The Dynamic Formulation of a Complaint in a Thai Service Encounter: A Case Study

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Nattana Leelaharattanarak


It seems to be more diffcult analyzing a complaint than the analysis of
rejections due to the fact that complaints have multi-layered and complicated
characteristics. Consequently, this research aims to explore the way in which customers
launch, develop, revisit and end the commercially-oriented complaint over a long
conversation during Thai service encounters. It also highlights some of the resources
utilized by the participant to construct and respond to the complaint. Data
consisted of one long naturally occurring face-to-face service encounter video- and
audio-recorded between Thai customers and agents at a Thai hotel. The data
revealed that it is signifcant for the customer to collect suffcient and reasonable
information supporting the customer’s fnely elaborated complaint before launching
it. In addition, both customer and agents employ various mixed (non)verbal and
prosodic strategies to aggravate or redress the fnely articulated complaint in a
single turn, for example, the unparalleled use of pronominal forms, making apologies
and giving a promise of a future repair. Loudness, disaffliative laughter and the
expression of a dissatisfed face are nonverbal features employed to aggravate the explicit complaint, which threatens the agents’ face. In contrast, smiles, the use of
a pleasant voice and silence help to mitigate the complaint and indicate the
agents’ patience and face concerns.


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How to Cite
Leelaharattanarak, N. (2016). The Dynamic Formulation of a Complaint in a Thai Service Encounter: A Case Study. NIDA Case Research Journal, 8(2), 92–145. Retrieved from
Case Study