This study demonstrates that when an individual encounters a product‐related problem, fellow consumers (i.e., one’s peers) have a unique advantage in providing social support to the affected consumer. Specifically, we find that social support can be a dominant driver of consumer satisfaction when the risk of customer defection is at its highest (i.e., following an unsuccessful attempt to solve the consumer’s problem). Using real‐world data from an online support community, a pilot study finds that if the problem that a consumer faces goes unsolved, satisfaction is greater when consumers receive peer‐provided versus firm‐provided support. Study 1 replicates this finding in a controlled experiment that realistically simulates an actual customer support incident in real‐time. Study 2 identifies social support as the mechanism that underlies this effect and investigates whether firm employees can take steps to appear more customer‐like and thereby replicate the advantage of peer‐provided support. Finally, Study 3 reveals an alternative strategy (i.e., utilizing multiple employees) that firms can use to enhance social support and provides evidence that peer‐provided support not only enhances satisfaction but also positively influences consumers’ behavioral intentions.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2019, Wiley Online Library