Consumer Perception of E-Service Quality: From Internet Purchaser and Non-Purchaser Perspectives

Article excerpt

Abstract

This exploratory study expands the knowledge concerning service quality dimensions in the context of Internet commerce, from the differing perspectives of two groups: Internet purchasers and Internet non-purchasers. Six primary service quality dimensions perceived by Internet purchasers were uncovered: reliability, access, ease of use, personalization, security, and credibility while seven dimensions were discovered for Internet non-purchasers: security, responsiveness, ease of use, reliability, availability, personalization, and access. When examining the relative importance of each dimension affecting overall service quality assessment, the "reliability" factor was found to be the most important dimension for Internet purchasers while Internet non-purchasers consider "security" as their most critical concern.

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The Internet commerce industry has gone through an initial period of focusing on new customers to the present stage of both retaining and attracting customers. Instant price comparisons on the Web, brought by powerful search engines, make non-price competitive advantages, such as service quality, ever more critical in retaining and attracting customers (Griff & Palmer 1999; Jarvenpaa & Todd 1997; Liu & Arnett 2000). What brings online customers back, primarily, is a sense of loyalty that comes from an Internet company (1) offering better service than anyone else (Hoff, McWilliams & Saveri 1998).

To offer better services, it is necessary for Internet companies to investigate what existing and potential customers expect for service quality. In the context of Internet commerce, existing customers are those who have utilized the Internet as a channel to purchase products and services. Potential customers, for Internet commerce industry as a whole, are generally those who have utilized the Internet as a source to search for information about desired products and services but have never purchased through the Internet (i.e., they prefer to purchase through traditional channels). For purposes of this study, these two types of consumers are coined "Internet purchasers" and "Internet non-purchasers", respectively.

The ideal action for Internet companies is to improve and maintain all service quality attributes that satisfy both existing and potential customers' needs and wants. However, given that both large and small online companies have limited resources, priorities must be set among alternative service attributes in making investment decisions based on a company's business strategies. If online companies can understand the similarities and differences of key service quality dimensions perceived by Internet purchasers and Internet non-purchasers, different service offering strategies can be applied to retain existing Internet customers and attract potential customers. Therefore, it is necessary to understand both Internet purchasers' and non-purchasers' perceptions of service quality attributes related to Internet purchasing.

Nevertheless, no empirical attention has been given to examining the service quality attributes in the context of Internet commerce from the perspectives of Internet purchasers and Internet non-purchasers. This article, therefore, intends to expand the body of knowledge relating to the service quality construct within the Internet commerce context. Three specific research questions are investigated:

* What are the key underlying dimensions of service quality within the framework of Internet commerce as perceived by Internet purchasers and nonpurchasers?

* Are there any differences between the two groups' perceptions of service quality dimensions? If any, what are they?

* Which service quality attributes most significantly impact the overall service quality as assessed by Internet purchasers and non-purchasers?

Conceptual Background

Internet Purchasers Versus Internet Non-Purchasers

Internet purchasers and non-purchasers are somewhat interchangeable. …