Academic journal article International Journal of Business and Society

Exploring the Role of the Type of Service Encounter in Internet Shopping

Academic journal article International Journal of Business and Society

Exploring the Role of the Type of Service Encounter in Internet Shopping

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

Internet has revolutionized commerce and business (e.g., Hoffman and Novak, 1996) and one of the most significant indicators of this transformation has been the adoption of the online retail channel. Specifically, in the European Union, the proportion of individuals aged 16 to 74 having ordered goods or services for private use over the internet ("e-buyers") has continuously risen, from 30% in 2007 to 53% in 2015 (Eurostat, 2016). This volume of business generated by the B2C e-commerce accounts for 17% of the total turnover of companies with 10 or more persons employed. In addition, 73% of households and 92% of companies in the EU-28 are connected to the Web (Eurostat 2016). The face to face interpersonal interactions between sellers and customers has been replaced with technology-based Web interfaces. The management of these service encounters should be a priority for any organization with a presence on the Internet. This paper develops and tests a model that reflects the importance of service encounter in the service quality perceived by customers, their satisfaction and loyalty intentions.

Many researchers point out that to deliver a superior service quality is one of the key determinants of online retailers' success (Zeithaml, Parasuraman, and Malhotra, 2002) and it is a major driving force on the route to long-term success (Fassnacht and Koese, 2006). To set out which aspects must be evaluated in the service quality, many researchers have used the service encounter approach (Bitner, 1990; Bitner et al., 1990; etc.). Shostack (1985: p.243) defines the term service encounter as "a period of time during which a consumer directly interacts with a service". This definition encompasses all aspects of the service firm with which the consumer may interact, including its personnel, its physical facilities and other tangible elements, during a given period of time. This view of a service encounter is still valid in the online services context. In the evaluation of e-service quality, it is necessary to consider all the cues and encounters that occur before, during and after the transactions (Zeithaml et al., 2002). Specifically, two different service encounters can take place in the context of Internet: (1) service encounters with non-interpersonal interactions, during which customers get the service for themselves, without the presence of employees (service encounter without incidents) and (2) service encounters with interpersonal and non-interpersonal interactions. Generally, the interactions with a member of the organization take place when a customer needs to solve any problem or doubt that may arise during the service delivery (service encounter with incidents). On the other hand, previous studies have tried to basically answer three questions: 1) which dimensions underlie the e-service quality construct? 2) Which dimensions are more important in the perception of the quality of the services offered through Internet? And 3) what is the influence of the service quality offered by a Website on the online customer's satisfaction and loyalty? The originality of our work is that it answers these questions from two perspectives: service encounters without incidents versus service encounters with incidents. Moreover, our research analyzes if the perceived service quality, the satisfaction with the online shopping and the loyalty intentions differ from one situation to the other.

To achieve the objectives proposed, the article is structured as follows. First, we review the most relevant research to help us identify the dimensions of e-service quality. We describe the sample and measures used in the study. Then, we show the results of the empirical research. Finally, we discuss the conclusions and implications for management, the limitations and future research lines.

2. THEORETICAL BACKGROUND

Since the pioneering work of Zeithaml et al. (2002), the quality of online services has been explored in some depth. …

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