Centre of Applied Research Technology

Handling consumer messages on social networking sites

customer service or privacy infringement?


Firms increasingly use social network sites to reach out to customers and proactively intervene with observed consumer messages. Despite intentions to enhance customer satisfaction by extending customer service, sometimes these interventions are received negatively by consumers. We draw on privacy regulation theory to theorize how proactive customer service interventions with consumer messages on social network sites may evoke feelings of privacy infringement.

Subsequently we use privacy calculus theory to propose how these perceptions of privacy infringement, together with the perceived usefulness of the intervention, in turn drive customer satisfaction. In two experiments, we find that feelings of privacy infringement associated with proactive interventions may explain why only reactive interventions enhance customer satisfaction. Moreover, we find that customer satisfaction can be modeled through the calculus of the perceived usefulness and feelings of privacy infringement associated with an intervention.

These findings contribute to a better understanding of the impact of privacy concerns on consumer behavior in the context of firm–consumer interactions on social network sites, extend the applicability of privacy calculus theory, and contribute to complaint and compliment management literature. To practitioners, our findings demonstrate that feelings of privacy are an element to consider when handling consumer messages on social media, but also that privacy concerns may be overcome if an intervention is perceived as useful enough.

Reference Demmers, J., van Dolen, W. M., & Weltevreden, J. W. J. (2018). Handling consumer messages on social networking sites: customer service or privacy infringement? International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 22(1), 8-35. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10864415.2018.1396110

Publication date

Feb 2018


Joris Demmers
Willemijn M. van Dolen


Research database