Chunyu LI

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marketing and International Business

First Advisor

Prof. CUI, Geng

Second Advisor

Prof. PENG, Ling


Given the tremendous impact of online reviews on consumer choice, responding to online word of mouth (WOM) has become an important channel for firms to engage the consumers. This thesis investigates how firms can proactively respond to online product reviews to engage customers and manage customer relationships. In Study One, based upon the data of hotel reviews on, I propose that responding by firms differ in three aspects, namely frequency, speed, and the amount of information, and these metrics exert significant influence on subsequent consumes’ WOM engagement, hotel rankings, and votes of usefulness of the reviews.

Moreover, in contrast to responding to positive reviews, responding to negative reviews greatly affects consumption decisions given the negativity bias among consumers. Thus, the subsequent two studies examine whether responding help to alleviate the detrimental impact of negative reviews. Drawing from the literature on crisis management, service failure recovery, Study Two posits that sellers’ responses to negative WOM can be categorized as defensive and accommodative. Further, whether accommodative or defensive responding is more effective depends upon the nature of NWOM, namely regular NWOM or product failure. Based on the results of a between-subject experiment, Study Two provides evidence for the asymmetric impact of accommodative versus defensive responding. When confronting regular NWOM, defensive response outperforms accommodative response or no response, whereas accommodative response is superior to defensive response or no response when coping with a service failure.

Further, based on the attribution of negative reviews, a moderated mediation effect is found. To enhance the external validity and robustness of these findings, Study Three provides econometric evidence that the relative effectiveness of accommodative vs defensive response on subsequent consumers’ evaluation of their consumption experience. Upon analyzing the hotels’ responses on, responding can be a double-edged sword in that it works only when seller takes the appropriate responding strategies. In particular, the higher proportion of accommodative responses (defensive responses) for product failure reviews (regular negative reviews), the higher the subsequent consumers’ satisfaction. However, responding can backfire when the proportion of defensive responses (accommodative responses) for product failure (regular negative reviews) is high. To recapitulate, this thesis identifies whether and how online responding influences consumer experiences on social media. These research findings can help firms formulate effective responding strategies to take advantage of social media’s unique ability to engage customers and improve consumer satisfaction and loyalty.


Online Review Management, Online Responding, Electronic Commerce, Customer Engagement


Per author's instruction, fulltext access embargoed until May 23, 2018.

Recommended Citation

Li, C. (2015). Engaging your customers via responding to online product reviews (Doctor's thesis, Lingnan University, Hong Kong). Retrieved from

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