Racial Discrimination in Social Media Customer Service: Evidence from a Popular Microblogging Platform

AbstractThe concept of racial inequality has existed from the early days of service provision, with evidence dating back to ancient civilizations. While the emergence of the Internet and social media has drastically transformed almost every aspect of everyday life, including the intrinsic values of social relationships, the impact of racial disparities on receiving services on online platforms is not so evident. Although many consumer brands provide customer service on social media today, little is known regarding the prevalence and magnitude of racial discrimination in the context of social media customer service. Thus, in this study, we examine the existence and the extent of racial discrimination against African-Americans in social media customer service. We analyzed all complaints to seven major U.S. airlines on Twitter for a period of nine months. Interestingly, our empirical analysis finds that African-American customers are less likely to receive brand responses to their complaints on social media. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to empirically analyze the racial discrimination phenomenon in the context of social media customer service.

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