1 Department of Business Communication, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University2 Department of Business Communication, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
The social organization of service evaluation in professional-client interactions
While a first pair part projects a limited set of second pair parts to be provided next, responders select different types and formats for second pair parts to assemble activities (Schegloff 2007). Accordingly, various ways of shaping responses have been extensively studied (e.g. Pomerantz 1984; Raymond 2003; Schegloff and Lerner 2009), including those with multimodal actions (e.g. Olsher 2004; Fasulo & Monzoni 2009). Some responsive actions can also be completed with bodily behavior alone, such as: when an agreement display is achieved by using only nonvocal actions (Jarmon 1996), when the recipient’s gaze shift becomes a significant part of the speaker’s turn construction (Goodwin 1980), and when head nods show the recipient’s affiliation with the speaker’s stance (Stivers 2008). Still, much room remains for extending our current understanding of responding actions that necessarily involve both verbal and body-behavioral elements. This paper explores one such situation in professional-client interaction, during the event of evaluating a service outcome in a haircutting session. In general, a haircutting session is brought to its closure through the service-assessment sequence, in which a hairstylist and a client negotiate the quality of the service that has been provided. Here, the first action is usually the stylist’s question and/or explanation of the new cut that invites the client’s assessment/(dis)agreement, accompanied with embodied actions that project an imminent self-inspection of the client’s hair (e.g. handing over a hand-held mirror to the client). Then, the relevant course of responding action includes not only a verbal turn, but also the client’s physical inspection of the new cut (e.g. looking at and/or touching the new cut). Because the client’s assessment/(dis)agreement must be based on the physical inspection, an assessment/(dis)agreement given before sufficient inspection may be treated as inauthentic. However, this does not mean that the course of responding action is linearly ordered as: first self-inspection, followed by a verbal turn. Rather, participants simultaneously make various moves that belong to these two components in this space. For example, clients may give a preferred response to the stylist’s question of whether they like the new cut, already at the beginning of their inspection process. Stylists may also ask additional questions and fix the hairstyle during the clients’ self-inspection. What then are the mechanisms behind coordinating the two components in completing the response? A microanalysis of approximately 50 hours of haircutting sessions (recorded in the U.S. and Japan) reveals that clients’ verbal and bodily behaviors are organized so that they structure a projectable course of responding action. For instance, when clients assess the new cut before completing physical inspection (which is theoretically inadequate), they often simultaneously dramatize the act (Goffman 1959) of inspection to mark its ongoing status, e.g. by fixing their gaze on the hand-held mirror and turning their head. Through such an “asynchronous” combination of verbal and embodied moves, clients make their turn recognizable as an initial part of their responsive course of action, projecting a more formal and informed verbal turn to come upon the completion of self-inspection. Producing an immediate aligned verbal reaction to the stylist’s first pair part also possibly prevents the stylist from anticipating the chance of a pending, dispreferred response. The analysis also shows the stylists’ joint effort in organizing the clients’ relevant course of responsive action. Some of them may mobilize the preference organization, for instance when a stylist verbally and/or nonvocally highlights certain features of the new cut. On the other hand, when clients provide an assessment before completing sufficient self-inspection, stylists withhold an acknowledgement of it, orienting to a relevance of continued responding process. Then, when clients initiate a session closure before providing a relevantly positioned assessment, stylists may disregard the client’s actions. Instead, they solicit a continued structuring of the response through their bodily orientation to self-inspection (e.g. shifting their gaze to the cut and stepping aside) and verbal orientation to an informed assessment/(dis)agreement (e.g. asking additional questions about the cut). In this manner, both parties manipulate the verbal and embodied components of the responding action so that the response caters to: 1) the participants’ sensitivity toward negative client feedback; and 2) their orientation to the informed response validated with an adequate self-inspection. Contrary to some services that may be assessed by a clear measure of whether something now works or not (e.g. mechanical repair), service evaluations in haircutting sessions involve people’s subjective perspectives, adding another layer of delicacy. In this context, the participants not only orient to the general preference for agreement/alignment, but also to the client’s autonomous evaluation (as opposed to response produced out of mere social courtesy). These two aspects are harmonized through the participants’ simultaneous (and often systematically asynchronous) deployment of verbal turns and embodied actions, shaping a response that indicates that the service has been satisfactorily rendered. 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International Conference on Conversation Analysis, 2014