With the advent of the internet and the evolution of e-business, the widely held perception is that we operate in a know ledged-based economy. Many organisations have realised that changing and adapting their business processes to leverage information technology is vital for sustainability. The traditional paradigm of focusing on products has gradually eroded and organisational rhetoric has shifted towards services. In fact the notion has been permeated that the customer has taken centre stage in corporate strategy . Focus is now drawn to building sustainable relationships with customers and involving them in the decision making processes. Customers are now involved in core organisational processes such as development of new products and services. Customers services in the traditional approach has mainly consisted of assisting customers before or after the purchase of products. With the customer taking a central theme in organisational strategy and with the introduction of Information technology as an enabler of organisational change . IT Organisations have looked at information systems such as Customer relationship management solutions to manage all aspects of customer communications. CRM systems have been rolled out with the promise to enhance operational efficiency and productivity in organisations. CRMs are supposed to help IT Organisations understand their customers better. Most customer services in knowledge based Organisations now rely on knowledge bases and CRMs. However it seems that in spite of all these information systems and organisational efforts , many IT organisations have yet to fully harness the capabilities of e-business and gain competitive advantage by leveraging the customers as co-creators and co-producers of knowledge. Notions such as self-service are not as pervasive as one would expect. It is arguably true that some IT organisations have attempted with belated success to establish a true symbiotic relationship with their customers. Therefore this study will attempt to encourage the use of web 2.0 by exploring the user perceptions of users in web 2.0 specifically in customer services.
Qualitative research was carried out through semi-structured interviews focussing on the social , personal, cognitive and affective perception of users when participating in web 2.0 (Blogs, virtual forums, etc))within support activities.
The analysis of the data was carried out using the Users and Acceptance framework . Implications for research and practice highlight organisational culture as a very important prerequisite for the use and acceptance of web 2.0 enabled technology.
The constant innovation of software products has invariably driven the need for customers to understand and use the ever evolving products effectively (Dholakia et al , 2009).As a result of this organisations rely predominantly on the acquisition of a service support contract defined as pre-sales and post sales support contracts to enable these organisations to learn about the product, assist in using the product and ultimately solving problems during the use of the software ( Gray and Durcikova 2006). An indirect advantage of a support contract provides organisations with information about their customers to personalise the pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase experiences (Kohlbacher, 2008). Some firms supplement this employee-based service support model with virtual customer communities ( (Mathwick, Wiertz, and de Ruyter 2008) such as Ebay (Dholakia et al , 2009).In fact Mills and Morris (1986) argue that customers can thus become partial employees by taking over some service functions that are normally carried out by employees. This implies that some firms successfully leverage their relationships with their customers to derive further value creation. This view falls in line with the argument that organisations should build better relationships with their customers with the aim to retaining customers (Lemon, White, and Winer (2002),; not only because the growth of the internet and rapid technological progress has lead to increasing market transparency thus making it difficult to achieve long lasting differentiation (Hande Kimilog?lu and Hu¨lya Zarali) , but also because customer loyalty can be directly linked to organisational profitability. Loyal customers have higher customer retention rates, use a larger share of their category spending to the organisation, and are more likely to recommend others to become customers of the firm (Reichheld and Earl Sasser, 1990; Zeithaml, 2000; Keiningham, 2007).
A new perspective is being heralded that organisations can leverage web2.0 to build closer relationships with customers (Forrester). Web 2.0 encompasses a range of interactive tools and social communications techniques like blogs, podcasts and social networks (Chaffey, 2008).This is because the rapid spread of high speed internet access has enabled the participation and interaction that encourages user created content,creation of communities. The power of web 2.0 technologies such as Facebook and Myspace with 300 millions users arguably exemplies how popular and successful and relevant web 2.0 can be (Chaffey, 2008). Traditionally the verb networking describes the Machiavellian stance of creating and sustaining interpersonal connections and using these for commercial gain (Iacobucci) .Therefore one can be conclude that organisations should innovate on their services and leverage the internet to improve their brands recognition and improve customer loyalty.
Interestingly within organisational studies the fostering of relationships to improve customer loyalty and serve customers better is the main reason why organisations deploy customer relationship management systems. In fact some (Chen ,Popovich; 2003 ) define CRM as an integrated approach to managing relationships by focusing on customer retention and relationship building facilitated by the advances in information technology.
Others on the otherhand see CRM as a central knowledge management system.Still yet other emphasise the insight that organisations can gain from using CRM systems especially in marketing , segmenting and targeting (Colt.). While all these views possibly suggest that CRM can provide the relationship management , knowledge and insight to leverage the relationship between customers and organisations, it appears CRM falls short in practise to live up to these claims ; in fact Gibbert et al., ( 2002) claim that CRM leaves knowledge residing in customers. Similarly Zaltman (2003) argues that current CRM implementations are restricted to collecting and managing data and information while ignoring tacit information. This shortcomings of CRM has seen some researchers segment and reconceptualise some domains in CRM such as Customer Knowledge Management that deals with tacit knowledge, explicit knowledge and relationship management in customer services (davenport et a, 2001, Gibbert et al , 2002).
While the importance of web 2.0 technologies such social networking is accepted (Forrester, Chaffeh) many researchers suggest that its impact in organisations has not been thoroughly investigated (Castilla et al. (2000). Therefore the aim of this study is to evaluate the impact of social media in customer service organisations . Data is gathered through an a questionnaire to participants to evaluate the potential and potential impact of web 2.0 technologies on customer services.
RESEARCH FOCUS This dissertation intends to explore the use of web 2.0 information systems within customer services of an information technology organisation based in the united states with support centres in the united kingdom, Australia and India.
The main themes this research seeks to explore are:
- How users perceive the Web 2.0 and its relation to their Cognitive needs that describes the acquisition of information, knowledge and understanding.
- Understand how the affective needs (Emotion, pleasure, feelings.) of users who participate in a firms web 2.0 information systems affiliate with the organisation
- Understand how Personal integrative ( Credibility, stability, status) are affected by participation in an organisations web 2.0 initiatives
- understand the impact of web 2.0 on users and the building of communities ( Social integrative)
Aim and Objectives
The aim for this dissertation is to explore the user perceptions of web 2.0 within a technical support department specifically in an ICT organisations.
- Carry out a literature review of CRM within the organisational context and link to knowledge management and enterprise agiliy
Examine Web 2.0 and review contemporary web 2.0 literature and its consequences for centralised versus decentralised (localised, contextualised) planning and decision processes in social systems;
- clarify key characteristics of Web 2.0 technologies and their potential to enhance networking and collaboration among peers in communities of practice;
- assess the potential of the communication and collaboration features of Web 2.0 tools for creating and exchanging knowledge in corporate information systems;
- outline the potential of Web 2.0 technologies to foster employee empowerment through collaboration and interaction; and finally
- draw conclusions for the adoption of Web 2.0 technologies in organisations
In order to explore the user perceptions of web 2.0 within customer services, qualitative interpretive research will be carried out.Qualitative research appears more appropriate for this study as it will provide information into what each particular user perceives the usefulness of web2.0 . Because such information is more subjective in nature , it is therefore better approached using qualitative research. The essence of this qualitative research will be interpretive in nature into uncovering information about the human perception, feelings, opinions and thoughts (Fonow and Cook ,1991). Observatory research while being useful is limited to solely identifying behaviour however not understanding reasons behind that behaviour and does not include important details such as the context of users. This is not enough insight for the purpose of this research as there is a clear need to ascertain both the behaviour as well as attitudes behind these. Additionally quantitative research acquires data through the assumption that social facts can always be measured on the assumption that they have an objective reality. Thus not identifying that user attitudes and perceptions can be influenced by emotions and as a result fail to gain a deeper insight to motivation and behaviour.
This section outlines and briefly describes the structure of the dissertation :
CHAPTER 1: Technical Support
This chapter is an introduction of the dissertation highlighting the research area with a presentation of the aims and objectives of the research
CHAPTER 2: Literature Review This chapter is a critical review of existing literature on call centre. It also discusses contemporary theories and perspectives relating to the Technical support. It also discusses the use of information systems within the context of this dissertation
CHAPTER 3: Research Methodology will describe and articulate the research methodology. This also includes information about the design of the research and the Organisation
Chapter 4: Research findings and Analysis This chapter presents the case study, the findings from the semi-structured interviews conducted in the organization using the Users and gratification (U&G)theory as the conceptual lens for the discussion.
Chapter Five :Analysis and discusses the result of the research. Each hypothesis is investigated for any acceptance or rejection of the proposed framework designed for each hypothesis. Concluding this section will be a discussion of limitations arising from developing this research.
Chapter 5: Conclusion This will discuss the implications of the research findings in practise while also suggesting some recommendations for future research.
Theoretical Perspectives on customer relationship management systems
Customer relationship Management
There are diverse views on why organisations implement customer relationship management systems. Ngai (2005) suggests that the CRM have been primarily used to automate processes. Senge et al (1999) suggests that Organisations need to continuously change and adapt to changing environment and assert that Customer relationship management systems are key to this process. Stein and Smith (2009) suggest that if properly organized and applied, information can become the knowledge that defines the mission, form and strategy of an Organisation and associate CRM with theories such as the adaptive enterprise. This view is shared by Sun et al (2006) who suggest the primary purpose of CRMs as adaptive learning. In this context adaptive learning is defined as the process of predicting information from large databases to identify valuable customers, the ability to learn about the preferences of these valuable customers , forecast future behavioural patterns and estimate customer value. The rapid growth of the internet (chaffey, 2008) and the current limitations of existing CRM implementations (Gibbert et al, 2002) has seen some It has been established that organisations must exploit existing competencies,technologies, and knowledge (March, 1991) , improvise (Orlikowski) and also pursue knowledge about unknown possibilities for competitive action (Sambamurthy, 2003).It has being In fact the notion of organisational agility is often permeated and is described as a combination of customer agility, partnering agility, and operational agility (Cronin 2000).
The underlying perspectives seem therefore to suggest that Organisations operate in continuously changing environments, it appears that Organisations are expected to be agile.
There are some divergent views which suggest how companies should attain enterprise agility. The underlying concept behind all these definitions relies on these organisations sensing changes and responding accordingly. Some advocate absorptive capacity (Zahra, 2002) which suggests the capability (dynamic) to create and utilize knowledge. While others suggest enterprise agility that builds upon other theories in management theory such as dynamic capability, strategic flexibility, market orientation and absorptive capacity (Overby 2006).
Chaffen (2008) highlights strategic agility as the an organisations ability to innovate and so gain competitive advantage within a market place by monitoring changes within an organisations’s marketplace and then to efficiently evaluate alternative strategies and then select review and implement appropriate candidate strategies.
Nambisan (2002) postulates that agility is important for organisations and argues that customers serve three valuable roles namely as a source of innovation ideas, as co-creators who help in the development and design of innovative products and services, and finally users help in testing the product or in assisting other users learn about new products or services.Others (Kohli and Jaworski 1990) underline the more strategic advantages of Customer agility and suggest it helps organisations gain market intelligence and in detecting competitive action opportunities.
However it seems CRMs are not only implemented for firms to gain agility or intelligence. This raises the question about what Organisations expect from CRM implementations. It appears the role of the customer within organisations has gained increased focus.In that light Kohli & Jaworski (1990) postulate that customers play a central strategy in organisations. (Fornell et al , 2006) have done some empirical studies and suggest that there is a direct link between customer relationship activity and firm performance. Similarly Lemon, White, and Winer (2002) highlight the marketing trend of building long lasting relationships with customers for better competitiveness. Agrawal (2003) suggests CRMs are central to the task of making an organisation customer centric and maintains that this is the most certain way of increasing value to organisations and profitability to the organisations. The Information centric view of CRM has also been delineated with Peppers and Rogers (1999) highlighing the technological aspects of customer relationship management and arguing that CRMs are technology solutions that extend separate databases and sales force automation tools to link sales marketing efforts to improving targeting efforts. From these viewpoints, one could suggest that the ultimate objective behind CRM initiatives is ultimately about managing ” relationships” with customers . The proposition is that if organisations build better relationships with customers, this would ultimately lead to better competitive abilities and can lead to long term competitiveness and sustainability. This appears simplistic and deterministic and there is research evidence to suggest that some CRM initiatives have not met these objectives, for example Rigby et al (2002) argue that CRM initiatives have alienated long-term customers and employees.
Customer relationship Management – Definition
Within the scope of this study the definition of Customer relationship management systems will be aligned with Chen and Popowich (2003) that define CRMs as a combination of people ,processes and technology that seek to provide understanding of customers. According to Chen and Popovich (2003) a CRM system is a complex application that mines customer data, creates a comprehensive view of key customers, and predicts their purchasing patterns. CRMs support business strategy and assist in the building of long term relationships with the customer. Chen and Popowich (2003) also maintain that although CRM is enabled by technology, it is not a technology solution because the key processes are carried out by people and these need clear understanding of the objectives of key decisions. Although the term CRM seems to have a ubiquitous definition that focuses on relationship management with customers, Greenberg (2004) claims that Customer relationship management systems can be interpreted in three distinct ways; (1) Data-driven CRM that leans on Information technology and centres around the integration customer information using applications, interfaces, and automation tools. (2) Process-driven CRM builds around organisational practices and rules and seeks to automate organisational processes for better efficiency. (3) people-driven CRM focuses on the job of executives and employees in utilizing face-to-face communication to process relationship management.
The underlying proposition is that CRM while being technologically enabled requires company-wide, cross-functional, customer-focused business process re-engineering to be successful. CRM has arguably cemented its position as an important organisational construct with Forrester research postulating the growth of the CRM industry will reach 11 billion dollars annually by 2010 (Forrester,2008). In spite of this apparent success of CRM, there are diverging views on its efficiency and suitability to dealing with issues raised with customer support services departments and as such Chen, Popovich (2003) postulate that CRM is a combination of People, process and technology that need to provide understanding of customer needs to support a business strategy. This suggests that organisational structure is an important facet of CRM. Similarly some suggest that the key to organisation success is rooted in the ability to sense environmental change and respond readily (Overby2006).
The environment in this context are the strategic and operational conditions such as regulatory changes, technological advancement and increased customer demands. Thus the point is made for the agile enterprise. Agility is defined as “the ability of an (inter-connected) organization to detect changes, opportunities and threats in its business environment and to provide speedy and focused responses to customers, as well as other stakeholders, by reconfiguring resources and processes, and through strategic partnerships and alliances.” The argument can thus be made that organisations need to derive more from the information at their disposal to ensure better decisions. In the context of the internet , it can be argued that with the low cost entry barrier offered by the internet , organisations now require unique selling points to differentiate their products and retain their existing customers. This has caused the customer support services departments to emerge as one of the most important parts of organisations. Perhaps because customers must learn continuously to keep abreast of innovations (Dholakia et al , 2009).Attracting a new customer is more expensive than retaining a customer (Chaffey , 2006).
The Role of Information Systems
The role of information technology on agility is often referred to as indirect (Overby, 2006). This view suggests that IT provides the infrastructure upon which other business functions and processes rely. Information technologies such as decision support systems, data warehouses, and OLAP tools can facilitate the development of knowledge through real-time data monitoring, pattern identification and scenario modelling. This enhances the organisation sensing capabilities by providing managers with high-quality information about the state of the business, which helps them, identify emerging opportunities.Others (Sambamurthy et al, 2003) suggest that information technology investments and capabilities influence firm performance through a nomological network of three significant organizational capabilities (agility, digital options, and entrepreneurial alertness) and strategic processes (capability-building, entrepreneurial action, and co evolutionary adaptation)..The essence of their argument appears to be that organizations with better information technology are better at making decisions. One can therefore infer from these arguments that organisations should use Information technology as an enabler which enables them to sense and perceive changes in their environment and respond effectively (the fastest response is not necessarily the best response).
The role of information technology and its impact on CRM initiatives has been greatly discussed. According to Tamminga and O’Halloran (2000) the increasing use of the Internet by customers has important ramifications for CRM because of what is expected in terms of customer management . Along these lines Petrissans (2000) maintains that information technology automation solutions such as FAQ (frequently asked questions ) and interactive voice response systems can increase operational efficiency. Furthermore Sandoe et al. (2001) suggest that information technology development such as business intelligence through data warehousing and data mining are very important for the effectiveness of CRM systems Fundamentally it appears the role of information technology on enterprise ability and agility is often referred to as indirect (Overby, 2006). This view maintains that IT provides the infrastructure upon which other business functions and processes rely. Information technologies such as decision support systems, data warehouses, and CRM can facilitate the development of knowledge through real-time data monitoring, pattern identification and scenario modelling. This enhances the organisation sensing capabilities by providing managers with high-quality information about the state of the business, which helps them, identify emerging opportunities. One could argue from these research perspectives that technological advances are lead deterministically to better CRM systems, however it seems this is not the case ;for example Chen and Popowich (2004) claim that for some organisations CRM is simply a technology solution that consolidates disparate databases and sales force automation tools to bridge sales and marketing functions in order to improve sales efforts. This view is shared by Reinartz et al (2004) who suggest that one of the reasons for the disappointing results of many CRM initiatives can be attributed to the overemphasis on CRM as an information technology solution. As a result Coltman (2004) correctly argues that Information technology must be applied in the right way to derive business value and claims that Information technology impacts organizational performance via intermediate business processes, requires complementary organizational resources such as workplace practices and structures and is influenced by the external environment.
Data , Information and Knowledge
Plato suggested that knowledge could only be derived from that which is believed and is true, typically called justified true belief.Earl (1994) advocates that data has to be interpersonal or objective and postulates 4 levels of knowledge needed to understand organizational information events are collected and processed to generate Data , data is manipulated and interpreted to generate information and information leads to knowledge.Sveiby suggests that information is meaningless, but becomes meaningful knowledge when it is interpreted.
Polanyi (1966) defines knowledge as a construct that cannot be separated from its social context, similarly Toumi,1999) posits that data should include the context within which it was captured to ensure that it can be understood and interpreted correctly.
The main underpinnings of these schools of thoughts seem to underline the importance of tacit and subjective knowledge. Tacit knowledge is defined as personal; context specific and therefore hard to formalize and communicate (includes cognitive and technical elements) This is in contrast with proponents of explicit knowledge who advocate that knowledge should be objective , that is knowledge that is transmittable in formal systematic language (Nonaka and Takenchi 1995).
CRM and the internet
The growth and success of the internet has been emphatic as 10.000 new pages are added each day (chaffey, 2008). This success has been fuelled by the increase in broadband adoption alongside the low cost of the internet (chaffey 2008).The internet has because of its low barrier to entry and . Not only has the internet seen the introduction of new concepts such as e-business and forced organisations to evaluate organisational silos or constructs but it has introduced new technologies such as blogs, social networks, RSS that are collectively now known as web 2. 0.Petrohoff (2008) suggests that social media is not just these new technologies enabled by the internet but is more about a community that interact with each other on an ongoing basis.
The growth of the CRM industry as impressive as it seems cannot compare with the explosive growth of the internet that has catapulted ecommerce to centre stage with the value of sales alone in 2008 estimated at £222.9bn in the united kingdom (http://www.statistics.gov.uk/pdfdir/ecom1109.pdf). This indicates that the ecommerce has become an important medium for companies to reach customers more easily.. The notion is thus permeated that rapid advancements in technology are leading to increasing transparency of marketing activities, thus making it difficult to achieve long-lasting differentiation (Hande Kimilog?lu and Hu¨lya Zarali. 2008).While some (CA? LIN GURA?U et al , 2003) claim that the low entry barriers, the market size and the relatively low costs of online business activities have created a situation of intense competition and suggest that organisations therefore need to build brand loyalty and manage their relationships with customers better for long term viability .Others on the otherhand see the potential offered by the internet such as high speed, cost effectiveness, constant availability, efficiency in transferring information, and integrated and individualised nature are major drivers and strengths for CRM applications (Bauer et al., 2002; Frawley, 2000).
Thus a new conceptualization of CRM has been derived to accommodate the possibilities offered by the internet,wireless media and e-mail, denoted by E-CRM (chaffey and smith , 2008) with the goal of acquiring and retaining customers online using organisational websites
The role of People in CRM implementations has been examined by some researchers and there appears to be divergent views. Rigby et al (2003) suggest that although CRM are used to automate processes; these processes cannot manage customer relationships that deviate from the norm for example CRM is not as effective for relationship building as face to face communication . Davenport et al (2004) concur with this and argue that two distinct types of knowledge is generated by Organisations through customer information processing, namely tacit and implicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is generated through the processes of the CRM information system such as recording the actions of customers during communication .Explicit is therefore defined as knowledge that can be articulated ,documented and made accessible. This is contrasted with tacit knowledge generated during interaction with customers but cannot be documented and made accessible. Davenport et al (2004) therefore claim that for organisations to embark on successful CRM initiatives, human processes can complement and overcome the deficiencies in the technology led CRM implementations. This is also highlighted by Stringfellow, Nie, and Bowen (2004) who suggest CRM systems require complex channels to elicit the emotional needs of customers that cannot be met with standard CRM systems. As a result of this, they conclude that CRM systems are technology-rich but knowledge-poor.
Therefore indeed the usefulness of CRM is limited when dealing with unstructured information and tacit knowledge. And some (Markus et al 2002) therefore correctly argue that Organisations need emergent knowledge processes .
Emergent knowledge processes are organizational activities that exhibit three characteristics in combination: (1) deliberations with no best structure or sequence, (2) knowledge requirements include both general and tacit knowledge distributed across experts and non-experts, and (3) highly unpredictable actor set in term of job role or prior knowledge (Markus, et al., 2002).
Web 2.0 : communication, cooperation, collaboration and connection.
Musser and O’Reilly ( 2006) defines the WEB 2.0 as “the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them” . O’reilly gives a comprehensive definition and suggests that Web 2.0 is a range of interactive emergent tools and social communication techniques such as Blogs, Podcasts and social networks that are aimed at increasing user participation and interaction on the web (Albrecht et al., 2007; Berners-Lee et al., 2006; Kerres, 2006; McAfee, 2006;Musser and O’Reilly, 2006; O’Reilly, 2005; Seufert, 2007). This implies that web 2.0 is an umbrella term that underlines a new paradigm of capabilities made possible by the pervasiveness or rather near ubiquity of internet.
Some highlight the web 2.0 as the breaking down of organisational silos Oberhelman (). In fact Oberhelman () postulates that ” Web 2.0 refers generally to web tools that, rather than serve as a forum for authorities to impart information to a passive, receptive audience, actually invite site visitors to comment,collaborate, and edit information, creating a more distributed form of authority in which the boundaries between site creator and visitor are blurred”. This view is shared by Graham (2005) who posits that