Providing value to customers in e-commerce environments: The customer's perspectiv
AbstractEffective advertising, good usability, and creating value are important in an e-commerce environment to attract and retain customers. In the human- computer interaction (HCI) literature, research into the success or failure of business to consumer (B2C) e-commerce sites has primarily focussed on usability. While increasing usability is important, even if an e-commerce Web site conforms to the Web design heuristics and usability guidelines, it might not always generate a positive total customer experience (TCE). Therefore, it is important that along with usability heuristics, customer relationship management (CRM) strategies are integrated into the design of the e-commerce environments for developing robust and long-term online customer-organisation relationships. We report on a project that is part of an ongoing cross-disciplinary research programme at the Open University, United Kingdom, which aims to integrate HCI and CRM strategies into the design and evaluation of e-commerce environments. In this project, we examined the customer's interaction with e-commerce environments and how a B2C relationship can be effectively supported from a customer's perspective. Based on intensive research that involved collecting data from naturalistic observations of customers shopping on e-tailing environments, interviews, group interviews, and by identifying the negative incidents or obstacles that mar the customer's TCE, we have developed E-SEQUAL (E-SErvice QUALity), a framework for online service quality. E-SEQUAL is an evaluation instrument consisting of e-CRM (CRM for e-economy) or customer relationship-enhancing heuristics and HCI heuristics which can be applied to integrate customers' perceived dimensions of service quality into the design and development of e-commerce environments. E-SEQUAL can provide guidance to e-businesses regarding integration of front- and backend business processes, and across different customer touch points such as phone, fax, e-mail, and so on. It can be applied by Web designers, marketing professionals, and developers to come up with requirements for integrating customers' expectations, and perceptions of service quality and value into the design of e-commerce Web sites. Furthermore, it can be used as an evaluation instrument by usability professionals for evaluating the conformance of an e-commerce environment against HCI (usability) and e-CRM heuristics. © 2006, Idea Group Inc.