Customer Contact Center Quality: a Valuable Asset in Creating True Loyalty.

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1 Customer Contact Center Quality: a Valuable Asset in Creating True Loyalty. Z. van Dun 1, J. Bloemer, J. Henseler Institute for Management Research, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands 20 November 2010 Based on service quality, relationship marketing and loyalty research, the authors develop and test a model that shows how customer contact center quality (CCC quality) positively influences some of the key elements of relationship quality and outcomes, such as satisfaction, trust, affective commitment and future intentions. The model is tested among 1,589 consumers of three service industry organizations in the Netherlands, by using structural equation modeling. The results show that CCC quality is a valuable asset in creating true loyalty, as it has a positive, direct influence on relationship quality, but the impact on relationship outcome is only indirect through relationship quality.. The implications of these findings for theory and practice are discussed. Key words: Customer Contact Center Quality, Satisfaction, Trust, Affective Commitment, Future intentions, True loyalty Introduction In recent years, the importance of service as a strategic differentiator in a competitive market has been growing rapidly. Organizations realize that their product or price is no longer a strong differentiator, as global competitors can copy either of them in an instance. The service 1 * Corresponding author: Zanna van Dun Doctoral student, Institute for Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen, Muurdijk 3, 6852 HH Huissen, The Netherlands, tel: , fax: , Josée Bloemer Ph.D., Full Professor of Marketing and Market Research, Institute for Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen, P.O. Box 9108, 6500 HK Nijmegen, The Netherlands, tel: , fax: , Jörg Henseler Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Marketing, Institute for Management Research, Radboud University Nijmegen, P.O. Box 9108, 6500 HK Nijmegen, The Netherlands, tel: , fax: , 1

2 these organizations deliver however is more difficult to grasp, thus making it a long term differentiator for most organizations. Furthermore, the strong, positive relationship between the quality of the service delivered and relationship quality (i.e., satisfaction, trust and affective commitment) and relationship outcomes (i.e., future intentions such as word of mouth and repurchase intentions) puts even more strain on organizations to deliver the best service possible (e.g. Rust et al., 1995; Spreng and Mackoy, 1996; Sharma and Patterson, 1999). Thus, to better understand the customers evaluation of service quality, considerable effort has been devoted to studying the dimensions of service quality (e.g. Parasuraman et al., 1985, 1988; Cronin and Taylor, 1992). Nowadays, many organizations use customer contact centers to fulfill their level of service quality (Anton, 2000; Holman, Batt, & Holgrewe, 2007; Miciak & Desmarais, 2001). Especially in business to consumer markets, the number of customer contacts forces organizations to mass customize. It is no longer possible to have a personal account manager for each individual customer. With the growth of the Internet, more and more companies even do without a physical store, relying even more on the CCC. The CCC replaces first of all the service delivery role of the account manager, but also more and more the sales function of the account manager and the store. This role of growing importance, both strategic and in creating delighted customers, is also found in several studies (Mitchell, 1998; Prabhaker, Sheehan, & Coppett, 1997). But what is the role of the CCC in creating loyal customers? On the surface, the CCC might seem a more transaction oriented asset for the organization (e.g. Alexander and Colgate, 2000; Coviello and Brodie, 1998; Teas, 1993). The customer calls the CCC with a question, the question is solved and that ends the transaction. But that would be too narrow a view. The CCC is a crucial element in the so-called moment of truth between the customer and the organization. The customer is depending on the CCC to help him when he has a problem or question. It can therefore confirm a feeling of trust in the organization as the 2

3 customer feels that the organization is there for him, when needed. This tends to make the CCC a more relationship oriented asset for the organization (e.g. Berry, 1983; Morgan and Hunt, 1994; Coviello et al., 2002; Caceres and Paproidamis, 2007). The customer is completely dependent of the CCC, so when he is serviced to his satisfaction, it establishes a feeling of trust. This relationship oriented view of the CCC also relates to the discussion of true versus spurious loyalty (e.g. Jacoby and Chestnut, 1978; Bloemer and Kasper, 1995; Dick and Basu, 1994; Oliver, 1999b). By enhancing the feeling of trust, the CCC can strengthen the customer s feeling of true loyalty. As the CCC is often only seen as an efficiency asset for an organization, the relationship oriented view of the CCC offers added value in creating sustainable, true loyalty. Despite this role of growing importance, not many studies have focused on the quality of service delivered through the customer contact center. The studies that do focus on the customer contact center, mostly focus on specific elements of the customer contact center (e.g. Burgers, De Ruyter, Keen, & Streukens, 2000; Feinberg, Kim, Hokama, De Ruyter, & Keen, 2000). Burgers et al. (2000) focus their study specifically on the competences of the customer service representative and Feinberg et al. (2000) focus on the impact of internal aspects, such as service levels, total calls, and average talk time on customer satisfaction. A holistic view on the quality of the service delivered through the customer contact center and how customers perceive this service is missing. Therefore, the goal of the present study is to explore how customer contact center quality influences satisfaction, trust, affective commitment and future intentions of customers. As delivering high quality service is of growing importance for organizations to create competitive advantage in the service industry and this service is more and more delivered through contact centers (e.g. Anton, 2000; Holman et al., 2007), understanding customer contact center quality might be crucial for long term success of these organizations. Based on 3

4 service quality research and an extensive quantitative study, we develop and test a model that explores the direct and indirect effects of CCC quality on relationship quality and outcomes. We propose that CCC quality positively and directly affects satisfaction, trust and affective commitment. As we focus on the relationship oriented view of the CCC, we expect CCC quality to influence future intentions only indirectly through satisfaction, trust and affective commitment. For both theory and practice the findings of our study are relevant. From a theoretical perspective, we add to the existing literature by creating a better understanding of the concept of CCC quality and its impact on the key components of relationship quality and outcomes. We also add to the understanding of the transactional versus relational role of the CCC for an organization. In doing so, we create a better understanding of the role of the CCC in creating true loyalty. This has not been studied before. From a managerial perspective, we offer managers of customer contact centers clear insights in the dimensions of CCC quality and how they can improve their CCC quality so that they enhance their customers satisfaction, trust, affective commitment and future intentions. The remainder of the article is organized as follows. First, we describe the context of the CCC as a transactional or relational asset for the organization. Second, we describe the dimensions and importance of CCC quality based on an extensive quantitative study. Third, we provide an overview of the model and the hypotheses development. Fourth, we describe the methodology and results and discuss the findings and their managerial implications. Finally, we conclude with some of the present study s limitations and give suggestions for future research. 4

5 THEORETICAL BACKGROUND Context of the CCC In recent years, marketing literature has moved from more traditional, transaction marketing towards relationship marketing (Coviello and Brodie, 1998; Alexander and Colgate, 2000). The essential difference between the two is the more long-term focus of relationship marketing versus the more short-term oriented transaction marketing. Where transactional marketing, by using tools as the marketing mix, focuses on selling a specific product as one transaction, relationship marketing is more focused on building a long-term relationship with the customer in order to create a profitable relationship for both parties. The CCC might be argued to be a more transaction specific context. A customer contacts the CCC with a specific need that needs to be fulfilled at that specific moment. The customer calls the CCC with a question, the CCC answers the question and that ends the transaction. But that would be the case if we only look at the surface of the CCC. A deeper look into the role of the CCC leads to the suggestion that the CCC is a more relational oriented asset for the organization. In the business to consumer context, the CCC is more and more a replacement for the role of the personal account manager of even the store. Customers used to have one single point of contact, their account manager. They knew the name of the account manager and met him or her in person. With the introduction of the CCC, the customers do not have this single point of contact anymore. When they contact the organization, they might well speak to another employee each time they call. The customers do not know the names of the employees they speak to and cannot meet them in person. So the role of creating a good relationship and a feeling of trust that used to lie in the hands of the account manager or the store manager, now lies in the hands of a large, impersonal CCC. Another important consequence of this shift from a personal relationship with an account manager, towards 5

6 having to contact a more impersonal CCC, is the dependence of the customer. When the customer has a problem of question, he has nowhere other to turn to then this impersonal CCC. He cannot contact anyone else, because the CCC is the only available point of contact for the customer. As the customer is so dependent of the CCC as his only contact point during the so-called moments of truth, it is crucial for the CCC to create or strengthen the feeling of trust that the customer has in the organization. This puts the CCC in a much more relational oriented position. The CCC needs to put the customer at ease, listen to the customer, give him advice on his products, and in the end, solve his question or problem. Because of this dependency, the experience that the CCC actually offers good service and is there for the customer when needed, it adheres to the feeling of trust of the customers. Several studies have shown that trust is an important mediator in creating loyal customers (e.g. Morgan and Hunt, 1994; Garbarino and Johnson, 1999; Caceres and Paparoidamis, 2007). Together with commitment, trust mediates the relationship between satisfaction and loyalty. As it creates loyalty through the attitude of the customer, it is a more sustainable form of loyalty, so-called true loyalty (Bloemer and Kasper, 1995; Dick and Basu, 1994). On the other end of the continuum is so-called spurious loyalty. This type of loyalty is more short term driven and transaction oriented. For example, customers that repurchase a product because of the temporary price reduction of the product. These customers easily switch to another supplier when they are offered a price that is even lower. So in order to create a sustainable feeling of loyalty, that is not easily influenced by competitors, the ambition for organizations is to create true loyalty, through enhancing the feeling of trust and commitment. As the CCC more and more fills the role of the person customers need to depend on when they contact the organization, we expect that the CCC might be a valuable asset in realizing this feeling of true loyalty. Therefore, we expect that CCC quality does influence satisfaction, 6

7 trust and affective commitment directly, but it only has an indirect influence on future intentions, because of the mediating effect of trust and commitment. Service quality The concept of service quality began emerging in the late 1970s, with a primary focus on goods. Because services differ from goods on key features such as intangibility (Shostack, 1977), heterogeneity (Booms & Bitner, 1981), and inseparability (Grönroos, 1978), researchers also needed a separate concept of service quality. Two early conceptualizations by Grönroos (1982) and Smith and Houston (1982) used the confirmation disconfirmation paradigm suggested by Churchill and Surprenant (1982), which contends that service evaluations relate to the size and direction of the disconfirmation experience. This disconfirmation necessarily pertains to a consumer s initial expectations. Therefore, in line with the confirmation disconfirmation paradigm, Grönroos (1982) argues that consumers compare the service they expect with the service they receive to evaluate its quality. When the service delivered does not meet initial expectations, the consumer is dissatisfied, whereas if the service meets or exceeds those expectations, he or she is satisfied. This paradigm also paved the way for seminal work by Parasuraman et al. (1985, 1988) on service quality and its measurement. As these studies were executed in a period before the existence and growth of the customer contact center, the question arises whether the current operationalization of service quality is also applicable for delivering services in the customer contact center setting. Customer contact center quality The growth in customer contact centers is reflected in the number of studies on the subject, which began appearing in 2000 (e.g., Burgers et al., 2000; Feinberg et al., 2000; Ruyter & Wetzels, 2000). These studies consist of two categories: articles that focus on customers 7

8 perceptions of customer contact centers and those pertaining to the internal functions or management of the centers. The latter category provide levers for the former group of studies. These customer-oriented studies reveal that the impact of internal aspects, such as service levels, total calls, and average talk time, actually have minimal impact on the customer s experience (Feinberg et al., 2000; Heinen, 2006; Holland, 2003; Marr & Parry, 2004; Miciak & Desmarais, 2001). Customer contact centers needed a focus on other dimensions, which prompted more studies of customers perceptions. The initial studies of customers perspectives came from Ruyter and Wetzels (2000) and Burgers et al. (2000). Ruyter and Wetzels (2000) investigate employee performance, the contact center representative (CCR), and the specific impact of perceived listening by the CCR on customer satisfaction and customer trust. They find that perceived listening consists of three dimensions: attentiveness, perceptiveness, and responsiveness. Attentiveness and responsiveness both have direct impact on customer satisfaction, and receptiveness and responsiveness have direct impacts on customer trust. These three dimensions likely influence overall evaluations of the quality of the contact center as well. Burgers et al. (2000) consider the role of the CCR in a broader sense: What does the customer expect of a CCR? Their four dimensions are adaptiveness, assurance, empathy, and authority. Dean (2004) studies customer expectations of service and finds, in addition to basic service aspects such as solving the problem, being friendly, and explaining the steps in the process, two new dimensions: customer feedback and customer focus. Customer feedback features items such as regular monitoring of customer satisfaction, encouragement of informal feedback, and informing customers of changes. Customer focus instead consists of items such as understanding the needs of the customer, constantly creating value for the customer, and adopting a main objective of keeping the customer satisfied. 8

9 All of these studies concentrate on particular aspects of the quality of the customer contact center, such as the CCR, perceived listening behavior, and so on. Dun, Bloemer, & Henseler (2011) have developed a holistic view on customer contact center quality. Based on extensive qualitative and quantitative studies, they have developed a robust scale of CCC quality, consisting of 7 dimensions. First, Reliability. This dimension comprises concepts such as answering the question and being able to trust the employee s knowledge, which represents the core goal of customer contact centers. Second, Empathy. This dimension consists of aspects such as friendliness, listening, and understanding by the employees. Third, Customer knowledge. This dimension consists of aspects that make customers feel as if the organization knows them. Fourth, Customer focus. This dimension consists of aspects such as giving proactive advice, learning from customer signals and keeping promises. Fifth, Accessibility. This dimensions consists of being able to find the contact number for the center and the hours of operation. Sixth, Waiting cost. This dimension refers to the time customers must wait when they contact the center. And finally, User friendliness of VRU. This dimension consists only of aspects related to the voice response unit, that is, the automated menu customers proceed through before they can speak to an employee. In the present study we build on the study of Dun et al. (2011) and their operationalization of CCC quality. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND RESEACH HYPOTHESES <INSERT FIGURE 1 AROUND HERE> In Figure 1 we describe our theoretical model. It shows the relationships between CCC quality and relationship quality components (satisfaction, trust and affective commitment) and outcomes (future intentions). First, we will explain the direct effects of CCC quality, based on 9

10 prior research (H1 t/m H3). Next, we discuss the indirect effects of CCC quality on future intentions (H4 t/m H9). Direct effects of CCC quality (H1 t/m H3) Satisfaction can be defined as an overall evaluation based on the total purchase and consumption experience with a good or service over time (Garbarino and Johnson, 1999, p. 71). Most studies on service quality find a positive relationship between service quality and satisfaction (e.g. Rust et al., 1995; Spreng and Mackoy, 1996). The studies that focus on aspects of CCC quality also find positive relationships with customer satisfaction. For example, Ruyter and Wetzels (2000) focus on the impact of the listening skills of the customer service representative on customer satisfaction. They found a positive relationship. Customers appear to value the feeling of being understood by the employee they are talking to and by the feeling of empathy that is given. Feinberg (2000) found that the number of calls closed on first contact, so-called first time fix, and average abandonment had a positive impact on satisfaction. Especially this first time fix is something that is part of all performance management indices of the contact center. Customers want an answer to their question or a resolution to their problem at the end of the call. The aforementioned aspects are all part of CCC quality. Therefore we expect that CCC quality will have a positive impact on satisfaction. Consistent with previous findings, we propose: H1: CCC quality has a positive impact on satisfaction. Trust can be defined as a willingness to rely on an exchange partner in whom one has confidence (Moorman, Deshpandé and Zaltman, 1993, p.82), while affective commitment can be defined as an enduring desire to maintain a valued relationship (Moorman and Zaltman, 1992, p.316). Both constructs have been found to play a crucial role in relationship 10

11 marketing (Caceres and Paparoidamis, 2007; Garbarino and Johnson, 1999; Morgan and Hunt, 1994). In the study of Sharma and Patterson (1999) a positive relationship between service quality, existing of functional and technical quality and trust was found. They also found that technical quality has a positive impact on commitment. The study of Chiou and Droge (2006) confirms these findings as they find that the impact of interactive service quality on trust is significant. The impact of service quality on affective commitment again is confirmed in the study of Fullerton (2005). In line with these findings, we propose: H2: CCC quality has a positive impact on trust. H3: CCC quality has a positive impact on affective commitment. Indirect effects of CCC quality (H4 t/m H9) Many studies have focused on the relationships between key components of relationship marketing, such as satisfaction, trust, affective commitment and future intentions (Chiou and Droge, 2006; Garbarino and Johnson, 1999; Lam et al., 2004). Although some studies find that trust and affective commitment mediate the relationship between satisfaction and future intentions (e.g., Bansal, Irving, and Taylor, 2004; Morgan and Hunt, 1994), other studies find that satisfaction has a direct impact on affective commitment (Garbarino and Johnson, 1999) or future intentions (Chiou and Droge, 2006; Lam et al., 2004). As the goal of the present study is to explore the impact of CCC quality on satisfaction, trust, affective commitment and future intentions, we do not discuss the details of these relationships. Instead, we use the proposed interrelationships by Nijssen (2003) as a starting point to explore the relationships between the four key components. Therefore, we propose: H4: Satisfaction has a positive influence on trust. 11

12 H5: Satisfaction has a positive influence on affective commitment. H6: Satisfaction has a positive influence on future intentions. H7: Trust has a positive influence on affective commitment. H8: Trust has a positive influence on future intentions. H9: Affective commitment has a positive influence on future intentions. RESEACH DESIGN AND METHOD To make sure that our results would be generalizable across different service industries, we selected customers from three different service industry organizations: health insurance, financial services and telecom. These three industries differ on several levels. Health insurance for most customers is something they have to deal with incidentally. They do not contact their health insurer very often, so there are not many touch points between a customer and his health insurer. Most of the time the customers receive their yearly premium offer and when they do not use any care, there is no other contact with the health insurer. In the telecom branch it is quite the opposite. As most telecom providers nowadays offer internet, telephony and television, there are many customer contacts about all three services that are offered by the same telecom provider. The contact rate with the financial services lies in between these two service industries. Most banks have internet banking nowadays, so many customers use these services on a weekly basis. But the more professional the internet channel of the bank is organized, the less customers need to call them to ask questions. Most banks are in the middle of this transformation of offering more services through the internet. As the focus of our study is the customer contact center, we expect that testing our results in these three branches will provide a strong test of the generalizability of the results. 12

13 Sampling and data collection We collected data from three service industries: health insurance, financial services and telecom. The employees of these organizations were asked during a certain period to ask all customers that contacted the contact center to give their address, so they could be approached for our study. We made sure that the time between asking their address and sending the online survey via was no longer than one week, so their evaluations would be as recent as possible. In the end 7,535 customers were willing to give their address. We sent them a personalized with a link to the online survey. Finally, we had 1,589 usable samples, including 472 pertaining to telecom, 558 to health insurance and 559 to financial services. 65% of the respondents were male, and 35% female. The age of the respondents ranged from 18 to 86 with an average of 46. Measures We adopted the 47-item scale of CCC quality of Dun et al. (2011) (see appendix 1) to measure the customers perception of the quality of the service delivered through the customer contact center. We used a 7-point Likert-type scale that ranged from 1 ( completely disagree ) to 7 ( completely agree ). Our measures of the key components of relationship quality and outcomes, were all based on existing scales that have been proven valid and reliable in previous studies. Satisfaction is measured by one item formulated as I am satisfied with Company X as a whole. The reason for measuring satisfaction with one item, lies in the fact that satisfaction is a concrete marketing constructs which is easy to understand and answer for consumers (Rossiter, 2002; Bergkvist and Rossiter, 2007). For trust we build on the study of Garbarino and Johnson (1999) and adopt their 4 item scale. For affective commitment we also build on the scale of 13

14 Garbarino and Johnson (1999) and adopt their 4 items scale. For the operationalization of future intentions we used the scale developed by Zeithaml et al. (1996) for word of mouth, existing of three items, and repurchase intentions existing of two items. For an overview of all the items in the questionnaire, see Appendix 1. ANALYSIS AND RESULTS Before running the structural model using AMOS 16, we tested the validity of the measurements. Internal consistency measures are validated by Cronbach s alpha. As can be seen from Table 1, all coefficient alpha values are above the 0.7 threshold (Nunnally and Bernstein, 1994). Composite reliability represents the shared variance among a set of observed variables measuring underlying constructs (Fornell and Larcker, 1981). The requirement of a composite reliability of at least 0.6 is met for all factors (Bagozzi and Yi, 1988). The average variance extracted is above the 0.5 threshold for all factors except for CCC Quality that is slightly below 0.5 (Fornell and Larcker, 1981). <INSERT TABLE 1 AROUND HERE> We also tested for discriminant validity by comparing the squared factor correlations with the two values of the average variance extracted. All squared correlations are below the average variance extracted (Fornell and Larcker, 1981), confirming discriminant validity of the constructs. In Table 2 the factor correlation matrix is shown. <INSERT TABLE 2 AROUND HERE> Therefore, the measurement model meets all psychometric property requirements. 14

15 Test of the Hypotheses The overall fit indicates that the proposed model represents the data structure well: χ 2 (68) = , p =.000, goodness-of-fit index (GFI) =.949, comparative fit index (CFI) =.980, and root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA) =.068. The results obtained by estimating the hypothesized model are summarized in Table 3. <INSERT TABLE 3 AROUND HERE> We tested all hypotheses by examining path significance. All three direct effects of CCC quality to satisfaction, trust and affective commitment are found, supporting Hypotheses 1 through 3. In addition, all paths describing the interrelationships between satisfaction, trust, affective commitment and future intentions are significant, thus supporting Hypotheses 4 through 9. This means that satisfaction, trust and affective commitment partially mediate the direct impact of CCC quality on future intentions. Finally, the results show that CCC quality has the largest impact on satisfaction (beta = 0.697) and trust (beta = 0.322). The impact of CCC quality on commitment, though significant at the 0.1 level, is very low (beta = 0.051). In order to further validate our results, we ran two additional models. Model 2 is a full mediation model of CCC quality. When the CCC would be a pure transaction oriented asset for an organization, CCC quality would only influence satisfaction directly. Trust, affective commitment and future intentions would then be influenced by satisfaction. Model 3 is a partial mediation model, in which all direct and indirect paths are modeled. In this model we add the direct impact of CCC quality of future intentions. If this direct impact is found, it 15

16 would suggest a more spurious form of loyalty that is generated by CCC quality. In table 4 the results of both models are shown. <INSERT TABLE 4 AROUND HERE> The results of Model 2, full mediation, show that the model fit is significantly worse than our first model. This confirms our finding that the CCC is a more relational than transaction oriented asset for an organization. Apparently customers depend on the CCC to help them in the moments of truth, thus enhancing their feeling of trust. The results of Model 3, partial mediation with a direct impact of CCC quality on future intentions, show that the direct impact of CCC quality on future intentions is not significant. This confirms our finding that the CCC does create a feeling of true, long term loyalty through trust and affective commitment instead of a more spurious, short term feeling of loyalty. DISCUSSION As the customer contact center plays a role of growing importance in delivering service, our focus in the present study has been to understand the impact of CCC quality on relationship quality (i.e. satisfaction, trust and affective commitment) and outcomes (i.e. future intentions) in the CCC context. The results show that CCC quality has a significant, direct, positive effect on satisfaction, trust and affective commitment. This means that a consumer s satisfaction, trust and affective commitment towards an organization is enhanced by improving the quality of the service delivered through the customer contact center. Our model further suggests that CCC quality has an indirect effect on future intentions, mediated by satisfaction, trust and affective commitment. This confirms our suggestion that a more transactional view of the CCC is too narrow. The CCC plays an important role from a 16

17 more relational point of view. It creates a feeling of trust with customers that are depending on the CCC for service and problem solving. As CCC quality enhances a feeling of trust and commitment, it also confirms our finding that the CCC is a valuable asset in creating true loyalty instead of the more short-term oriented spurious loyalty. Finally, our results show that CCC quality has the largest impact on satisfaction and trust, compared with the effects of CCC quality on affective commitment and future intentions. Overall our findings demonstrate that CCC quality plays an important role in realizing relationship quality and therefore in realizing true loyalty in service industry organizations. MANGARIAL IMPLICATIONS For the management of the CCC s the most important finding is the importance of CCC Quality for the whole organization. Our results offer CCC managers the proof of what they have always believed: the CCC is more than just a cost center. It plays a crucial role for organizations that want to strengthen the relationship and create true loyalty in doing so. The CCC plays an important role in extending the feeling of trust with customers. Especially since a contact with the CCC is always a moment of truth, the role of the CCC in increasing this trust is substantial. The CCC quality scale also gives managers concrete insight in the aspects that need their attention. Specifically, they need to broaden their attention from an operational focus to a more value creating focus. This means that all seven dimensions need their attention: reliability, empathy, customer knowledge, customer focus, accessibility, waiting cost and user friendliness of VRU. 17

18 They need to shift their focus to being a reliable partner by answering the questions of the customers in one instance and by giving the entire organization insight in the customer experience and how to improve this experience. By training their employees to be emphatic towards the customers that contact the CCC. By introducing a clear customer focus, for which they need the rest of the organization as well. By registering all the customer knowledge available and using it in such a way that the customer feels that the organization really knows him. For example, by mentioning that the employee can see that the customer has contacted the organization three days ago or via . And finally, by ensuring that on an operational level waiting costs, accessibility and the user friendliness of the voice response unit are taken care of. Managers of the CCC can create sustainable value for the entire organization and are able to move away from the constant cost discussion with the board of directors and their peers. Our study shows that the efficiency view does not do enough justice to the role of the CCC. It is an important asset in enhancing the feeling of trust and thus improving the feeling of true loyalty among customers. The CCC manager can position their contact center as a value creating and necessary asset in improving the loyalty rates of the organization. They can now move away from the constant, singular focused cost discussion and can introduce a value creating dimension as well. LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE RESEARCH There are some limitations that should be taken into account when interpreting the results. First, the organizations that participated in our study represent a limited number of industries. The analysis included three participating organizations, from the health care, financial 18

19 services and telecom industry. Further research should include other industries to test the generalizability of the proposed scale. Second, we excluded customers who called the contact center with a complaint. The state of mind and emotions of complaining customers differs significantly from those of customers with questions, so the results apply only to customers who have a question or a remark, not those with a complaint. Further research might address complaint handling by customer contact center to determine whether the seven dimensions we identify are applicable in a complaint setting. Third, our study specifically focuses on so-called in-house contact centers. We did not take into account the possible differences of outsourced CCC s. As this is an entirely different business model, it might have consequences for our findings. The market of outsourced CCC is substantial, so future research might include some outsourced CCC s. Finally, our study is based on cross-sectional data. We did not have the time to gather longitudinal data. Although the results seem to indicate the generalizability of the results, other studies need to confirm our findings in other CCC contexts or even not CCC related contexts. 19

20 Appendix 1: Scale items used for the measures Construct Scale Type Measurement items CCC Quality Accessibility 1 7 Lkt The phone number of the contact center of organization X is easy to find. 1 7 Lkt The opening hours of the contact center of organization X are sufficient. Waiting 1 7 Lkt When I call the waiting time is made clear to me. 1 7 Lkt The waiting time of the contact center of organization X is acceptable. 1 7 Lkt The costs of calling the contact center are acceptable. Voice response unit 1 7 Lkt The VRU is logically ordered. 1 7 Lkt The VRU is clear. 1 7 Lkt The VRU is not too long. Knowing the customer As soon as I talk to an employee, I notice that the employee: 1 7 Lkt - knows me as their customer. 1 7 Lkt - immediately has my data at his disposal. 1 7 Lkt - has insight into my personal data. 1 7 Lkt - has insight into my product data. 1 7 Lkt - knows when and why I contacted the contact center previously. 1 7 Lkt - knows what other contacts I have had with the organization (letters, , visit to the office). Empathy The employee I talk to: 1 7 Lkt - says his name. 1 7 Lkt - is friendly. 1 7 Lkt - is patient. 1 7 Lkt - understands me correctly. 1 7 Lkt - listens well. 1 7 Lkt - takes me seriously. 1 7 Lkt - puts himself in my situation. 1 7 Lkt - knows my needs. 1 7 Lkt - gives me personal attention. 1 7 Lkt - makes me feel my question is important. 1 7 Lkt - takes my level of knowledge into account. 1 7 Lkt - is solution oriented. 1 7 Lkt - thinks along with me. Reliability 1 7 Lkt The employee can quickly find the information to answer my question. 1 7 Lkt The employee tells me what I can expect. 1 7 Lkt The employee knows his own organization well. 1 7 Lkt I can trust the knowledge of the employee. 1 7 Lkt The employee can answer all my questions. 20

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