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Responding to negative online reviews: The effects of hotel responses on customer inferences of trust and concern

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Abstract

Our research examines the perceptions and evaluations of prospective customers toward an online negative review and any accompanying hotel response. The study explores two main issues: whether the presence (versus absence) of an organizational response to negative customer reviews affects the inferences potential consumers draw about the target business, and which aspects of responses affect their impressions. We test the effects of four variables associated with a response: source of response, voice of responder, speed of response, and action frame on two outcomes variables (i.e., customer concern and trust inferences). The provision of an online response (versus no response) enhanced inferences that potential consumers draw regarding the business's trustworthiness and the extent to which it cares about its customers. Using a human voice and a timely response yielded favorable customer inferences. Inferences did not vary with response source or action frame. Implications are drawn for effective management of negative online reviews.
Responding to negative online reviews: The effects of hotel responses
on customer inferences of trust and concern
Beverley A. Sparks
a
, Kevin Kam Fung So
b
,
*
, Graham L. Bradley
c
a
Grifth Institute for Tourism, Grifth University, Queensland, 4222, Australia
b
School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management and Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development, University of South
Carolina, Columbia, USA
c
School of Applied Psychology, Grifth University, Queensland, 4222, Australia
highlights
We conduct an experimental study to test the use of four aspects of responding to consumer online comments.
The provision of a response (versus no response) enhanced inferences of trust and concern.
Using a human voice style in the hotel's response was favorably received.
A timely response also yielded favorable customer inferences.
This study advances current understanding of effective online reputation management.
article info
Article history:
Received 13 June 2015
Received in revised form
11 September 2015
Accepted 15 September 2015
Available online xxx
Keywords:
Online hotel reviews
E-complaints
Consumer inferences
Electronic word of mouth
Social media
Trust
Customer concern
Service failure
abstract
Our research examines the perceptions and evaluations of prospective customers toward an online
negative review and any accompanying hotel response. The study explores two main issues: whether the
presence (versus absence) of an organizational response to negative customer reviews affects the in-
ferences potential consumers draw about the target business, and which aspects of responses affect their
impressions. We test the effects of four variables associated with a response: source of response, voice of
responder, speed of response, and action frame on two outcomes variables (i.e., customer concern and
trust inferences). The provision of an online response (versus no response) enhanced inferences that
potential consumers draw regarding the business's trustworthiness and the extent to which it cares
about its customers. Using a human voice and a timely response yielded favorable customer inferences.
Inferences did not vary with response source or action frame. Implications are drawn for effective
management of negative online reviews.
©2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
As a major source of electronic word of mouth (e-WOM) infor-
mation, the Internet has transformed how people search for
products and services (King, Racherla, &Bush, 2014; Serra
Cantallops &Salvi, 2014). One form of e-WOM, customer-
generated reviews, is having a particularly strong impact on how
consumers obtain information, make evaluations, and reach
purchase decisions in relation to tourism and hospitality products
and services (Browning, So, &Sparks, 2013; Hudson &Thal, 2013;
Xiang &Gretzel, 2010). The popularity and impact of web sites
that contain customer-generated content can be traced to several
sources. They include the ubiquity of the Internet, the ease and
anonymity with which consumer review sites can be accessed, and
the availability of both positive and negative evaluations from large
numbers of consumers in relation to single tourism products
(Buhalis &Law, 2008). Information on these sites is typically pro-
vided by consumers who have had recent, direct experience with
the target product, and is reported in multiple forms including
aggregated ratings and detailed narratives of individual
*Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: b.sparks@grifth.edu.au (B.A. Sparks), kevinso@hrsm.sc.edu
(K.K.F. So), g.bradley@grifth.edu.au (G.L. Bradley).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Tourism Management
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/tourman
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tourman.2015.09.011
0261-5177/©2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Tourism Management 53 (2016) 74e85
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