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Consumer search and satisfaction with mental health services

Lindsay R.L. Larson (Department of Marketing, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia, USA)
Dora Elizabeth Bock (Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 10 October 2016




Recent evidence on consumer decision-making suggests that highly complex choice scenarios lead consumers to use simplistic decision heuristics, often resulting in suboptimal decision-making. This study aims to investigate the relationships among consumers’ primary information source, patient satisfaction and patient well-being, specifically focused on the search for mental health professionals. The selection of a mental health provider is of interest, because practitioners work from a highly diverse set of theoretical bases, may hold a wide range of different credentials and provide drastically different therapeutic approaches, therefore making the selection complex and difficult for consumers to self-navigate.


Three studies were undertaken, with data sampling from both patients of mental health services and practitioners.


Consumers selecting a provider based on self-performed searches, rather than receiving external input (referrals from physicians, relatives or friends), report lower satisfaction with their mental health provider. In turn, patient satisfaction positively impacts patient well-being. Practitioner data corroborate these findings, revealing that a large percentage of patients stem from a self-performed internet search, though mental health providers recognize that external referrals are likely to lead to better outcomes.


The results reveal the importance of understanding the consumer search and, particularly, the use of the internet as a search tool. The results present several implications for service providers, including the need to identify patients’ primary source utilized within an information search, as it can adversely impact patient satisfaction.



Larson, L.R.L. and Bock, D.E. (2016), "Consumer search and satisfaction with mental health services", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 30 No. 7, pp. 736-748.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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