Customer Use of Virtual Channels in Multichannel Services: Does Type of Activity Matter?

  • Sousa R
  • Amorim M
  • Rabinovich E
 et al. 
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Many firms have recently adopted virtual channels, based most notably on the Internet and the phone, to complement the delivery of services to their customers by their existing physical facilities. The success of such multichannel (MC) strategies relies on the alignment of service design decisions-namely those concerning the allocation of service activities to virtual channels-with customers' MC behavior. Although prior studies have looked at the intensity with which customers use virtual channels, they have not addressed virtual channel use for different types of service activities. In our study, we investigate whether customers' use of virtual channels for MC services varies with the type of service activities they engage in, and if so, in what way. In doing so, we address two objectives. First, we investigate the impact of accessibility to the physical channel on the degree of use of virtual channels (Internet and phone, aggregated) for different types of activities. Second, we look at channel preferences (Internet vs. phone) for different types of activities when customers do resort to virtual channels to conduct activities. To address our objectives, we develop and test hypotheses regarding customers' use of virtual channels based on the match between activity attributes (complexity and volume) and channel attributes (access efficiency, interface efficiency, interface richness). Using data from a MC bank, we find that the impact of accessibility to physical channels (specifically, customer distance) on customers' use of virtual channels, as well as the relative use of Internet versus phone, depend on the type of activities. © 2015 Decision Sciences Institute.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Customer Behavior
  • Multichannel Services
  • Service Design
  • Service Operations

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