Service Recovery via Social Media: The Social Influence Effects of Virtual Presence

Tobias Schaefers*, Julia Schamari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Social media channels are increasingly used by consumers to post complaints to companies. In contrast to traditional channels, the complaint and a firm’s recovery efforts are visible to passive observers who are virtually present. Additionally, these unaffected users may become involved by supporting a complainant with negative comments or by supporting the firm with positive comments, leading to interactive virtual presence (VP). We reveal that such VP affects how a complainant reacts to successful and unsuccessful service recovery. Based on social influence theory (SIT), we investigate the influence of a mere VP as well as interactive VP of positive and negative valence on the complainant’s satisfaction and purchase intentions and analyze the role of expertise of those who are virtually present. The results indicate that SIT is applicable to virtual environments but that restrictions apply. Specifically, mere VP enhances the effects of recovery success, but—in contrast to SIT—not the negative results of unsuccessful recovery, and interactive VP leads to attitude polarization. Moreover, high-expertise individuals who engage in positive (negative) interactions after unsuccessful (successful) recovery are deleterious. When experts disconfirm successful recovery, they have higher credibility and reduce confidence in the firm. However, in contrast to SIT, experts trying to mitigate unsuccessful recovery are perceived as less credible, which also reduces confidence. Overall, if service recovery via social media is successful, firms will benefit from VP. However, caution is advised when using expert users who may interfere with service recovery processes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Service Research
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)192-208
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Service recovery
  • Social influence theory
  • Social media
  • Social presence
  • Virtual presence

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