Towards Understanding Consumer Processing of Online Negative-Word-of-Mouth Communication: The Roles of Opinion Consensus and Organizational Response Strategies

Open Access
Lee, Chung Hun
Graduate Program:
Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 04, 2011
Committee Members:
  • David Allen Cranage, Dissertation Advisor
  • David Allen Cranage, Committee Chair
  • Anna S Mattila, Committee Member
  • Breffni M Noone, Committee Member
  • Deborah Lee Kerstetter, Committee Member
  • organizatinal response
  • opinion consensus
  • negative word-of-mouth communication
  • Electronic word-of-mouth
  • potential consumers
  • attitude change
The Internet has produced numerous online word of mouth communication channels where prospective consumers can readily acquire from other consumers a great deal of positive and negative reviews about a company and its services. These online articulations, due to their being widely and rapidly spread, are likely to have a significant effect on the potential consumer’s overall service evaluation, and therefore the company’s reputation and profit. Prior research suggests that this impact is greater when they are negative (vs. positive) word of mouth (NWOM) messages and when other consumers highly agree upon the NWOM communication. Although many organizations strive to handle NWOM online, limited research has attempted to understand the influence of NWOM on potential consumers’ buying behaviors and to suggest the appropriate organizational response strategy to NWOM communication. In an attempt to bridge this gap, this dissertation identified the roles of consensus on NWOM communication and organizational response to NWOM in affecting potential consumers’ evaluation process of a service organization – their attributional judgment and attitude formation. First, impression formation theory, attribution theory, and information processing theory were reviewed and combined to propose a theoretical research framework. Second, the pilot and subsequent main studies were conducted to empirically test the proposed research model by employing an experimental design. The results showed that consensus on online NWOM communication plays a pivotal role in influencing the weights and attributions of NWOM that potential consumers bring to their evaluations about the target company. Additionally, this NWOM consensus effects are contingent on the organizational response strategies. Finally, theoretical and practical implications, limitations, and directions for future research were discussed.