Academic journal article International Journal of Business and Information

Customer Value and Customer Roles on Social Media: A Travel Agency Case Study

Academic journal article International Journal of Business and Information

Customer Value and Customer Roles on Social Media: A Travel Agency Case Study

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Customer value is created during the processes of pre-purchase, purchase, and after-purchase, during which customers play different roles. This study analyzes customer value by identifying how customer roles influence and shape customer behavior. Traditionally, customer value is discussed as the relationship between a service provider and customers. The emergence of social media facilitates interaction not only between the service provider and customers, but also among online users. This study focuses on the kinds of value customers can earn from their interaction behaviors on social media, using a Taiwanese travel agency as a case study. The study identifies four types of customer roles and six types of customer value and their corresponding relationships as well. The research findings have several theoretical and practical implications.

Keywords: Customer value, customer roles, co-creation, social media

1. INTRODUCTION

Just like customer satisfaction and service quality, customer value is considered one of the most significant factors contributing to a firm's success [Gale, 1994; Parasuraman, 1997; Woodruff, 1997; Zeithaml, 1988; Zeithaml et ah, 1996]. In recent decades, these concepts have played a decisive role in service and marketing disciplines. The significance of customer satisfaction and service quality are commonly recognized in service and marketing research. However, whether customer value is one of the factors that affect purchase intention or one of the constructs to measure service effectiveness in these disciplines remain subjects of academic debate [Gallarza et ah, 2011].

Researchers' viewpoints about customer value have produced distinctive results. For example, some researchers suggest that perceived value is the antecedent of consumption [Hu et ah, 2009; Lin and Wang, 2006]; others posit that it is the consequence of consumption [Moliner et ah, 2007]; and still others assert that customer value can be one of the moderators between customer satisfaction and loyalty in an online commerce environment [Anderson and Srinivasan, 2003]. These studies, which increase the understanding of the prominent role of customer value for academics and practitioners, methodologically adopted survey methods to inquire into customer's perceived value. It is important, however, to examine the topic from a customer behavior perspective using a non-survey approach. By leveraging the huge amount of user-generated content (UGC) from social media, researchers are able to cross the research gap.

Service delivery - also called "service encounter" [Bitner et ah, 1990] - involves intensive interaction and contact with customers. Customers' perceived values emerge from the synthesis of interaction, contact, exchange, and performance during service delivery [Heinonen et ah, 2010]. With the increasing growth of new social media, customers are shifting from being passive recipients to being active participants through Internet technology. Because of autonomy and the high frequency of customer-to-customer interaction, service firms are losing control of consumer activities. It is crucial, therefore, that service providers have a better understanding of customer online behaviors. Although it is hard to predict or manipulate customer behavior, service providers can still identify customer behavior patterns from the online environment so as to better align their service operations with customer behavior and thus increase customer satisfaction. These facts give rise to the current study's central question: Can customer value be clarified from online behavior patterns?

The huge amount of UGCs generated from myriad online users not only affects the operation of service firms, but also influences both online and offline potential users. One of the most popular companies providing social network services is Facebook, with 1.15 billion registered users in 2013. This phenomenon prompts some researchers and entrepreneurs to study the feasibility of "social commerce," but whether social media like Facebook can be used as a profitable sales channel has yet to be determined. …

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