Online Reviews of Credence Service Providers: What Do Consumers Evaluate, Do Other Consumers Believe the Reviews, and Are Interventions Needed?

Shannon LANTZY, Rebecca W. HAMILTON, Yu-Jen CHEN, Katherine STEWART

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

Abstract

Consumer-generated online reviews of credence service providers, such as doctors, have become common on platforms such as Yelp and RateMDs. Yet doctors have challenged the legitimacy of these platforms on the grounds that consumers do not have the expertise required to evaluate the quality of the medical care they receive. This challenge is supported by the economics of information literature, which has characterized doctors as a credence service, meaning that consumers cannot evaluate quality even after consumption. Are interventions needed to ensure that consumers are not misled by these reviews? Data from real online reviews shows that many of the claims made in real reviews of credence service providers focus on experience attributes, such as promptness, which consumers can typically evaluate, rather than credence attributes, such as knowledge. Follow-up experiments show that consumers are more likely to believe experience claims (vs. credence claims) made by other consumers, claims that are supported by data, and longer reviews even if they are not more informative. The authors discuss implications for consumers and credence service providers and possible policy interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number074391562095067
Pages (from-to)27-44
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Public Policy and Marketing
Volume40
Issue number1
Early online date7 Oct 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research is based on the dissertation of the first author at the Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. Funding was provided by a National Science Foundation ADVANCE Grant to the second and fourth authors and by the General Research Fund from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (LU 13501017) and Faculty Research from Lingnan University (DB19A4).

Keywords

  • argument quality
  • credence services
  • economics of information
  • online reviews
  • source effects

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