When Appealing to Agency Backfires: Evidence from a Multinational Field Experiment and the Lab

65 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2021

See all articles by Joseph Reiff

Joseph Reiff

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management

Hengchen Dai

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management

Jana Gallus

UCLA Anderson

Anita McClough

InMoment

Steve Eitniear

InMoment

Michelle Slick

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Charlotte Blank

Maritz Holdings Inc.

Date Written: October 20, 2021

Abstract

Firms often use appeals like “Your voice matters” or “Have your say in our company’s direction” when attempting to increase customer engagement. We examine whether trying to motivate people by persuading them that their behavior is consequential – a tactic that we call an “agency appeal” – is effective in increasing customers’ willingness to offer feedback. In a field experiment across seven countries, we invited 430,666 customers of a large technology company to take a voluntary customer feedback survey and manipulated the subject line of the email invitations. Contrary to our initial prediction and expert forecasts, we found that agency appeals on average decreased feedback provision (compared to a straightforward control message). Importantly, agency appeals reduced feedback provision in countries with low trust in business (e.g., Japan), while producing positive effects in countries with high trust in business (e.g., China). We theorize and offer pre-registered lab evidence (N = 1,505) that agency appeals reduce compliance among customers with low trust in business because these customers perceive agency appeals as inauthentic. Altogether, this research advances the field’s understanding of when and why appealing to agency fails to motivate customers and even backfires.

Keywords: persuasion, customer feedback, agency, trust, inauthenticity, multinational field experiment

JEL Classification: M31

Suggested Citation

Reiff, Joseph and Dai, Hengchen and Gallus, Jana and McClough, Anita and Eitniear, Steve and Slick, Michelle and Blank, Charlotte, When Appealing to Agency Backfires: Evidence from a Multinational Field Experiment and the Lab (October 20, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3946685 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3946685

Joseph Reiff (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

Hengchen Dai

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

Jana Gallus

UCLA Anderson ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1481
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.janagallus.com/

Anita McClough

InMoment ( email )

10355 South Jordan Gateway
South Jordan, UT 84095
United States
(419) 575-0299 (Phone)

Steve Eitniear

InMoment ( email )

10355 South Jordan Gateway
South Jordan, UT 84095
United States
(419) 356-0541 (Phone)

Michelle Slick

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Charlotte Blank

Maritz Holdings Inc. ( email )

1375 North Highway Drive
Fenton, MO 63099
United States

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