Examining the Impacts of Positive and Negative Online Hotel Reviews

By Shahin Sharifi Lecturer, Macquarie University | February 17, 2019

These days, consumers are likely to read online consumer reviews to learn about others' experiences and thoughts regarding a concept of their interest. Consumers were and are exposed to communications from firms (e.g., hotels) in form of promotional materials in different channels. The difference nowadays is that a consumer also has access to communications from real consumers who have tried services promoted by hotels and can attest whether or not a hotel delivered what they had promised or at least their services had been up to scratch.

In the clash between communications from hotels and communications from other customers, a prospective customer is likely to trust a fellow customer more than a focal firm, because a fellow customer would be considered an ingroup, while a hotel would be considered an outgroup. Accordingly, a hotel's success and sometimes even their survival may heavily depend on consumers' evaluations of their online consumer review.

Following the aforementioned clash in communications available to prospective customers (i.e., hotels versus their customers), it is critical to uncover how prospective customers would react to a facility versus their customers. That is, for a hotel, it would be pivotal to understand how much prospective customers would trust them upon reading a review about them. Notwithstanding, to a greater extent, it would be imperative to uncover how much a prospective customer would trust a review in the first place. For example, if a prospective customer did not trust a review for some reasons, then would it affect his or her evaluations of the hotel? Would any measures to address consumers' positive and/or negative feedback affect prospective customers' evaluations of consumer reviews.

Most of the existing research on online consumer reviews focuses on consumer trust in a focal facility upon reading a positive or negative review about them. The issues in the current knowledge regarding reactions to online reviews are bifold. Firstly, many reviews may conceivably be a mix of positive and negative pieces-that is, a mixed review. Overlooking the evaluations of mixed reviews significantly limits our knowledge about the impact of online reviews on consumer behavior and choice.

Secondly, before trusting a facility of focus in a review, a prospective customer needs to trust the review, per se. Hence, a precursor to consumer trust in a focal facility is the credibility of reviews-that is, the processes underpinning the evaluation of online consumer reviews may even weigh more than the outcome of such reviews, an issue overlooked in the existing research on online consumer reviews.

The current research argues that prospective customers of a hotel would consider a negative review a reviewer's retaliation against a hotel. Conversely, they would consider a positive review a reviewer's gratitude for quality services by a hotel. Relatedly, they would consider a mixed review a mix of both; however, owing to the asymmetry inherent in mixed reviews, prospective customers would have difficulty assessing whether the experience in a mixed review was positive or negative. Hence, this may reduce the credibility of mixed reviews. In this sense, the findings revealed that consumers trusted positive reviews the most, followed by mixed reviews, and then negative reviews.

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