It is now possible to deliver service in a virtual environment with little or no human interaction. This environment offers the opportunity of new ways of delivering service. This paper examines some of the existing theories of service quality and service management in the context of new Web-based environment. It draws on field research involving empirical measurement of service levels. Two existing theories are re-examined, the concept that automation leads to mediation between the customer and the service organisation - the "buffered core", and the dimensions of service quality. In both cases the capabilities of the Web, and the removal of direct human interaction give cause for rethinking. The research leads to the view that the Web, rather than providing mediation, can provide direction connection between the customer and the service organisation. In addition, the accepted dimensions of customer service do not always fit the actual dimensions for service on the Web. Finally, this paper proposes an empirically-based model that is based on the proposition that developing service in a virtual environment is sequence dependent. This "sand cone" model is illustrated with an example from the research.
International Journal of Operations & Production Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 1, 2003
Keywords: Electronic commerce; Virtual companies; Service quality