[We’re pleased to welcome Madhumita Banerjee of American University of Sharjah. Dr. Banerjee’s article “Misalignment and Its Influence on Integration Quality in Multichannel Services” was published in the November 2014 issue of Journal of Service Research.]
Organizations today interact with their customers in multichannel environments through a portfolio of physical and virtual channels. The types of channels range from physical entities (e.g., hotel reception desks), to technology-assisted channels (e.g., airline self-check-in kiosks), to virtual channels (e.g., the Internet, smart phone apps). A seamless customer experience within and across channels reflects the integration quality of multichannel services. While customers are accessing products, services and information through a variety of channels, organizations are continuously challenged to understand customer behaviour across channels and design effective multichannel systems. The findings of this study identify the forms of misalignment between organizational perception and design of a multichannel system and customer expectations of a multichannel experience. The findings confirm that such misalignment not only negatively influences the integration quality of the multichannel services but also threatens firm-customer relationships.
The consumer banking division (also known as retail banking) of a leading bank was the research setting for this longitudinal, multi-method, multi-site qualitative case study. First, process models and work flow diagrams were studied and unstructured interviews with the bank’s customer strategy and channel management teams were undertaken to determine the multichannel system existing in the organization, the improvements being considered, and the strategic actions planned for the implementation of the improvements. Second, in-depth interviews were conducted with 30 of the bank’s customers to gain insights into their multichannel experiences of engaging with the bank through its bank branches, ATMs, phone and Internet banking. Third, in-depth interviews were conducted with senior management of four technology firms engaged by the bank for projects on technology solutions development and implementation, to understand the development and integration of multichannel systems.
A key determinant of integration quality in multichannel services is the alignment of channel strategy with customer-centric contact management strategy. This study uncovers the misalignment between organizational perception and design of a multichannel system and customer expectations of a multichannel service experience. Inappropriate channel offerings by organizations disrupt channel flows and service outputs. Such misalignment damages the multichannel design and the integration quality. The findings suggest the need for managers to create a blueprint of the channel management processes and sub-processes that focus on both outbound and inbound customer contact. This study also finds that during multichannel design, organizations essentially focus on outbound contact. However, for the customers, it is the management of inbound information that flows from customers to the organization and how the same is co-ordinated and managed within and across channels is crucial. This study identifies a second form of misalignment that occurs when customers expecting to receive a seamless experience within and across channels, face unexpected service failure events or hidden events, due to poor channel flows. Such sudden failures enhance customers’ susceptibility to relationship termination. Furthermore, the findings also reveal that the interplay of actions between three entities – the organization, its wider institutional environment, and its customers influences the overall integration quality in multichannel systems.
You can read “Misalignment and Its Influence on Integration Quality in Multichannel Services” from Journal of Service Research for free by clicking here. Want to get all the latest news and research from Journal of Service Research? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!
Madhumita Banerjee is a visiting assistant professor of Marketing at the American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Her research interests are in the two areas of services marketing and consumption behaviors and experiences.