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Online Reviews of Credence Service Providers: What Do Consumers Evaluate, Do Other Consumers Believe the Reviews, and Are Interventions Needed?
Journal of Public Policy & Marketing  (IF4.5),  Pub Date : 2020-10-08, DOI: 10.1177/0743915620950676
Shannon Lantzy, Rebecca W. Hamilton, Yu-Jen Chen, Katherine Stewart

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.