ICT-based or ICT-centric?: Embodiment and Cognition in a Service Recovery of a Web Service Encounter

ICT-based or ICT-centric?: Embodiment and Cognition in a Service Recovery of a Web Service Encounter

Jannick Kirk Sørensen (Center for Communication, Media and Information Technologies (CMI) Aalborg University Copenhagen, Denmark)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/IJESMA.2016100104


Through a logbook-based self-observation of an ICT-based service journey, the failure and the co-created recovery of the ICT-based service encounter is analysed. The analysis shows the limitations of both traditional affordances-based analyses of user interaction, as well as Dourish's (2001) ‘embodied interaction' framework. Two new categories of service encounters are subsequently suggested: 1) ‘cognitively dominated service encounters' that characterizes types of service encounters where the customer's reasoning plays a central part in the service encounter, and 2) ‘ICT-centric' service encounters that are determined by the inner structure of the ICT ‘material' to the extent that the customer must adapt to logic of the ICT-system.
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1. Introduction

Typically, when an ICT-based service encounter develops differently and less easily than anticipated by the customer / user, one would talk about the “low user-friendliness” or “bad design of the system.” Professional usability experts can conduct tests to identify problematic elements in the interactive system. When simple systems and simple interactions are in question this appears to be straightforward, but when we look at complex service journeys, the embodied context and the non-ICT based touch points must also be considered. This is particularly the case when the service journey develops into a co-creation of the service recovery involving human service helpers, the user and the ICT-system.

The starting point for this paper was an unexpected long service journey I had with the Danish tax authorities in the spring of 2015. The service encounter evolved into a co-creation of the service recovery as a blank pop-up window appeared instead of the expected online form for tax reduction claims. The service journey and recovery involved a web-based self-service, a family member, two browsers, two plug-in browser extensions (3rd party software), a login- / authentication service, and three service helpers on a phone-based hotline. I use this case here to first identify the limitations of traditional affordance-based approaches to usability. Secondly, I apply Dourish’s (2001) embodied interaction framework to not only overcome the limitations, but also to observe how this framework fails to capture essential elements in the service encounter.

Both affordance-based understanding of user interaction with ICT systems, as well as Dourish’ extension of this into ‘embodied interaction’ suffer from pursuing ideals that are difficult to reach in certain type of service encounters. Through the analysis of this case, we identify this type as ‘cognitively dominated service encounters.’ These service encounters are characterised by a high degree of reasoning taking place on the customer’s side during the service encounter. This leads to my suggestion of a distinction between the classic category “ICT-based service encounters” (Froehle & Roth, 2004, Sørensen & Henten, 2014) and a new category “ICT-centric service encounters” where the service encounter is being shaped by the properties of the ICT material, the embodiment of the service encounter in computer code.

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