect in which the contingency factor moderates the latency effect. An agent may seem to a chat customer equally as genuine if contingent responses appear after a slower latency as after a faster latency.
In such a case, a slow latency is forgiven since it can be attributed to genuine concern for and responsiveness to the other person, rather than attributed to inattention or incompetence.
If this is correct, the combination of a slow latency with a contingent response may be quite desirable, i. Finally, additional hypotheses were tendered to address Pang et al. Pang et al. Participants were from the United States, aged 18 or older, who received remuneration in the form of Qualtrics credits for their participation. Most participants were female Eighty-five percent identified as white, 8.
Interactivity and social information processing
Participants observed one of four simulations of a real-time chat between a customer and a customer support agent. Each simulation portrayed a text-based online chat between an agent from a fictitious online merchant, shoestore. Participants witnessed the customer start the chat by typing his name Joeas prompted, into a space provided in a chat window.
The chat system then informed the customer that he is connected to Ro, an agent from shoestore. The customer then asked the agent some questions about shoes and whether his size is available in the country where he is currently working. For added realism, the customer appeared to make spelling errors at two specific points in the chat, which he appeared to correct using the backspace command. Two examples illustrate the differences between highly contingent chats and less interactive chats. In the first, the customer, Joe, asks the agent, Ro, if shoestore. In a second example, Joe also asks Ro if shoestore.
These examples show that the less contingent chats were not completely unresponsive. The less contingent version was based on an actual online chat with a shoe retailer. Both versions of the chats had an equal of words. Across all conditions, the customer Online for chat to wait for 4 s after each message from the agent before typing out the first letter of his next message.