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Online community forums impact perceptions of overall service quality

I recently read an article in the World Applied Sciences Journal called “The Impact of Online Customer Experience (OCE) on Service Quality in Malaysia”.  The authors, Mehrdad Salehi, Meysam, Salimi, and Ahasanul Haque, touch on a hot topic and provide some quantitative findings around the issue.  The idea is that today online product communities are an integral element of web-based strategies for many corporations.  Traditional customer experience assessments evaluate overall service quality because it is a significant predictor of Customer Satisfaction, Customer Loyalty, Customer Buying Behavior, etc.   The authors hypothesize based on literature reviews that there is a positive association between the dimensions of OCE and Service Quality. 

For the purpose of their study, they identified four dimensions to OCE: 

  • Pragmatic: utilitarian aspects.
  • Hedonic:  excitement/intrinsic value.
  • Sociability:  social experience extract from their interactions.
  • Usability:  experience in surfing and using the environment.

The study’s results supported existing literature findings, and the hypotheses above, revealing that collectively the four dimensions explained 63.7% of the variation in Service Quality.  The authors conclude that given the impact on these 4 dimensions on Service Quality, corporations would be wise to try and enhance their customers’ experiences in each. 

Of the questions used in this particular study, I was most interested in the ones related to Sociability.  While many customer experience assessments I see touch (whether directly or indirectly) on usability and pragmatic online customer experiences, I don’t see too many assessments on how a customer feels about the social aspect.  As service evolves from face-to-face, to phone, to email, to online forums, it’s important to assess customers’ perceptions because it does all feed into overall Service Quality.  I also see the social dimension as one where corporations could really differentiate themselves and answer specific needs of their customers!

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