We serve you, right?: a case study adapting coorientation to customer service research Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 22, 2019
  • Williamson, JoAnna
    • Affiliation: Hussman School of Journalism and Media
  • An abundance of academic research has focused on identifying, explicating, operationalizing, and analyzing variables used to understand the dynamics of customer service. Despite this scholarly attention, applied researchers and the popular press have long reported consumers' dissatisfaction with the service received during their customer transactions. This lingering incongruity between service as conceptualized by scholars, provided by practitioners, and experienced by consumers suggests the necessity of fresh approaches to addressing the complexities of service. The need is urgent given the continued growth of the service sector of the U.S. economy, the changing demographics of service providers and recipients, and new technologies in the quickly evolving modern service paradigm. This dissertation demonstrates that a new approach to understanding contemporary service is to view it through a coorientation theoretical framework. Coorientation refers to an interdependent system of interaction allowing for the measurement of perceptions and cross perceptions of two entities that are mutually oriented toward each other and toward some shared issue. Public relations scholars have built on psychology, social psychology, and communication research in using coorientation variables to gain a holistic understanding of relationships. This understanding serves as the foundation for the development, implementation, and measurement of the impact of relationship-building communication strategies. A case study approach was employed to use coorientation variables to diagnose service relationships in their natural settings. This information was then used to recommend enhancements to the interactions between the service providers and service recipients. A non-commercial context was selected to learn from the positive manner in which service recipients in exploratory research perceived service provided for non-monetary gain. Specifically, service relationships were assessed in educational environments given the recognition of education as a vital service industry, the emphasis on American educational reform, and the documented importance of the parent-school relationship. The view of service recipients as publics is consistent with the increasing focus of public relations scholars on the relationship-building aspects of this discipline. As such, merging the study of relationships with publics from a public relations perspective with the study of service from other consumer-driven disciplines adds to the depth of knowledge in each area.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication."
  • Boynton, Lois A.
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

This work has no parents.