Customer Experience

Kevin Lewis

September 11, 2021

Consumers Believe That Products Work Better for Others
Evan Polman et al.
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming 

Consumers tend to see themselves in a positive light, yet we present evidence that they are pessimistic about whether they will receive a product’s benefits. In 15 studies (N = 6,547; including nine pre-registered), we found that consumers believe that product efficacy is higher for others than it is for themselves. For example, consumers believe that consuming an adult coloring book (to inspire creativity), a sports drink (to satisfy thirst), medicine (to relieve pain), or an online class (to learn something new) will have a greater effect on others than on themselves. We show that this bias holds across many kinds of products and judgment-targets, and inversely correlates with factors such as product familiarity, product usefulness, and relationship closeness with judgment-targets. Moreover, we find this bias stems from consumers’ beliefs they are more unique and less malleable than others, and that it alters the choices people make for others. We conclude by discussing implications for research on gift-giving, advice-giving, usership, and interpersonal social, health, and financial choices.

Blame the Bot: Anthropomorphism and Anger in Customer-Chatbot Interactions
Cammy Crolic et al.
Journal of Marketing, forthcoming 

Chatbots have become common in digital customer service contexts across many industries. While many companies choose to humanize their customer service chatbots (e.g., giving them names and avatars), little is known about how anthropomorphism influences customer responses to chatbots in service settings. Across five studies, including an analysis of a large real-world dataset from an international telecommunications company and four experiments, the authors find that when customers enter a chatbot-led service interaction in an angry emotional state, chatbot anthropomorphism has a negative effect on customer satisfaction, overall firm evaluation, and subsequent purchase intentions. However, this is not the case for customers in non-angry emotional states. The authors uncover the underlying mechanism driving this negative effect (expectancy violations caused by inflated pre-encounter expectations of chatbot efficacy) and offer practical implications for managers. These findings suggest it is important to both carefully design chatbots and consider the emotional context in which they are used, particularly in customer service interactions that involve resolving problems or handling complaints.

How Well Does Bargaining Work in Consumer Markets? A Robust Bounds Approach
Bradley Larsen & Joachim Freyberger
NBER Working Paper, August 2021

This study provides a structural analysis of detailed, alternating-offer bargaining data from eBay, deriving bounds on buyers and sellers private value distributions using a range of assumptions on behavior. These assumptions range from very weak (assuming only that acceptance and rejection decisions are rational) to less weak (e.g., assuming that bargaining offers are weakly increasing in players' private values). We estimate the bounds and show what they imply for consumer negotiation behavior in theory and practice. For the median product, bargaining ends in impasses in 43% of negotiations even when the buyer values the good more than the seller.

The Threshold-Crossing Effect: Just-Below Pricing Discourages Consumers to Upgrade
Junha Kim, Selin Malkoc & Joseph
Goodman Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Managers often set prices just-below a round number (e.g., $39) – a strategy that lowers price perceptions and increases sales. The authors question this conventional wisdom in a common consumer context: upgrade decisions (e.g., whether to upgrade a car or hotel room). Seven studies—including one field study—provide empirical evidence for a threshold-crossing effect. When a base product is priced at or just-above a threshold, consumers are more likely to upgrade and spend more money (studies 1–3) because they perceive the upgrade option as less expensive (study 4), and they place less weight on price (study 5). Testing theoretically motivated and managerially relevant boundary conditions, studies find that the threshold-crossing effect is mitigated under sequential choice (study 6) and when an upgrade price crosses an upper threshold (study 7). These studies demonstrate that a small increase in price on a base product can decrease price perceptions of an upgrade option and, thus, increase consumers’ likelihood to upgrade. It suggests that just-below pricing, while sometimes advantageous at first, may not always be an optimal strategy for managers trying to encourage consumers to ultimately choose an upgrade option.

Choosing the Light Meal: Real-Time Aggregation of Calorie Information Reduces Meal Calories
Eric VanEpps et al.
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming 

Numeric labeling of calories on restaurant menus has been implemented widely, but scientific studies have generally not found substantial effects on calories ordered. The present research tests the impact of a feedback format that is more targeted at how consumers select and revise their meals: real-time aggregation of calorie content to provide dynamic feedback about meal calories via a traffic light label. Because these labels intuitively signal when a meal shifts from healthy to unhealthy (via the change from green to a yellow or red light), they prompt decision makers to course-correct in real time, before they finalize their choice. Results from five preregistered experiments (N = 11,900) show that providing real-time traffic light feedback about the total caloric content of a meal reduces calories in orders, even compared with similar aggregated feedback in numeric format. Patterns of ordering reveal this effect to be driven by people revising high-calorie orders more frequently, leading them to choose fewer and lower-calorie items. Consumers also like traffic light aggregation, indicating greater satisfaction with their order and greater intentions to return to restaurants that use them. The authors discuss how dynamic feedback using intuitive signals could yield benefits in contexts beyond food choice.

How Association with Physical Waste Attenuates Consumer Preferences for Rescue-Based Food 
Anna de Visser-Amundson, John Peloza & Mirella Kleijnen
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

In an effort to combat food waste, many firms have introduced rescue-based foods (RBFs), which are made from ingredients that are safe to eat but would otherwise be wasted, often due to aesthetic issues or oversupply. Although the benefits of RBF are varied, some firms adopt strategies that highlight RBF’s waste-reduction benefits, such as reduced landfill use or lower environmental impact. This research posits that when firms adopt strategies that highlight associations between physical waste and RBF, those associations can generate negative mental imagery, which can trigger disgust and mitigate positive consumer attitudes toward RBF. When such associations are not present, demand is consistent with demand for conventional foods. The authors find support for the role of mental imagery in this demand mitigation process, with some promotional appeals stimulating thoughts of physical waste. Counterintuitively, this research reveals that when marketers adopt the common practice of using environmental benefit appeals that can trigger physical waste associations, such as the color green, consumer demand for RBF diminishes. Conversely, focusing on the societal benefits or limiting the number of cues available to create physical waste associations generates consumer demand for these foods on a level equivalent to that of conventional food.


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