Asking an Embarrassingly Simple Question: When Online P3 Communities Diminish Consumers’ Willingness to Request Needed Help
43 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2020
Date Written: December 12, 2019
The current research investigates how consumers consider the personal and social implications of posting a question when seeking help via online peer-to-peer problem solving communities. Although P3 communities seem like an efficient technology that greatly increases the availability of consumer help, we show that they are still plagued by the problem of consumers not asking their questions due to the presence of certain cues on the forums. Four studies show that consumers perceive competence expectations while viewing the questions posted by existing forum participants. As a result, consumers tend to become reluctant to post questions that seem to fall short of competence expectations due to anticipated embarrassment. To mitigate such reluctance, we have created an intervention feature in the P3 forum called self-disclaimer, which requires each participant to publicly evaluate the level of their own question (novice¬–expert levels) before posting. Drawing on work from the symbolic interactionist and impression management theories, we show that the public self-disclaimer facilitates help-seeking decisions by communicating the shared awareness of the forum’s competence norm. We discuss the implications of our findings to promote consumers’ learning of products via P3 communities, which has ultimate consequences in enhancing the well-being of individual and communities of consumers.
Keywords: Consumer Help-Seeking, Peer-to-Peer Problem Solving Communities, Product Expertise, Competence Norm, Self-Disclaimer
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation