Professor Hean Tat Keh of Monash University and Jin Sun of the University of International Business and Economics, Beijing recently published an article in the Journal of Service Research which is entitled “The Differential Effects of Online Peer Review and Expert Review on Service Evaluations: The Roles of Confidence and Information Convergence.” We are pleased to welcome them as contributors and excited to announce that the findings will be free to access on our site for a limited time. Below they reveal the inspiration behind the research, as well as additional information not included in the final publication.
What motivated you to pursue this research?
In the Internet age, it is commonplace to find online reviews by both ordinary consumers and experts (e.g., Consumer Reports). Nonetheless, the majority of prior research tends to focus on the effects of either source of information but not both. In particular, we were interested to conduct the research in the context of services, and not goods. This is because services are typically associated with greater uncertainty and variability compared to goods, leading consumers to approach goods purchases differently from services purchases.
Furthermore, there are different categories of services; for example, experience services can be confidently evaluated after purchase or consumption (e.g., hotel, hair salon, and restaurant), while credence experiences are difficult to evaluation even after consumption—they have to be taken on faith (e.g., dental service, insurance agency, and language institute). In this sense, credence services tend to carry greater uncertainty and risks compared to experience services.
Against this backdrop, several interesting and relevant questions arise:
- What are the differential effects of peer review and expert review on consumers’ service evaluations?
- What is the psychological mechanism underlying these effects?
- Do these effects vary by experience vs. credence service?
- What is potentially a boundary condition for these effects?
Were there any specific external events that influenced your decision to pursue this research?
While word-of-mouth communication was traditionally confined to oral, face-to-face, and other means of direct communication, the rapid growth of the Internet and associated technologies has amplified the impact of peer reviews online. Thus, consumers today have easy access to a wide range of online reviews by both their peers and experts (e.g., rottentomatoes.com, zagat.com, and tripadvisor.com).
Nonetheless, there was limited research examining the differential effects of peer and expert reviews on consumers’ service evaluations. Thus, we feel that findings from our research are timely and contribute to a better understanding of an interesting social and business phenomenon.
In what ways is your research innovative, and how do you think it will impact the field?
Across three studies, we show that consumers evaluate experience services more favorably when exposed to peer review, while they evaluate credence services more favorably when exposed to expert review). In addition, we show that these interaction effects can be explained by consumers’ confidence in their service evaluations.
More importantly, we identify the moderating role of information convergence on these effects. Specifically, convergent positive reviews (e.g. multiple positive reviews from peers and/or experts) confirm the aforementioned effects. However, when consumers see mixed information (i.e., positive and negative reviews) from either similar (i.e., multiple peer reviews or multiple expert reviews) or different sources (i.e., combination of peer and expert reviews), negative expert review has stronger influence than negative peer review in lowering consumer confidence and their service evaluations. This is a key result that is new to the literature.
Overall, these findings make important contributions to the literature on information processing in the services domain, and also have significant practical implications on managing consumer expectations of third-party information.
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