Responsiveness is referring to a willingness to help customers and provide prompt service. (Parasuraman et al 1988) This dimension depends on the loading time of a webpage and time taken to reply customer email enquiry. The page loading speed is important, as customer may be unwilling to wait for long. Zona Research (1999) analysis suggests that many customers may not prepare to wait for longer than 8 second to load a webpage.
On ADSL connection (common connection in Singapore) of 3.4 MB speed, it took about 7 and 12 seconds to load Valuair and Dell Singapore home page, respectively. On average it took 4 seconds to load the hyperlinks stated in Valuair webpage. It took 15 second for a hyperlink in Dell site to load this is because Dell website generally contain more information than that of Valuair. Original enquiries were emailed to Valuair and Dell on 2 January 2005. The queries were selected to represent typical questions that might be sent to both companies. For example, procedures to place order online, safety of credit card payment, and delivery time. Please refer to Appendix 1 for a copy of these emails enquiry.
On 3 January 2005 Dell responded with an automatic reply. In the email, a query reference number is given and a customer service manager name is stated as the sender. As of 15 January 2005, no personalized reply was received from Valuair and Dell despite another follow up letter sent to Valuair on 7 January 2005.
Assurance measures the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to convey trust and confidence. (Parasuraman et al 1988) In terms of email responses, the assurance can be considered as the quality of the answer provided. A comprehensive, accurate and affirmative answer gives high assurance and confidence to customer. There was no response from Valuair thus no assurance can be established. Dell only replied with an automatic response, which uses positive and affirmative language. The email shows certain level of courtesy and demonstrates assurance.
Assurance can also be delivered from the website security and privacy protection. Website with no or low security and privacy protection provide low assurance quality. Customer will only use e-commerce only when they develop certain level of trust (Ferraro, 1998) Both Dell and Valuair provided clear and effective privacy statement in the website. Refer to Appendix 2 and 3 for a copy of these statements. In its Frequently asked question (FAQ), Dell states that it uses Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology to encrypt customer sensitive information. Dell also register it website with site identification authorities to confirm Dell identity before any transmission. However, Valuair does not states about the security features or measures used in its website.
Empathy refers to the level of caring, individualized attention given to customer. (Parasuraman et al 1988) Empathy can still be achieved in e-commerce via personalised email and customised website support and service. The language used in Dell email appears friendly and attentive. The name of employee, job title and contact numbers also stated in Dell email thus shows element of empathy.
The ability to personalize website services is an indication of empathy (Voss A Chris, 2002). Personalized support includes customized page outlook, order tracking, search facilities, FAQ and etc (Schubert and Seiz, 2001). Dell’s FAQ page is comprehensive and lists out detail answers for questions that may be asked by customers. While Valuair has a FAQ list but the questions and answer listed are not as comprehensive.
The support across all phases of the online transaction cycle (pre, during and after sales) to assist buyer in making decision also shows empathy (Molla Alemayehu ; Licker Paul, 2001). Dell website provides helps throughout the ordering process. Detail information about the order, computer, and costs were shown at each steps. Dell also allows customer to customize it computers. Limited customization and support available in Valuair website.
Valuair provided a detail list of its customer service centre contact information, including phone number and address for braches at various countries. This list is easy to read and easy to be located. While the webpage showing Dell customer service detail is difficult to locate.
Ferraro, A. (1998) “Electronic commerce: The issues and challenges to creating trust and positive image in consumer sales on the World Wide Web”. First Monday.
Molla Alemayehu ; Licker S Paul, 2001, “E-commerce System Success: An Attempt to Extend and Respecify the Delone and Maclean Model of IS Success” Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, VOL. 2, NO. 4, 2001, Page 131
Parasuraman A., Zeithaml V.A. ; Berry L. (1988), SERVQUAL: A multi-item scale for measuring consumer perceptions of service quality, Journal of Marketing,, 64, pp 12-40