Measuring Quality of Electronic Services: Moving from Business-to-Consumer into Business-to-Business Marketplace

Measuring Quality of Electronic Services: Moving from Business-to-Consumer into Business-to-Business Marketplace

Mahmoud Amer (Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Germany) and Jorge Marx Gómez (Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0146-8.ch029
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Abstract

This study tries to answer questions regarding the factors that affect electronic service quality perception in the Business-to-Business (B2B) domain using quantitative and qualitative measures through surveys and interviews targeted at the German companies that are enrolled in providing service activities in the B2B marketplace. The study reviews past research in the field and the efforts that were conducted in the Business to Consumer (B2C) model, and moves toward explaining the service quality measure in the B2B domain. The study found that there are clear differences in the determinants of service quality perception between the B2C and B2B domains.
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Introduction

During the past 20 years, professional life has changed significantly from a pure industrial landscape to an information- high tech oriented landscape. In the course of this change, the importance of computer technology to the professional life has significantly increased. These new technologies enabled the customers to easily search and compare different products and services that are offered and sold online. That led many companies and businesses to begin studying the quality of services provided through this medium, in order to enhance its performance and increase loyalty of their customers.

Electronic services are no longer regarded as trendy internet applications; rather, customers have become more and more demanding, and became less tolerant to poor services performance. This delivery of high quality services is what makes customers come back and buy again (Fassnacht & Koese, 2006). In this easily accessible cyber space, the customers are always looking and searching for companies that provide them with services that meets or exceeds their expectations (Parasuraman, Zeithaml, & Malhotra, 2005). As we can see in study of (Fassnacht & Koese, 2007), the turnover of a company also depends on customer satisfaction. A customer who gets positive experience with a company is potentially willing to pay more than he has to pay to an alternate seller.

Unfortunately for some companies, they normally do not get any feedback from their customers regarding customer satisfaction of the services offered by the enterprise. In most cases the usual way of determining whether the user is satisfied or not is to see if he/she comes and buys again or not. In order to solve this issue, scientists in the fields of social sciences, marketing, and information systems proposed different models and theories on how to enhance company’s performance and providing better services for their customers. Whether it’s directly aimed toward the end customer in the Business to Consumer (B2C) domain, or aimed toward the enterprises as in the Business-to-Business (B2B) domain. This led many studies to examine how customer’s satisfaction can be measured in order to give companies an instrument helps them to respond to the necessities of their customers. In addition, according to (Homburg & Rudolph, 2001) research on customer satisfaction in B2B relationships is still modest and lagging far behind consumer marketing.

Service can be defined as deeds, processes, and performances (Zeithaml, Valarie A. & Bitner, 1996). One example is the services provided by IT companies, these services are not tangible so they cannot be physically touched nor felt, but are actually intangible deeds and performances. Such companies provide maintenance services for its equipments, offer consulting services for systems and eBusiness applications, web design and hosting, training, and other services. At the end of this process of providing intangible services, we might find some tangible services provided as an end product, for example a final tangible report, a website, or some kind of guides and instruction manuals (Shostack, 1977). The most important and probably the most evident difference between traditional and electronic service quality is the replacement of interpersonal interaction with human-machine interaction. This distinction raises many questions concerning the types of dimensions that can or must be considered to assess service quality in the e-commerce context (Bressolles, Durrieu, & Giraud, 2007).

By examining the process of providing service, we notice that service is provided to the customer by some means of problem analysis activities, meetings and interviews with the customer. On the same level, the main offerings of hospitals, hotels, banks, and utilities consist of deeds and actions provided to the end customer (Kandampully, Mok, & Sparks, 2001). (Zeithaml, 2002) defines the electronic service quality as “the extent to which a web site facilitates efficient and effective shopping, purchasing, and delivery,” which had significant impact on the companies in the service sector. In this sector, the definition usually focuses on meeting customer’s needs and requirements, and tries to explain how the service delivered can meet the company’s expectations (Lewis & Booms, 1983).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Business-to-Consumers (B2C): Is a term used to describe transactions between businesses and Consumers, retailing in the major form of this model.

Click and Mortar Company: A type of business model that includes both online and offline operations, which typically include a website and a physical store. A click-and-mortar company can offer customers the benefits of fast, online transactions or traditional, face-to-face service.

Electronic Commerce: Constitutes the exchange of products and services between businesses, groups, and individuals online and hence can be seen as one of the essential activities of eBusiness.

Online shopping: Is the process consumers go through to purchase products or services over the Internet.

Electronic Service Quality (eSQ): The extent to which a website supports purchases and delivery of products and services in an efficient and effective manner.

Electronic Business: Commonly referred to as “eBusiness” or “e-Business,” may be defined as the utilization of information and communication technologies (ICT) in support of all the activities of business.

E-S-QUAL: A model for measuring electronic service quality consists of 22 items on four dimensions: efficiency, fulfilment, system availability, and privacy, are used to assess the ease and speed of using Website, the implementation of the site’s promises, the correct technical functioning of the site, and the safety of the site and the protection of customer information, respectively.

SERVQUAL: Is a service quality framework. SERVQUAL was developed in the mid eighties by Zeithaml, Parasuraman & Berry. Was originally measured on 10 aspects of service quality: reliability, responsiveness, competence, access, courtesy, communication, credibility, security, understanding or knowing the customer and tangibles. It measures the gap between customer expectations and experience.

E-RecS-QUAL: A model for measuring electronic service quality containing 11 items in three dimensions: responsiveness, compensation, and contact, are employed when customer had nonroutine encounters to measure the effectiveness of handling problems and return, compensation for problems, and availability of assistance, respectively

Business-to-Business (B2B): Is a term used to describe transactions between businesses like the one between a supplier and a manufacturer (i.e. both the buyer and the seller are business entity).

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