How Customer Participation in B2B Peer-to-Peer Problem-Solving Communities Influences the Need for Traditional Customer Service (New)

Sterling A. Bone, Utah State University
Paul W. Fombelle, Northeastern University
Kristal R. Ray, Utah State University
Katherine N. Lemon, Boston College

Customer support is critical for the success of business-to-business (B2B) service firms. A key issue such firms face is how to reduce customers’ reliance on traditional support service. B2B companies are increasingly turning to firm hosted virtual peer- to-peer problem-solving (P3) communities to fulfill some of their customer support service needs. This raises the question: Does customer problem-solving participation in such communities reduce the demands associated with traditional customer support service? This research investigates the effects of problem-solving customer participation in a P3 community among global B2B customers. Results reveal that community problem-solving customer participation, in terms of helping oneself (posting questions) and helping others (responding to peer questions), reduces the participant’s use of traditional customer support service. Results show that the frequency of logging in to the community and breadth of community memberships both serve to increase the use of traditional customer support service. This is the first empirical study to investigate the longitudinal effects of problem-solving customer participation in a peer-to-peer problem-solving community of B2B customers. Promoting peer-to-peer customer inter- actions provides managers with strategic levers to increase the efficiencies and the effectiveness of their support service.

 

Bone, Sterling A., Paul W. Fombelle, Kristal R. Ray, and Katherine N. Lemon (2015), “How Customer Participation in B2B Peer-to-Peer Problem-Solving Communities Influences the Need for Traditional Customer Service,” Journal of Service Research, 18 (1), 23-38.