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Virtual Disputes Are Very Real: Resolving Consumer Complaints

ecommerce_472With the internet being as prevalent as it is today, most people have either bought or sold items online. Some people rely on the internet as their main method of shopping, while others use online resources to compare competing prices before physically heading to the store. No matter how you use the internet for business, conflict is an underlying issue that is definitely going to be included in transactions. It is important for you to understand that these types of conflicts are unique because of the distance and anonymity between the seller and buyer. Usually, the individuals conducting business do not know each other and most likely will never meet. There is in a sense a virtual disconnect between seller and buyer; however, disputes between the two remain very real. Language barriers and cultural differences on both sides of the transaction create an even more complex situation.

So how have websites like eBay, a major online shopping platform, been so successful in establishing smooth transactions and customer confidence? The reason for these successes is primarily due to a trust-based feedback system. After each transaction, both the seller and buyer leave feedback remarks about each other. That way, a new customer can choose a vendor and read about the experiences of previous customers. Additionally, this motivates sellers to conduct legitimate and appropriate business because a negative review might deter a future buyer. This method has created a safe and organized business environment amongst strangers that other marketplaces like Craigslist cannot offer. However, even with this structure, conflicts are bound to arise.

On a previous Texas Conflict Coach® radio show, Colin Rule, current CEO of Modria, an online dispute resolution company and former eBay and PayPal’s director of online dispute resolution spoke about some of the issues he noticed when dealing with online disputes. During his time with eBay, he created a page with advice on how to deal with conflicts. Interestingly, when the strategies were localized for the Italian eBay site, many believed that the tips were written in a patronizing way. Instead of directly changing the advice, the importance was on rephrasing it in a culturally acceptable way. Cultural standards and social boundaries are often overlooked during online disputes. Another strategy towards preventing online disputes that Rule mentioned while on the show was the significance of creating a personal or conversational relationship with the users. It is easy to skip over traditional conversational norms when dealing online with a person you will never meet. Rule mentions that being polite and conducting online interactions more similarly to face-to-face interactions has better results in resolving disputes.

However, when online disputes cannot be resolved through the use of a feedback system or personal negotiation, a neutral third-party is most beneficial. Centers like Youstice, featured on a previous show, and Modria provide the resources for turning online disputes into resolutions. These types of sites provide quick results and allow the customer to feel like their disputes are more personalized. The issue of a language barrier is overcome with the help of Youstice because their system automatically translates disputes and interactions into the corresponding language. eBay currently uses a similar third-party dispute resolution center in order to reduce hurried negative feedback posts, create customer trust and resolve online disputes in a timely and fair manner.

If you are interested in learning more about online conflicts and dispute resolution, visit this resource and also check out Online Dispute Resolution for Business (Jossey-Bass, 2003) written by Colin Rule.

John Wagner

Student Intern

Salisbury University – Conflict Analysis and Dispute Resolution

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Online Dispute Resolution: Have You Heard of Cyber Week?

Each year the Werner Institute at Creighton University hosts an annual virtual Conference for Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) called Cyber Week. In its 17th year, this annual conference is now hosted via ADRhub. ODR consists of dispute resolution practices (mediation, negotiation, arbitration, etc…) that use technology to facilitate the resolution of disputes between parties across the spectrum from e-commerce disputes to family disputes. This year, Cyber Week was held during November 3, 2014 – November 7, 2014.Cyber Week

This free virtual conference focuses on the new developments and innovations regarding dispute resolution online. This week’s conference included discussion forums where participants had the opportunity to engage in dialogue via chat, such as topics pertaining to Cyber-Safety and Ethical Considerations for practitioners. . Webinars including “Challenges and Innovations in Responding to Digital Bullying” and demonstrations using virtual mediation rooms gave participants a feel for how these tools work. This engaging week also hosted an Ethics Essay contest and an e-Mediation competition. The Texas Conflict Coach radio program returns for its 4th year hosting a program. This year focuses on “Tech for Justice:Using Technology to Expand Access to Justice.”  As technologies continue to advance, more businesses and transactions are moving online. Cyber Week introduces participants with the technology tools and strategies for managing and preventing conflicts online.

Who can attend?
Anyone who is interested in participating in Cyber Week may register. Participants range from academics, scholars, ODR and dispute resolution practitioners, and the general public.

What if I missed Cyber Week?
By visiting the Cyber Week home page on ADRhub.com you can access the archived webinars from previous years. And, don’t forget Cyberweek will return in November 2015 for its 18th annual event.

How can I learn more about ODR?

The Texas Conflict Coach® website has several programs regarding ODR. Some programs that may interest you are:
Tech For Better, Not For Worse: Online Dispute Resolution In Everyday Life with guests Bill Warters, Ph.D and Colin Rule as they share suggestions for communication strategies to foster online relationships.
Supporting Conflict Resolution Skills in Social Media and Online Forums with guests Leah Wing and Tom Murrary provide tools to foster better communication and conflict resolution skills for online relationships.

We often focus on tools, strategies, and third parties available to assist parties in conflict offline, and rarely speak to the resources available online. Next time you are in conflict, remember you are not alone. There are resources and services available to help resolve your dispute virtually. I encourage you to join ADRhub.com, participate in Cyber Week, and learn how you can make a difference by simply using technology to resolve disputes.

By Tracy Culbreath
Graduate Student, University of Baltimore – Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

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Understanding the Benefits of Online Dispute Resolution – Cyberweek 2011

Join us for Cyberweek 2011 – the annual virtual conference dedicated to the innovations and developments of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) hosted by Werner Institute at Creighton University via ADRHub.com. This show will focus on how online dispute resolution processes are used to deal with disputes, the various forms of ODR processes, and the benefits and challenges to using virtual communications.

The show highlights ODR experts in the field.


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