Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

Knowledge-Base and Online Self-Service

Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

Knowledge-Base and Online Self-Service

Article excerpt


With a B2C orientation, this research focuses attention on knowledge-base (KB) capabilities and their relationships with customers' self-service experience in conjunction with repeat purchase intention. Using structural equation modeling, our analyses of experimental survey data show that both KB capabilities and self-service experience are significantly and positively related to purchase intention. Overall, this research makes two key contributions: (1) the concept of information search and relational marketing for decision-making is integrated into the study of KB; (2) it analyzes KB from a customer's perspective instead of the organizational perspective that characterizes prior work. Implications for future research are discussed.

Keywords: Information search, knowledge base, online self-service, self service technology, self-efficacy.

1. Introduction

Today's economy is characterized by a rapid rate of change, globalization, knowledge-intensive product-designs, and after-sales services. These factors intensify the competitive environment where knowledge is regarded as an organizational asset and knowledge management (KM) implementation supports the organization in developing innovative products [Chen and Su 2006]. In developing innovative products, the goal is to enhance customers' satisfaction with product purchases. Similarly, in the realm of customer support, KM projects attempt to improve customer satisfaction by reducing wait times or by improving access to meaningful knowledge online [Davenport and Klahr 1998]. For example, Hewlett-Packard (HP) reaped two key KM benefits: a cost reduction of 50 percent in answering customers' calls over a two year period, and the ability to hire less technically experienced support analysts without affecting performance [Davenport and Klahr 1998]. It is not surprising that IT services (including maintenance and support) accounted as much as 17% of HP sales [Standard & Poor's 2006]. Additionally, KM projects have the potential to significantly enhance service appeal. Self-service - often considered a cost-cutting measure - can be a significant value adder in KM-aided e-business firms such as Dell, Amazon, eBay, and [Tiwana 2001]. Such e-retailers are important because nearly 50% of online shoppers consider new electronic products, upgrades, or replacements for broken parts. Furthermore, 57% of 2,535 consumers surveyed by Jupiter Research [INSIGHT 2005] indicated that the efficiency of service resolution affected their decision to purchase.

Although the introduction of self-service initially yields cost savings and operational efficiency, some leading firms now emphasize customer growth and competitive differentiation in an increasingly complex and dynamic marketplace [Miller 2007]. To win or retain customers, they have to deliver superior online customer experience, such as high quality and relevant content that addresses different needs across the sales cycle, such as those that become salient during product research, actual purchase, or after sales service. For most e-businesses, retaining customers is the toughest challenge; however, an organization can serve these needs by managing their customer knowledge base carefully.

Given the Internet's 24x7 access characteristic [Birgelen et al. 2002], customers now demand instant pre-purchase and/or post-purchase service when they need it. This requires careful harnessing of customer data. Every online interaction with a customer may evolve into a transaction, provide the opportunity to introduce a new service, ask for repeated businesses, or at least track customers' online behavior to improve future customer experience. Capturing transactional data such as order history is a first step to improve customer service or self-service. KM tools help source, collect, combine, filter, and analyze data to generate actionable information. They are key facilitators for marketing, sales, and support functions [Miller 1956]. …

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