Online consumer reviews are widely used by consumers, but the impact that this type of user-generated content has on companies is not as well understood. Moreover, companies are growing increasingly concerned that online consumer reviews may be worth paying close attention to. This research offers a multi-method research approach to better understand the effect of online consumer reviews on customer emotions and behavior, as well as corporate performance metrics.
I use emotional contagion to examine how textual properties of online consumer reviews may influence these metrics in the service failure and linguistics contexts. In studies one, two, and three, I posit a series of behavioral experiments that manipulate service failure and linguistic elements of online consumer reviews. Using survey-based measurement, along with innovative measurement technologies such as eye tracking and automated facial expression analysis, I examine the effect of these manipulations on participants’ attention, cognition, and discrete emotions. Results indicate that service failure severity negatively impacts anger, both measured physiologically and using survey items, and service quality inferences. Furthermore, results suggest a negative correlation between service failure severity and negative affective response, measured physiologically. Results also indicate a positive relationship between service failure severity and avoidance behavior. Referential cohesion, an important linguistic element of text, negatively (positively) moderates the relationship between service failure severity and anger (avoidance behavior). Finally, I study the effect of linguistic elements of online consumer reviews on profitability. Results suggest that negative emotion is negatively related to net income and that this relationship is negatively moderated by referential cohesion.
I conclude with potential theoretical implications for the marketing academic literature, including the literature streams on OCRs, service failure, service quality, emotional contagion, negativity bias, discrete emotions, approach-avoidance, linguistics, and corporate performance. I also discuss the importance of these studies for developing the use of physiological measurement in consumer behavior research. Finally, I offer practical implications that can help marketers and managers better understand and prepare for the impending impact of online consumer reviews.
Dr. Alexa K. Fox
University of Akron
Dissertation Defense: May 2015
Chairs: Drs. George Deitz and Marla Stafford