Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Customer Service Factors Influencing Internet Shopping in New Zealand

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Customer Service Factors Influencing Internet Shopping in New Zealand

Article excerpt


Recent reports show that more than half of New Zealand Internet users have not shopped on the Internet and many companies are only slowly implementing e-commerce capabilities ("New Zealand Firms," 2002; "Retailing," 2000). It is becoming apparent that in order to encourage more consumers to be involved in the e-shopping world, e-tailers need to provide a good shopping experience on their sites, in special quality e-customer service. Today, customers have more choices, and can quickly and easily switch to a competitor on the Internet. Serving customers on the Internet is much harder. After all, 'the competition is just a click away' (Zemke & Connellan, 2001). Many recent e-commerce failure stories are due to poor e-customer service (e.g. Hendrickson & Gianforte, 1999; Sukpanich & Chen, 2000; Tehrani, 2000). These facts have motivated a number of researchers to explore the critical factors that influence e-customer service (e.g. Muthitacharoen, 2000; Rose, Straub, & Lees, 2000; Sukpanich & Chen, 2000; Webb, 2000 among others). The purpose of this paper is to present the results of research that evaluated current e-customer service experiences for a group of New Zealand shoppers, discovered the key motivators and barriers to Internet shopping, and determined what the important Internet shopping features are from their perspective. The paper provides a comprehensive survey of critical success factors for online customer service and highlights the importance of building online communities.

Online Customer Service

Poor customer service will discourage customers from doing Internet shopping even faster than in a traditional shopping environment. Nowadays, people have many choices and expect high quality service. E-business success or failure is greatly determined by whether customers are satisfied or not (Pastore, 2000). If customers are satisfied, they will buy more, and more importantly, they may become active referral sources via various fast communication channels (Wesler, 2001). On the contrary, dissatisfied customers will tell other people about their bad experience quickly through the Internet, and can, with only one click, quickly and easily switch to competitors' sites (Abrams, 2000; Ferrara, 2000). As e-commerce keeps growing, online customer service quality may become a dominant factor of attracting a consumer to shop on a site (Jovin & Lach, 1999).

Online Customer Relationship

Customer relationships have become an important aspect of e-commerce success as it is harder to build trust and customer loyalty in an intangible and uncertain business environment.

Online Customer Relationship and Customer Loyalty

Seybold (1998) suggests that to successfully build online relationships with customers, e-tailers should keep their customers in mind, do not waste their customers time, make online purchase easy for customers, and provide their customers with customized products and services. Since acquiring new customers is more expensive than managing existing customers (McCall, 2000), Customer Loyalty, measured in repeat purchases and referrals, has become the main source of e-business profit (Brodsky, 1997). Additionally, how much a customer can purchase on a website is greatly determined by his or her online shopping experience. Just one bad experience may cause them never to go back to this site (Hanover, 1998).

Interactive Communications

In order to reduce customer perceptions of uncertainty and risks, and build trust on the Web, efirms need to interactively communicate with their customers (Zhao & Gutierrez, 2001). Sukpanich and Chen (2000) argue that higher interactivity leads to a higher level of trust and higher levels of trust brings about a positive effect on customers intention to purchase. They consider interactivity as a 'driving force' behind e-commerce and an important role in consumer purchasing decisions. …

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