Date of Award

5-2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management

Major Professor

Sejin Ha

Committee Members

Youn-Kyung Kim, Jeremy E. Whaley, Russell L. Zaretzki

Abstract

Due to the public nature of service interactions in online platforms, it is imperative for retailers to understand consumer audiences who actively search for online information and observe the conversations between complainants and retailers in their product/service evaluations. The current research develops a comprehensive framework to explain how consumer audiences process online service recoveries (i.e., retailer responses to complaint messages). Specifically, this dissertation examines how an individual factor (audience power level) moderates the effect of a contextual factor (retailer response type) on consumer audiences’ information processing. Furthermore, relationship orientation, as a moderator of the interaction effects of audience power and retailer response type on audience perceptions, is tested. Two online experiments are developed to investigate the conceptual model.Study 1 shows that consumer audiences with low levels of power are more likely to make favorable evaluations of competence-related retailer responses (emphasizing retailers’ knowledge of their products) compared to warmth-related responses (emphasizing friendliness) in service interactions. High-power consumer audiences, on the other hand, are more likely to have favorable reactions toward warmth-related retailer responses than competence-related responses. Moreover, the interaction of audience power with retailer response type activates different audience attitudes and behavioral intentions through their perceptions of the service recoveries. Further, the dynamic relationships involved in audiences’ information processing, including perceptions, attitudes, and behavioral responses are examined.Study 2 tests that relationship orientation serves as a moderator to facilitate the interaction effects of power and retailer response type on consumer audiences’ service perceptions. The results show that high-power consumer audiences with communal orientations are likely to have more favorable perceptions of warmth-related responses than competence-related responses. However, having an exchange orientation appears to have no effect on consumer audiences’ perceptions, regardless of power level.The current research makes meaningful theoretical contributions to the literature on power theory and relationship orientation by providing empirical evidence and theoretical explanations within online service recovery context. The findings of this dissertation also provide a better understanding of consumer audiences and thus offer new service guidelines for retailers to develop effective response strategies to handle consumer complaints.

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