Review Culture and the Growing Significance of Customer Evaluation in Service Work: A Qualitative Study of Real Estate Brokers and their Work Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Bryson, Alexis
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Communication
  • Review culture, or the recent proliferation of online evaluation and feedback by customers about their consumptive experiences, places the expectations, desires, and opinions of customers at the forefront of service relations and organizational decision making. This dissertation investigates how workers experience the demands created by review culture. While customer opinions tend to be framed as valuable for the organization, they can also have serious impacts for workers’ livelihoods. The study is situated in the work of real estate brokers in central North Carolina who are at the forefront of service industries experiencing structural changes stemming from new modes of customer evaluation and participation. Qualitative methods offer insight into experiences of real estate work including the norms of self branding that underlie reviewing trends. Interviews with real estate brokers, observations from meetings, events, and trainings, cultural artifacts, and fieldwork illustrate how customer review practices are transforming work relationships in the real estate context. Drawing upon interview data, the study discusses the conditions under which brokers adopt, disregard, and contest customer’s increasingly public evaluation of their services. To identify ways that workers perceive and negotiate review culture, each chapter explores a different aspect of worker-customer engagement in person and online. Key contributions include detailing how brokers manage customer relations as sources of value, as well the mediating role of digital platforms that both facilitate and regulate customer review procedures and everyday work. Taken together, the chapters demonstrate the spread and influence of review culture in real estate work, including the troubling finding that customers’ subjective assessments potentially exacerbate norms and expectations of service workers. As my study suggests, the benefits that result from review culture are unevenly distributed, raising questions about what type of interventions might be needed. Ultimately, this study highlights the ways that review culture, and the proliferate publication, promotion, and protection of consumer voices, impact workers less prepared to mitigate—or capitalize—the effects of customer opinions.
Date of publication
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Mumby, Dennis
  • May, Steve
  • Dempsey, Sarah
  • Monahan, Torin
  • Berger, Michele
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2017

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