The Role of Virtual Communities in the Customization of e-Services

The Role of Virtual Communities in the Customization of e-Services

Bill Karakostas (City University London, UK), Dimitris Kardaras (Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece) and Adéla Zichová (City University London, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-100-3.ch218
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Virtual communities are groups of people with similar interests who meet online and together act as a learning environment, place for social support, or as bodies for influencing public opinion. In this paper, the authors identify characteristics of a virtual community that influence its members to customize e- services provided to or received by the virtual community. The authors propose a theoretical framework of factors influencing service customization in a virtual community that has been validated with two case studies conducted in health-focused virtual communities. The findings confirm that the quality of the learning environment, social support, and the virtual community’s ability to influence public opinion, positively contribute to the perceived usefulness and active participation in the community by its members. In turn, these factors were found to have a positive influence on customization of e-services by the members, based on the community’s suggestion. The research also suggests several areas of focus to enhance e-service customization through virtual communities.

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