Stephenson Department of Entrepreneurship & Information Systems

Document Type



The world is changing, and companies are becoming more exposed to systems beyond their control (e.g., online review systems, social media, shopping comparisons websites). We define systems beyond the firm’s control as any information systems neither designed nor commissioned by a company, that the firm must use to compete. Despite their importance and increasing prevalence these types of systems are surprisingly understudied in Information Systems. We focus our attention on the effective use of a specific class of systems beyond the firm’s control: online review systems. Online reviews are virtualized and broadcasted customer service systems that affect customers’ decisions. Companies have limited control on an online review system and their participation is not always discretionary. So, they are a perfect example of systems beyond the firm’s control. In this dissertation, we harness the textual content generated in these systems (online reviews and managerial responses) to study its impact on companies’ performance. In particular in the first essay, we establish that the content of the online reviews can be used to gather critical information about the quality of the service provided and to measure the impact of different experience aspects on customer satisfaction. While, in the second essay, we show that the information extracted from unstructured data using text mining techniques is not only relevant but is in fact interpretable for humans. By doing so we validate the methodology used in this dissertation, weakly-supervised topic modeling. Finally, in the third essay we focus our attention on how companies can effectively use these systems to improve their competitive performance. Given that companies’ only legal action is to provide managerial responses, by analyzing their content we investigate if different types of responses (generic vs. specific) achieve the same outcome. We find that companies that provide congruent responses use the online review systems effectively and this leads to improvements of their competitive performance.

Committee Chair

Piccoli, Gabriele



Available for download on Monday, May 11, 2026