Are Neutral Sentiments Worth Considering When Investigating Online Consumer Reviews? Their Relationship with Review Ratings

Son, Jaebong
Lee, Hyung-Koo
Choi, Hyoungyong
Oh, On-Ook
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Online consumer reviews (OCRs) play an important role for firms to understand consumer satisfaction. Prior research on OCRs has used sentiment analysis to identify and quantify consumers’ subjective impressions in terms of positive and negative sentiments. However, OCRs also contain objective facts about the product or service, which are represented by neutral sentiments. In this study, we argue that it is important to distinguish neutral sentiments from those of positivity and negativity when investigating consumer satisfaction. Through a lens of expectation-confirmation theory, we delineate the roles of subjective information in relation to consumer satisfaction, in the sense that consumer satisfaction is mainly formed by one’s subjective expectations and evaluations, not by objective facts of the product or service. The empirical results obtained from OCRs about hotels demonstrate that consumer satisfaction is significantly higher in positive OCRs than neutral ones, and significant lower in negative OCRs than neutral ones. Furthermore, neutral sentiments drastically improve the explanatory power of empirical models, thereby enhancing our understanding of consumer satisfaction. Academically, this study sheds light on the importance of neutral sentiments. Practically, neutral sentiments, when being separated from the other two sentiment categories, contribute to more accurately reflecting consumer satisfaction.
Firm and User Generated Content in the Digital Economy: Key Players, Management and Impact, expectation-confirmation theory, hotel reviews, neutral sentiment, review rating
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