Climbing the down escalatorWhen customer-to-customer interaction may not be helping service firms

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Purpose: This paper aims to examine the effect of customer-to-customer (C2C) interaction while using a service on the willingness of consumers to engage in altruistic customer participation (CP) or co-production efforts aimed at helping other customers. It further examines the role of consumer skepticism toward the service category in moderating the effects of C2C interaction on altruistic CP and customer satisfaction. Design/methodology/approach: A survey methodology was used to collect data from 374 consumers of health-care services in India. The data collection involved interviews of patients visiting diabetes clinics and focused primarily on the interaction between customers and their willingness to participate in educating members of the community on diabetic self-care. Findings: The analysis shows that C2C interaction positively affects customer satisfaction and willingness to engage in altruistic CP. Consumer category skepticism does not moderate the effect of C2C interaction on customer willingness to engage in altruistic CP. However, category skepticism does have the moderating effect of significantly reducing the positive effect of C2C interaction on customer satisfaction. Research limitations/implications: Data for this study were collected via interviews of consumers in India. Each consumer was interviewed by a trained interviewer. Although the authors do not detect any systematic influence in the results, the possibility of bias is acknowledged. Regarding the research implications, the finding that category skepticism does not moderate the effect of C2C interaction on willingness to engage in altruistic CP suggest that ultimately consumers may have stronger commitment and loyalty to themselves and that their relationships with the firm’s might be peripheral. Practical implications: The study finds that consumer skepticism toward a service category can have adverse effects for service co-creation. The authors advise managers in troubled industries not to focus exclusively on improving brand differentiation but to also consider working with major industry players and regulators to address the deepest fears of consumers. Originality/value: The findings have implications for the service dominant logic of marketing in that it suggests that category skepticism is disruptive to the value integration process on which service co-creation relies for value creation. This has strong implications for how managers should structure their interaction processes with customers and for future research that seeks to them prove customer productivity.



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