Customer relationship management on Internet and mobile channels:
A framework and research direction


By

Prof. (Dr.) Amit K. Srivastav
H.O.D (Management)
Mr. Saroj Kumar Dash
Lecturer (Management)
Skyline Institute of Engineering and Technology
Greater Noida, Goutambudh Nagar (Uttar Pradesh)
 


Abstract

This paper explores customer satisfaction with mobile services by expanding the expectation and desire disconfirmation model and incorporating constructs of perceived customizability and self-efficacy. The evaluation of constructs is derived from the current electronic commerce satisfaction research combined with literature on constraints of mobile services.  In the context of mobile commerce, many technological constraints, such as small screen displays and limited bandwidth, tend to impede user adoption of mobile commerce.  It therefore becomes crucial to customize interfaces, content, commerce transactions, and communication to meet mobile users' needs. A proposed research model and method to validate the effect of perceived customizability are presented in this paper.

1. Introduction

The convergence of mobile Internet and wireless communication technology has promised customers anytime, anywhere access to wireless services and communication. However, many constraints inherent in wireless handheld devices and mobile technology, such as small screen display and limited bandwidth, hinder information access, transaction processes, and user adoption. In this paper, we examine how customization affects customer satisfaction in the mobile context. Customization helps users to choose relevant information and interface features for information delivery on wireless handheld devices. We believe mobile customization can minimize the impact of constraints limiting handheld devices and contribute to the more effective use of the mobile Web.

In this paper, we extend the expectation and desire disconfirmation model [13][14] to the mobile context. We also incorporate constructs of perceived customizability and self-efficacy for mobile services to investigate the effect of customization on customer satisfaction. Twelve hypotheses stemming from the research model are proposed for validation. This paper is organized in four sections: (1) a review of background literature on satisfaction, customization, and mobile commerce issues; (2) discussion of a new construct of perceived customizability and its antecedent; (3) the proposed research model and hypotheses; (4) methodology and measurement development. By presenting an expanded research model, this paper contributes to theory building for examining the role of customization in customer satisfaction.

2. Background Literature

2.1. Customer Satisfaction

An early satisfaction research model introduced by Oliver and Swan [18] demonstrates that customers report higher levels of satisfaction with purchasing experiences when the experiences themselves and after-sales service meet or exceed their prior expectations. In other words, customers compare the post-purchase and post-usage evaluation of a product with their expectations prior to purchasing in determining satisfaction [3]. As explained by the expectation disconfirmation theory, satisfaction is determined by the intensity and direction of the gap between expectation and perceived performance [17]. Customers are more likely to be satisfied if service performance meets (confirmation) or exceeds (positive disconfirmation) their expectations. Conversely, customers are more likely to be dissatisfied if service performance falls below their expectations (negative disconfirmation).

Other research indicates that desire serves as an additional comparison standard in the disconfirmation process [22]. In a purchasing experience, desire, described as inner emotional needs and wants, can be great while expectations are poor, based on an individual's past experience. Under the desire confirmation theory, actual performance might meet expectations but fall below desired performance (negative disconfirmation), which is likely to lead to dissatisfaction.

Recent studies by Khalifa and Liu [13][14][15] reveal that both expectation and desire disconfirmation play important role in explaining satisfaction with Internet-based services. Their research confirms that the size of the gap between customers' perception of service performance and their pre-adoption expectations and desires affects satisfaction with online services.

2.2. Mobile Service

The objective of mobile commerce (m-commerce) is to deliver web content and services to wireless handheld devices. By embedding lightweight Web browsers into wireless handheld devices, the mobile web enables users to perform many time-critical tasks such as checking stock quotes and booking flights anytime, anywhere. Perceptions of service convenience correlate highly with products and services satisfaction [16] [18]. Anckar and D'Incau [2] categorize mobile benefits in two groups: wireless values and mobile values. Wireless values refer to the use of wireless technology. Mobile values arise from the mobile use of technology in meeting users' time-critical needs, spontaneous needs, entertainment needs, efficiency needs, and mobility needs.

Regardless of the benefits of mobile services, many constraints hinder user adoption. Common constraints in mobile computing include form factors, quality of network service, and mobility. Form factor constraints include small screens for content display, and difficult and slow data input. The quality of network service is hampered by unreliable network connectivity and limited bandwidth. This is particularly a problem with transactional applications in m-commerce. In light of the above constraints, researchers have emphasized the need for identifying usability guidelines for small screen interface design (e.g., [5] [6]).

2.3. Customization

Customization is the ability to tailor products and services according to user preference.  Through customization, companies create the perception of interests in customer needs [19] and improve perceptions of quality by better matching customers with desired products [21].  Perceived quality of a product is influenced by the level of customization available in the product. By tailoring products and services to individual customers, a company can fulfill and exceed customer expectations and improve perceived product quality.

Customized ordering and transaction processes are important during the sales and service phase. Customization can facilitate smoother transactions and directly increase customer satisfaction. For Internet-based services, customization allows users to explicitly specify their preferences and tailor products and services according to their preferences. Johansson et al [10] reveal that customization provides users perceived control, which is an effective approach in gaining satisfaction. Therefore, an online service or e-commerce site may achieve better satisfaction when the site allows users to control their choices for products and services. 

In the mobile context, content adaptation [23][24] can minimize constraints limiting handheld devices and contribute to more effective use of the mobile Web. Unique mobile features have been implemented mostly by content adaptation. The concept of customization could therefore be applied to content display, interface presentation, navigation, links and shortcuts, and loyalty programs for mobile application delivery on handhelds. 

3. Perceived Customizability and Its Antecedent

3.1. Construct of Perceived Customizability

In this study, we propose a new construct of perceived customizability in the mobile context, which is defined as "customer perception of the extent that he or she can customize and control the features of an online or wireless service or site."  Customizability emphasizes customer-initiated actions. Dimensions for customizability may include options for products, services, interfaces, content, menu options, navigation, communication methods, input methods, transaction process, form factors, and loyalty programs.  Such actions may give users a greater sense of control over online services and lead to greater satisfaction and intention to return [25]. In terms of user interface design, Bunts [4] points out those adaptable interfaces that place users in control of customizable features are preferable to adaptive interfaces for application-initiated customization. The adaptable approach gives users better control, greater transparency, and predictability. This study [4] further demonstrates that offering customization options upfront improves user perceptions of quality, particularly for experienced users. Novice users are more likely to take advantage of adaptable interfaces in later interactions with the site.  

3.2. Self-efficacy As the Antecedent

Bandura [3] defines self-efficacy as a person's perception of his or her ability to organize and execute courses of action required to attain desired performance. Unfamiliarity with handheld devices and mobile services may affect a customer's self–efficacy in using customization features offered by mobile services. Self-efficacy is concerned not with customer skills but with customer's perceptions of what can be done with existing skills. According to Compeau et al. [8], high magnitude of self-efficacy will facilitate difficult tasks and make technology more accessible. Therefore, self-efficacy may be an antecedent of customizability.

4. Research Model and Hypotheses

Building on Khalifa and Liu's [14] expectation and desire disconfirmation model, our research model incorporates the constructs of perceived customizability and self-efficacy, as shown in Figure 1. Current state of mobile services and constraints of wireless technologies may make customers to hold different expectations and desires about mobile services.  Therefore, they may form different comparison standards for perceived performance and satisfaction. By allowing customers to control customization of content, products, transaction processes, and interfaces, a mobile service can improve their experience and satisfaction. However, their self-efficacy of wireless technology could affect their perception of the level of customizability of a mobile service.  Therefore, our research model proposes that four constructs, "expectation disconfirmation," "desire disconfirmation," "perceived performance," and "perceived customizability," are the main determinants of customer satisfaction in the context of mobile services. Figure 1 depicts the structural model and 12 hypothesized relationships.


                                                
Figure 1. The Research model.

Based on the review of aforementioned research, our research model postulates twelve hypotheses:

Self-efficacy is the antecedent of perceived customizability. The higher the customer's self-efficacy of his or her ability to use the customization features for a mobile service, the more positive is his or her judgment on using customization facilities, and thus results in positive perceived customizability.  Therefore, we postulate that:

H1: Self-efficacy of using customization facilities will have a positive effect on perceived customizability of a mobile service.

According to Khalifa and Liu [14], both customer desires and expectations form comparison standard for perceived performance at adoption in the disconfirmation process. When the level of pre-adoption expectations or desires is high, these comparison standards are less likely to be reached by the perceived performance of a mobile service. Therefore, the higher the pre-adoption expectations or desires, the more negative the disconfirmation.

H2: Pre-adoption expectations have a negative effect on expectation disconfirmation at adoption of a mobile service.

H3: Pre-adoption desires have a negative effect on desire disconfirmation at adoption or a mobile service.

A high level of perceived customizability implies that the customer can take advantage of customization facilities to make the mobile services more usable and meeting his/her needs. Therefore, customization can lead to positive perceptions of a mobile service's performance. 

H4: The level of perceived customizability has a positive effect on perceived performance of a mobile service at adoption.

The level of perceived customizability may also contribute to the customer's positive expectations and desire disconfirmation. A customer's ability to tailor content, interfaces, and communication means for a mobile service may improve the site's usability and usefulness.  Consequently, customization features may help bridge the gaps between expectations and service performance, as well as the gaps between desires and service performance.  Therefore, we postulate the following: 

H5: Perceived customizability has a positive effect on expectation disconfirmation of a mobile service at adoption.

H6: Perceived customizability has a positive effect on desire disconfirmation of a mobile service at adoption.

Perceived customizability may have a positive impact on customer satisfaction in regards to his/her adoption of mobile services.  The user-initiated customization gives users a greater sense of control that leads to higher satisfaction. Therefore, we postulate that perceive customizability will be one of the determinants of customer satisfaction.

H7: Perceived customizability has a positive effect on satisfaction of a mobile service at adoption.

The remaining five hypotheses (H8 to H12) are derived directly from studies by Khalifa and Liu [14][15].  A high level of perceived service performance at adoption leads to positive expectation disconfirmation (H8) and desire disconfirmation (H9) because good service performance helps to match or exceed customer expectations and desires. Perceived service performance at adoption (H10), expectation disconfirmation (H11), and desire disconfirmation (H12) contribute directly to positive, overall customer satisfaction at adoption. Based on the result of previous studies [15] [20] [21], the effect of perceived performance on satisfaction is not fully mediated by expectations or desire disconfirmation. When desires or expectations are low, the role of perceived performance becomes more dominant in explaining customer satisfaction.

H8: Perceived performance at adoption has a positive effect on expectation disconfirmation of a mobile service at adoption.

H9: Perceived performance at adoption has a positive effect on desire disconfirmation of a mobile service at adoption.

H10: Perceived performance at adoption has a positive effect on satisfaction with a mobile service at adoption.

H11: Expectation disconfirmation at adoption has a positive effect on satisfaction with a mobile service at adoption.

H12: Desire disconfirmation at adoption has a positive effect on satisfaction with at adoption.

The results from Khalifa and Liu's [14]-desire disconfirmation model indicate that there is still room for other factor(s) to explain satisfaction. Our proposed research model suggests that the construct of perceived customizability may be an additional determinant for expectation disconfirmation, desire disconfirmation, and overall customer satisfaction at adoption. 

5. Methodology

We will validate our research hypotheses by using a mobile portal system designed for university students. The system has two components: a portal and interfaces for customization. The mobile portal is delivered on a PDA interface. Based on results of student interviews, we are developing a mobile portal that offers services for personal calendars with predefined school and class events, personal schedules, customized alerts and notifications, weather, news, movie theatre listings, and book purchasing. A Web user profile interface is designed for the participants to customize their preferences for the registered courses, course schedules, interested events, advising appointments, and lab hours. Users can choose desired services, such as weather information by zip code, news from preferred sources, movie schedules from predefined theatres, selected categories of book reviews, and they can define the order by which links are presented on a PDA interface. Daily schedules with predefined classes and events are automatically presented to the user.  Schedules and alerts can be added on the PDA directly.  Users can customize schedules and schedule alerts delivered via email text messaging, paging, and PDA alerts. Users have the option to customize portal features anytime during the their participation in the study.

Students at a Midwest university will be recruited to participate in this study. Participants will receive a bookstore coupon for their participation. In order to encourage their continued use of the portal system, participants will be offered a loyalty program with additional rewards if they accumulate sufficient number of points over the three-month duration of the study.  Winners will be drawn by lottery at the end of the project.  Table 1 summarizes the research procedure and data collection plan.

Steps and Instruments

Data to be collected

1. Participants register for the research project and answer the 1st online questionnaire.

Collect data on the participant's background (gender, age, prior experience, self-efficacy, expectations and desires)

2. Participants choose customization features

Customization features and date/time

3. Participants use the portal system at least once.

Logs on usage, accessed links, frequency of usage, and date/time for customization

4. Participants receive emails about accumulated points and continuous participation.

 

4. Participants complete the 2nd online questionnaire upon the completion of their participation (i.e., use the system at least once).

Perceived customizability, perceived service quality, expectation disconfirmation, desire disconfirmation, satisfaction, and self-reported frequency of usage, reasons for discontinuance


                                      
Table 1. Procedure and Data Collection

At the onset of the study, participants must register on the system by completing an online questionnaire providing information about their backgrounds, and answering questions regarding their pre-adoption expectations, desires, and self-efficacy toward mobile-based PDA services. Next, participants will customize their preferences and desired services.  Such information will be used to construct customized mobile services and interfaces on the PDA.

During the study, each participant's usage of the portal will be tracked and points accumulated for a loyalty reward program. Online help is provided on the PDA for participants to post questions or view frequently asked questions. Participants must access the mobile portal system at least once during the three-month study period and complete an online survey at the end of the usage period to earn online e-coupons and to quality for special loyalty rewards.

A second questionnaire assesses participants' post-adoption expectation and desire disconfirmation, perceived actual performance, customizability, and overall satisfaction with the mobile services. This questionnaire will include a self-reported measure of frequency of usage.  In addition, participants who drop out of the study after one visit will have opportunities to specify their reasons for discontinuation.  Email reminders containing links to pages providing user profile updates and loyalty program status will be sent to participants throughout the study period.

Items measuring research constructs will be based on literature review and our prior usability studies of mobile services [5][6]. The first questionnaire contains items on self-efficacy [8], pre-adoption expectations and desires [14], as well as participants' demographic information and prior experience in using mobile services. The second questionnaire includes items on perceived customizability, perceived performance [9] of the portal system, expectation and desire disconfirmation [21][15], and user satisfaction [17][14].  Measurement of expectation and desire disconfirmation involves a comparison of pre-adoption expectation and desire with perceived performance. Items for perceived customizability reflect participants' perceptions of their ability to customize the portal system's interface, choose services and communication methods, and create schedule information. A pilot test will be conducted to refine the measurement instruments and portal systems. Internal consistency and reliability of measurements will be validated prior to hypothesis testing.  Hypotheses will be tested using SEM. 

6. Expected Contribution and Current Status

We are currently completing development the portal system and questionnaires.  Pilot tests of the system and measurements will be the next steps before data collection. We expect that this study will make several contributions to research on customer relationship management and mobile commerce. The new construct on perceived customizability will provide a better understanding of the role customization plays in user adoption of mobile services.  The research model helps extend the theoretical framework of customer satisfaction.  Furthermore, this research represents the first effort in applying customer satisfaction research in the mobile context.

7.  Reference

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[22] Zhang, D. (2003). Delivery of personalized and adaptive content to mobile devices: A framework and enabling technology, Communications of AIS , 12, 13, 183-202.

[23] Zhou, Y. and Chan, S. (2003). Adaptive content delivery over the mobile Web, Proceedings of the Ninth Americas Conference in Information Systems, 2009-2019.

[24] Zo, H. (2003), Personalization vs. customization: which is more effective in e-services? Proceedings of the Ninth Americas Conference on Information Systems, 251-256
 


Prof. (Dr.) Amit K. Srivastav
H.O.D (Management)
Mr. Saroj Kumar Dash
Lecturer (Management)
Skyline Institute of Engineering and Technology
Greater Noida, Goutambudh Nagar (Uttar Pradesh)
 

Source: E-mail November 11, 2006

     

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