Erfan Rezvani and Christian Rojas
This paper investigates whether firms’ responsiveness to customer reviews affects firms’ online reputation. Responsiveness is measured by the intensity (fraction) of reviews that are responded to whereas online reputation is measured using TripAdvisor’s average customer review rating (1–5 scale). Our analysis is applied to the hotel market in Manhattan (New York). To deal with the endogeneity of a hotel’s responsiveness, we instrument it with the responsiveness level displayed by nearby competitors. This identification strategy is motivated by the fact that hotels have a greater tendency to respond to reviews not only because a particular review demands attention, but also because they seek to comply (catch up) with their competitors’ level of responsiveness. The results show that one standard deviation increase in a hotel’s responsiveness level would result in an improvement of 0.055 stars in TripAdvisor’s average online rating (equivalently, an increase of 0.09 SD). Importantly, not accounting for endogeneity would lead to an erroneous conclusion that such effect is nonexistent. In addition, our results show that the effect is heterogeneous. Specifically, the effect is particularly strong for: (a) hotels responding more intensely to negative reviews, (b) independent hotels (vis-à-vis chain hotels), (c) hotels with a less established online reputation, (d) hotels with more volatile online ratings, and (e) hotels with more experience responding to negative reviews. We discuss the possible mechanism between firms’ responsiveness and online reputation.