The Effect of Attribute Alignability on Service Evaluation: The Moderating Role of Uncertainty
Prior research suggests that consumers make trade-offs between two products by focusing more on alignable differences (i.e., the values of the options on the same attributes are different) than on nonalignable differences (i.e., the options have different attributes). The present research applies the structural alignment model to examine how uncertainty associated with the evaluation of services may lead to greater reliance on nonalignable attributes, especially for credence services. The results of three studies provide support for the uncertainty hypothesis. Specifically, study 1 showed that consumers rely more on alignable attributes when evaluating experience services, but shift their focus to nonalignable attributes when evaluating credence services that are associated with greater uncertainty. Using different operationalizations of uncertainty, studies 2 and 3 provided further support for the uncertainty hypothesis by systematically varying the ambiguity of consumer reviews (study 2) and consumer confidence in their judgment (study 3).
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