Date of Award

August 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil Engineering

Committee Member

Kapil Chalil Madathil

Committee Member

Patrick Rosopa

Committee Member

Kalyan Piratla

Committee Member

Sudeep Hegde


Home improvement services industry are a multi-billion dollar industry with an ever increasing online presence as a result of advancements in technology. Such websites as Angie’s List, Thumbtack, and Home Advisor allow for information exchange between online consumers. Also known as Electronic Word of Mouth (eWOM), this information offers several advantages, for example quick dissemination and convenience; however, trust in such information is a key factor in consumer’s decision-making. With the increased use of eWOM in making decisions, it is important to investigate how consumers use the cues found on these websites, the research gap this dissertation addresses.Given the lack of research on decision-making related to the home improvement service domain, the first study in this dissertation focused on qualitatively understanding the online consumer’s sensemaking patterns, decision-making strategies, critical decision-making factors and trust in the information. The results indicated several patterns, with the most important being the significance of qualitative information like reviews. In addition, consumers placed significant emphasis on the service provider’s response to these reviews. Other basic information like the service provider’s background, hours of operation, contact details, and the location were expected by default. The second study quantitatively explored the importance of the service provider’s response to a review along with its valence. The results found that when the reviews were inconsistent, i.e., a neutral review or a combination of positive and negative reviews, the service provider’s response was important and increased the likelihood to hire. In addition, we found a lack of trust in negative reviews, a result which led to the final study in this dissertation which explored ways to rebuild trust when consumers encounter negative reviews/accusations. It quantitatively examined if a service provider’s response in the form of an apology or denial rebuilt the lost trust. The results indicated that regardless of the type of accusation, an elaborate explanation of the situation in the form of either an apology or denial helps rebuild trust compared to no response or a generic template apology or denial. Although trust was partially restored, additional cues are needed to completely regain the consumer’s business.



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