We recognized that purchasing professionals do not have unlimited choices nor time in the decision-making process. We also knew from our earlier interviews that purchasing professionals see reviews, and any element speaking to a supplier’s performance, as one part of a larger decision-making matrix. So we were interested to understand the conditions under which purchasing professionals may willing to be more or less engaged when presented with a negative supplier review.
Similarity of the source of a review had be examined in B2C research in terms of similar geographic location of a reviewer to a potential customer and similar language and interests between the two. The findings suggest that similarity breeds greater interest in a product. However, in these situations from previous research in B2C, the reviews were neutral or positive. What might happen if the review was negative? Where might the attribution for failure fall, with the reviewer or with the supplier?
In the second field experiment with 100 purchasing professionals, we investigated the situation comparing engagement that resulted from reading a negative review from a reviewer similar or dissimilar to the purchasing professional, as well as comparing those results to those from purchasing professionals who read a review from an internal stakeholder. The internal review we suspected should produce identical results to the review from the reviewer deemed similar to the purchasing professional’s company.
The idea was interesting to us that purchasing professionals seemed to attribute the fault of the supplier’s poor performance to the buyer when that buyer was described as “very different” from their company, and thus purchasing professionals were more engaged in those cases. Suppliers have little to no control over the way in which others speak about their performance. So, understanding how purchasing professionals mentally process negative reviews and determine who is to blame for the supplier’s poor performance rating is important. We decided to conduct a third experiment to dig a bit deeper into this topic.