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Applying Servqual to Web Sites: an Exploratory Study

International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management Emerald Article: Applying SERVQUAL to Web sites: an exploratory study Jos van Iwaarden, Ton van der Wiele, Leslie Ball, Robert Millen Article information: To cite this document: Jos van Iwaarden, Ton van der Wiele, Leslie Ball, Robert Millen, (2003),”Applying SERVQUAL to Web sites: an exploratory study”, International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol. 20 Iss: 8 pp. 919 – 935 Permanent link to this document: http://dx.

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doi. org/10. 1108/02656710310493634 Downloaded on: 27-01-2013

References: This document contains references to 26 other documents Citations: This document has been cited by 25 other documents To copy this document: [email protected] com This document has been downloaded 2679 times since 2005. * Users who downloaded this Article also downloaded: * Jos van Iwaarden, Ton van der Wiele, Leslie Ball, Robert Millen, (2003),”Applying SERVQUAL to Web sites: an exploratory study”, International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol. 20 Iss: 8 pp. 919 – 935 http://dx. doi. org/10. 108/02656710310493634 Jos van Iwaarden, Ton van der Wiele, Leslie Ball, Robert Millen, (2003),”Applying SERVQUAL to Web sites: an exploratory study”, International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol. 20 Iss: 8 pp. 919 – 935 http://dx. doi. org/10. 1108/02656710310493634 Jos van Iwaarden, Ton van der Wiele, Leslie Ball, Robert Millen, (2003),”Applying SERVQUAL to Web sites: an exploratory study”, International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol. 20 Iss: 8 pp. 919 – 935 http://dx. doi. org/10. 1108/02656710310493634

Access to this document was granted through an Emerald subscription provided by UCSI EDUCATION SDN BHD For Authors: If you would like to write for this, or any other Emerald publication, then please use our Emerald for Authors service. Information about how to choose which publication to write for and submission guidelines are available for all. Please visit www. emeraldinsight. com/authors for more information. About Emerald www. emeraldinsight. com With over forty years’ experience, Emerald Group Publishing is a leading independent publisher of global research with impact in business, society, public policy and education.

In total, Emerald publishes over 275 journals and more than 130 book series, as well as an extensive range of online products and services. Emerald is both COUNTER 3 and TRANSFER compliant. The organization is a partner of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and also works with Portico and the LOCKSS initiative for digital archive preservation. *Related content and download information correct at time of download. The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at http://www. emeraldinsight. com/researchregister The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at http://www. emeraldinsight. om/0265-671X. htm NEW RESEARCH Applying SERVQUAL to Web sites: an exploratory study Applying SERVQUAL 919 Jos van Iwaarden and Ton van der Wiele Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Leslie Ball and Robert Millen Received August 2002 Revised December 2002 Accepted December 2002 Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA Keywords Worldwide Web, SERVQUAL, Electronic commerce Abstract In an effort to identify the quality factors perceived to be most important in relation to the use of Web sites, a survey was undertaken. The questionnaire utilized was based on the SERVQUAL instrument that identi? s ? ve quality dimensions in service environments. The results indicate that the quality dimensions found applicable in the service sector are also applicable to Web sites. The items that have been identi? ed as most important in relation to the quality of Web sites are tangibles (the appearance of the Web site, navigation, search options, and structure), reliability (the ability to judge the trustworthiness of the offered service and the organization performing the service), responsiveness (the willingness to help customers and provide prompt service), assurance (the ability of the Web site to convey trust and con? ence in the organisation behind it with respect to security and privacy), and empathy (the provision of caring, individualized attention to customers, including user recognition and customization). Introduction In the early 1990s three technologies (communications speed, memory capacity, and computer speed) were rapidly growing in terms of capabilities they had for over 20 years. However, their combined S-curve growths suddenly enabled one of the greatest technology revolutions ever seen – the explosion of the Internet.

Originally designed as an information conduit, entrepreneurs soon saw the great power of a selling channel that enabled browsing, selecting, and buying without leaving the comfort of the home. Businesses realized that they could interact directly with other businesses over the Internet, as well. Additionally, government agencies caught on and began delivering services online, collecting payments for licenses and taxes, providing information, etc. The history of this explosion is well documented as both computer and Internet use have increased substantially in the past few years (US Department of Commerce, 2002).

Since 1997 computer use has grown at a rate of 5. 3 percent on an annualized basis. Internet use has grown at a rate of 20 percent per year since 1998, and in the 13 months prior to the September 2001 survey by the US Department of Commerce, over 26 million more Americans went online. The authors are thankful to all anonymous referees for their valuable comments. International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management Vol. 20 No. 8, 2003 pp. 919-935 q MCB UP Limited 0265-671X DOI 10. 1108/02656710310493634 IJQRM 20,8 920

While there is a great talk about the “digital divide”, the US Department of Commerce reported that 54 percent (or 143 million Americans) have access to the Internet in their homes and that nearly 100 percent of the US population has access through schools and libraries. Thousands of companies were formed to sell goods and services over the Internet during this period creating the “New Economy”. Subsequently, many of those companies are now gone as witnessed by the huge number of bankruptcies (Baldwin, 2002). Different experts might de? e e-commerce differently, but most agree on one thing: the sector represents a growing piece of the overall commerce pie, and its share is expected to increase steadily – though gradually – over the next ? ve years. Various parties have forecast different results. For example, Forrester reports that online sales in the USA accounted for $51. 3 billion in revenue during 2001, and revenue for 2002 is expected to a total of $72. 1 billion, a 41 percent increase over the previous year (Hirsh, 2002). However, this accounts for only 2 percent of the overall retail spending.

It has been predicted that this share will grow by about three-tenths of a percentage point each year through at least 2005, marking a slow but steady climb. As for e-commerce sales, another projection estimates that online revenue will total about $90 billion in 2002, $160-$170 billion in 2004, and $287. 9 billion by 2006 (Hirsh, 2002). The value of the Internet goes beyond adding another selling channel. Researchers at McKinsey and Company report that the retention of customers online is easier than in traditional “bricks and mortar” companies where the online company spends three to ? ve times less to retain them.

Companies that retained customers exhibited traits of reliable basic operational execution. Their sites downloaded quickly; they responded to customer queries quickly; they delivered more than 95 percent of their orders on time; and they made it easy for customers to return or exchange purchases. One company raised its on-time delivery rates from 60 to 90 percent, and cut customer churn in half (Agrawal et al. , 2001). The Internet also can play a pivotal role in enhancing brand relationships and corporate reputations. Nike, Disney, Coke, and Toyota are all well-established brands that drive us to search for and ? d their products. Branding is a critical component of the design of Web sites. It is about building a brand or corporate reputation to create relationships with customers (Chiagouris and Wansley, 2001). “Branding is rede? ned online,” says Caroline Riby, vice president-media director at Saatchi & Saatchi Rowland. “We are moving beyond representing a brand to experiencing it” (Chiagouris and Wansley, 2001). The Web site must capture the attention of those people who know nothing or very little about the company, but are interested in its category.

It must also build awareness of what the company does within the context of the industry in which it is competing. Earlier Web sites were developed by large corporations, which required that they adhere to the corporate logo and color scheme, attach to the corporate databases, and comply with several other corporate requirements. This translated to high cost and signi? cant development time. Others (those created for “Mom and Pop” operations and early entrepreneurial operations), built over the weekend, did not connect to large databases, and had no standards. While the company was in operation fast, the sites were often unattractive and dif? ult to use. Is it not surprising that the companies that are most successful selling over the Internet are the former and not the later? Certainly, we can ? nd examples of the up-starts that have succeeded, but they have usually adapted to the model of the corporation that requires high standards. Just as in the bricks and mortar world, companies have to offer excellent service on the Web. Web sites will become very important to companies as more products and services will be bought either over the Internet or by making use of the Internet before purchasing in a bricks and mortar store.

Therefore, companies need to have Web sites that live up to customers’ expectations. The purpose of our research is to provide empirical evidence on the factors that contribute to the quality of Web sites. Our most important research questions are: . How do customers distinguish a good Web site from a bad one? . What factors determine the quality of a Web site? Customer satisfaction Companies offer quality to satisfy their customers (Dale, 1999). Because a Web site is part of the connection between a company and its customers, it is evident that it should re? ct the quality efforts that are in place throughout the company. Besides this reason there is another reason why a company should provide high quality Web sites to its customers: there is no human contact through Web sites. The interaction via the Internet between a company and a customer is always through technology. This means the “moment of truth” between a company and a customer is the Web site. Although companies may try to emulate human behavior with technology, the interaction remains different because some aspects of human interaction cannot be replaced with technology, e. g. ourtesy, friendliness, helpfulness, care, commitment, ?exibility and cleanliness (Cox and Dale, 2001, 2002). The absence of these aspects of human interaction through which quality can be delivered to customers will have to be compensated by better performance on other quality factors or by excellent performance on “new” speci? c Web quality factors. A key aspect in customer satisfaction is the way a customer can attain satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a company’s service. If a company wants to satisfy its customers the ? rst question it needs to answer is what is it that Applying SERVQUAL 921 IJQRM 20,8 22 satis? es customers and, equally important, what is it that makes customers dissatis? ed with the company and its products and services. Satisfying customers depends on the balance between customers’ expectations and customers’ experiences with the products and services (Zeithaml et al. , 1990). When a company is able to lift a customer’s experience to a level that exceeds that customer’s expectations, then that customer will be satis? ed. Because customers have ever increasing expectations it is necessary for companies continuously to improve their quality and hence customers’ experiences with the company.

The issue is what should be improved to keep the customers satis? ed. What customers experience is not just one simple aspect of a company, but a whole range of aspects. Some of these aspects are concerned with the way customers experience the company itself, some are concerned with the way customers experience the physical product and, ? nally, some are concerned with the way customers experience the service the company offers. Comparing customers’ expectations and their perceptions of actual performance can be done by making use of the SERVQUAL scale of Berry, Parasuraman and Zeithaml (Zeithaml et al. 1990). This scale has been developed for the service sector. It has ? ve generic dimensions or factors and are stated as follows: (1) Tangibles. Physical facilities, equipment and appearance of personnel. (2) Reliability. Ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately. (3) Responsiveness. Willingness to help customers and provide prompt service. (4) Assurance (including competence, courtesy, credibility and security). Knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to inspire trust and con? dence. (5) Empathy (including access, communication, understanding the customer).

Caring and individualized attention that the ? rm provides its customers. In the SERVQUAL instrument, 22 statements measure the performance across these ? ve dimensions. For each statement, the expectation and the experience of a customer is determined. There is some criticism on the long-term stability of the results of the SERVQUAL scale (Lam and Woo, 1997) and on the general applicability of the ? ve dimensions (Buttle, 1996; Crosby and LeMay, 1998). Although alternative models have been proposed for the measurement of service quality, e. . SERVPERF (Cronin and Taylor, 1992), the SERVQUAL scale has been widely used by academics and practitioners to measure service quality. Therefore, this model has been used as a point of reference in this paper. SERVQUAL dimensions in relation to e-business Tangibles Examples of the tangibles factor are “has up-to-date equipment”, “physical facilities are visually appealing” and “materials are visually appealing”. These aspects might be even more important in e-business as there is no face-to-face contact between the customer and an employee.

The visual aspects of the equipment (i. e. the Web site) are the only visual contact between a customer and an organization. Therefore, the need to have well functioning and good-looking Web sites is paramount. There are a great number of customers who abandon their shopping carts on the Internet because they get frustrated with the technology, or the design and lay out of the Web site interface (Hager and Elliot, 2001). The visual aspects of Web sites are also judged differently by the people of different age. While young people may be attracted by ? shy graphics, sounds and a high-speed interface, older people do not want blinking texts that are hard to read or animations that distract from the use of the Web site (Houtman, 2002). Although a number of Web sites offer users the opportunity to customise the Web site to their needs, this customization process is mostly aimed at the content of the Web site and not at the graphics, animations and sounds. Reliability Some of the aspects in the reliability factor have to do with “doing what is promised” and “doing it at the promised time”.

Although many organizations seem to think that the major reason why customers shop via the Internet is because of the low prices, this does not always need to be the case. Some organizations found out the hard way that there are also a lot of customers shopping via the Internet because of convenience considerations (Riseley and Schehr, 2000). If customers cannot trust an organization to do what they ask, those customers will be dissatis? ed. Priceline, for example, ran into big problems by the end of 2000 because of its focus on the lowest prices. People could buy a plane ticket at a very low price, but because of possible inconvenient ? ing times there was a big risk for customers. This resulted in dissatis? ed customers who were happy to trade off Priceline’s discounts for the convenience of a competitor (Riseley and Schehr, 2000). Responsiveness One of the aspects in the responsiveness factor is “gives prompt service”. The amount of time it takes to download a Web page appears to be of great importance to the users of the Internet. Research in 1999 found that fewer than 10 percent of users leave a Web site if page response time is kept below 7 s. However, when it rises above 8 s, 30 percent of users leave.

When delays exceed 12 s, a staggering 70 percent of users leave a Web site (Cox and Dale, 2001, 2002). It can be assumed that people expect Web sites to be even more quicker than in 1999 because of the technological advances. Thus, it is very important Applying SERVQUAL 923 IJQRM 20,8 924 for organizations to have a Web site that is quick, but on the other hand users expect Web sites to be visually appealing. As the number and size of animations, pictures and sounds increase to make a Web page more visually appealing, the time it takes to download that Web page will also increase, which is judged negatively by users.

Hence, there is a trade-off between the looks of a Web site and the speed of that site. Organizations will have to try to ? nd the right balance between good looks and speed. The trade-off between looks and speed is complicated by companies’ demand that their Web sites convey the corporate image (Manning et al. , 1998). The design department of a company wants Web pages to be easily recognisable as belonging to that company. In their view, Web pages have to display company and product logos as well as other graphics that underscore the corporate identity.

These graphics add to the overall size of Web pages and thereby increase the download time for Internet users. It is questionable whether users are willing to accept slower pages in return for more logos and graphics that do not improve the functionality of the Web site (although they might improve the visual appeal). Assurance One of the aspects in the assurance factor is “knowledge to answer questions”. Customers expect to ? nd everything they want on a Web site. In a bricks and mortar store, people feel comfortable with a limited inventory. On the Internet, people are not satis? ed if they cannot ? nd everything they want.

Web shops need to have great depth of inventory and rich and relevant product information (Dayal et al. , 2002). Two other aspects in the assurance factor are “employees can be trusted” and “feel safe in your transactions with employees”. First, there is the risk for users to share personal information with an organization they do not know. Research on this topic (Statistical Research Inc. , 2001) shows that at least 50 percent of users are very concerned about: misuse of credit card information given over the Internet; selling or sharing of personal information by Web site owners; and cookies that track customers’ Internet activity.

Second, the same research shows that two-thirds of active Web users typically abandon a site that requests personal information and one in ? ve has entered false information to gain access to a Web site. Aspects in the assurance factor that could be very important in e-business are (Daughtrey, 2001): . availability of a formal privacy and con? dentiality policy on a Web site; . secured access to a Web site (that customers are prompted to acknowledge); . general reputation of supplier; . certi? cations or guarantees of assurance; and . reports of experiences of other customers.

The ? rst aspect in this list is also acknowledged by the International Organization for Standardisation in Geneva. The Code of Practice for Information Security Management (ISO/IEC 17799:2000) provides a basis for establishing and maintaining the means of handling sensitive data (Daughtrey, 2001). Certi? cations and guarantees of assurance are also important in e-business. More and more organizations are trying to obtain certi? cation by an objective, consensus-based standard, just as they did earlier with quality management standards (Daughtrey, 2001).

These organizations are becoming aware of the advantages of such certi? cation in relation to customers’ trust in these organizations. Empathy In the dimension of empathy there are several aspects that are usually not found on a Web site. Because of the fact that there is no human interaction, Web sites normally do not offer personal attention. To achieve this, a number of Web sites have a design that can be personalized by the users of these sites, so people can have their own version of the Web site. This kind of Web site design is aimed at giving users the experience of getting personal attention.

The idea is that the more a Web site is tailored to a particular customer’s needs, the more likely that customer will return again and again (The Economist, 2001). The most advanced technologies in this area aim to create a face-to-virtual-face interaction. A friendly looking face of a virtual assistant on your screen is supposed to make customers feel more comfortable. With the use of arti? cial intelligence, the virtual assistant can suggest products or services that might be of interest to a customer based on previous purchases and on reactions to the questions of the virtual assistant.

The latter possibility of asking users of a Web site questions via a virtual assistant will enable companies to tailor their offerings to the wishes of the user to prevent customer dissatisfaction. The only purpose of all these technological gadgets is to add one of the Web’s key missing ingredients: warmth (The Economist, 2001). Other aspects It seems that most of the dimensions and aspects that have been de? ned for general service environments are also important in e-business. Besides the ? ve dimensions as de? ned by Zeithaml et al. (1990), empirical evidence might come up with more speci? c dimensions related to e-business.

Some preliminary research has been done in this area (Cox and Dale, 2001, 2002; Fink and Laupase, 2000; Schubert and Dettling, 2001; Wan, 2000), but no de? nitive results have been attained. Hence, more research is needed (Zeithaml, 2002). Research methodology The research was conducted by means of a questionnaire survey. Employment of this approach provides a relatively easy means to study the perceptions and Applying SERVQUAL 925 IJQRM 20,8 926 opinions of a large group of people in a limited time frame and at low costs. The survey was undertaken with the student population at Northeastern University (NEU), Boston, USA.

Students were expected to be familiar with e-business and the Internet. Students received an e-mail with a hyperlink to the Web site containing the questionnaire allowing them to respond to the questionnaire electronically and to submit by clicking a button. The purpose of the questionnaire survey was to develop empirical evidence on the quality factors of Web sites that are important to people who are familiar with the Internet and frequent Internet users. The survey comprised the following questions: . personal information (gender, age, academic discipline); . respondents’ use of Internet (equipment, frequency of use); . peci? c Web sites that are visited by respondents (a prede? ned list of 20 categories of Web sites); and . aspects of Web quality (a prede? ned list of 50 aspects). The core of the questionnaire consists of the list of aspects of Web quality. For every aspect we ask the respondent to indicate the importance of that aspect and at the same time we ask for their satisfaction with that aspect. The structure of the questions is based on the SERVQUAL scale (Zeithaml et al. , 1990). The aspects have been de? ned according to the categories of the model developed by Cox and Dale (2001, 2002) and are as follows: clarity of purpose; . design; . communication; . reliability; . service and frequently asked questions; . accessibility and speed; . product or service choice; . order con? rmation; . product purchase; . user recognition; . extra service; and . frequent buyer incentives. For each of these categories a number of aspects have been de? ned in the questionnaire. The questionnaire has been discussed with experts in the ? eld of quality management and a pilot study has been conducted amongst a small number of students. This lead to an improved questionnaire which has been used for the esearch presented in this paper. Survey results Sample and response rate All students who obtained a university e-mail account at NEU (approximately 6,000) received an e-mail about the study and the questionnaire. Responses were received from 293 students. The response rate for the direct mailings to students was rather low (approximately 5 percent of the number of e-mails sent out), although acceptable for this type of mailing. Applying SERVQUAL 927 Descriptive statistics In Tables I and II, the response sample is described in terms of gender and age, respectively.

A comparison of the response sample with the total population at NEU leads to the conclusion that the response group is representative for the total population. The respondents were enrolled across many academic disciplines, and judged by the age of the respondents, most students were at the undergraduate level. Table III shows the respondents’ use of the Internet in terms of the quality of their own equipment. Overall the students are rather satis? ed with their equipment and do not seem to have problems with speed and download time. Table IV summarizes the frequencies of respondents’ Internet visits.

They visit the Internet on an average 18 times per week, for about an hour per visit. So, it is clear that students make frequent use of the Internet. Male Female Total 104 188 292 Table I. Number of respondents by gender , 21 years 21-25 years 26-30 years 31-35 years . 35 years Total 192 71 19 4 7 293 Table II. Number of respondents by age PC Connection speed Printing from the Web Downloading from the Web Notes: On a ? ve-point scale from very dissatis? ed to very satis? ed 3. 83 3. 59 3. 53 3. 57 Table III. Satisfaction of respondents with the equipment they use IJQRM 20,8 928 Table IV. The use of the Web

It is interesting to note the types of Web sites that are used most often by our respondents (Table V). The types of Web sites that are used most often are: search engines, university sites, daily news and entertainment sites. Web sites that are used less frequently are: e-shops and chat rooms. Sites with stock exchange information are not visited very often either. In Table VI (top ten) and Table VII (bottom ten) the importance (expectations) and the satisfaction (experiences) are summarized on prede? ned aspects related to the quality of Web sites. The top ten aspects seem to relate to reliability issues in pure e-commerce.

Customers who buy a product on the Internet want Web sites and the organizations behind them to be trustworthy. E-commerce Web sites need to be fast, simple and always available. Customers want a clear overview and con? rmation of what they bought and what they have to pay for. Easy to ? nd desired Web site 3. 80 Easy to use Web page links 3. 92 Easy to ? nd relevant information 3. 38 Time spent on one site , 12 min Time on the Web per Internet visit , 60 min Number of Internet visits per week , 19 visits Note: If not indicated otherwise, on a ? ve-point scale from very dif? cult to very easy Mean Table V. Web sites ranked by requency of visits Search engines Daily newspapers Entertainment Universities Electronic libraries Personal Web sites Information portals Games Travel Sports Banking Company information E-shops Book stores Music stores Movie stores Second-hand products Stock exchange information Who is where Chat rooms Note: On a ? ve-point scale from never to once a day or more 4. 64 3. 63 3. 47 3. 38 3. 02 2. 99 2. 92 2. 82 2. 72 2. 62 2. 60 2. 58 2. 57 2. 41 2. 39 2. 27 2. 16 2. 02 1. 84 1. 76 Top ten with highest scores on importance Finding your way on the Web site is easya Access is fasta A complete overview of the order is presented before ? al purchase decisiona Tax and/or other charges are clearly detaileda The registration process is simplea Access to anticipated delivery times is available at all timesa All relevant order con? rmation details sent by e-maila Order cancellation and returns details are con? rmed within three daysa Order-tracking details are available until deliverya There are well programmed search optionsa Importance Satisfaction mean mean Delta S-I 4. 61 4. 60 3. 44 3. 31 2 1. 17 2 1. 29 4. 55 4. 50 4. 50 4. 46 4. 46 3. 75 3. 47 3. 36 3. 18 3. 84 2 0. 80 2 1. 03 2 1. 14 2 1. 28 2 0. 62 4. 43 4. 40 4. 39 3. 24 3. 30 3. 08 1. 19 2 1. 10 2 1. 31 Notes: a Mean values on ? ve-point scales; difference between importance and satisfaction signi? cant at 0. 01 level based on a t-test (two-tailed) Bottom ten with lowest scores on importance Applying SERVQUAL Importance Satisfaction mean mean Searches on related sites are provideda 3. 81 The privacy policy is accessiblea 3. 79 The security policy is accessiblea 3. 76 The Web site contains company detailsa 3. 70 3. 68 Scrolling through pages and text is kept to a minimuma Links are provided to pages on related products and servicesa 3. 67 Web site animations are meaningfula 3. 52

A customer platform is provided for exchange of ideas 3. 36 The user is invited into a frequent buyer programa 3. 31 Brand image is important 3. 22 Notes: a Mean values on ? ve-point scales; Difference between importance signi? cant at 0. 01 level based on a t-test (two-tailed) 3. 40 3. 52 3. 51 3. 32 3. 29 929 Table VI. Importance of and satisfaction with aspects of Web quality Delta S-I 2 0. 41 2 0. 27 2 0. 25 2 0. 38 2 0. 39 3. 40 2 0. 27 3. 21 2 0. 31 3. 29 2 0. 07 3. 08 2 0. 23 3. 29 0. 07 and satisfaction The bottom ten aspects seem to relate to extra service (e. g. customization of Web sites) and information (e. g. ecurity policy and company details) that is provided to the customer. Apparently respondents do not ? nd these extras very important in their use of the Internet. Tables VI and VII also show the gaps between experiences and expectations (satisfaction minus importance). It can be concluded that the gap is widest for the aspects that respondents perceive as most important. The aspect with the largest gap is “access is fast” (satisfaction score 3. 31 and importance score 4. 60). In the top ten aspects there are no aspects with a positive delta, meaning Table VII. Importance of and satisfaction with aspects of Web quality

IJQRM 20,8 930 that for every aspect the experience is less than expected. In the bottom ten aspects there is just one aspect with a (very small) positive delta “brand image”. Factor analyses (varimax, principal components) on the importance data (KMO value ? 0. 91) and satisfaction data (KMO value ? 0. 93) based on Eigenvalues greater than one indicated 12 factor solutions. These factors cluster the aspects more or less according to the structure of the questionnaire. Most of these factors also become too speci? c and do not disclose the underlying structure of customers’ perceptions of the quality of Web sites.

The Scree plots indicated solutions with fewer factors, possibly around ? ve factors. A comparison of the results of factor analyses with varying numbers of factors led to the conclusion that ? ve-factor solutions ? t the data best. These ? ve-factor solutions were used to ? nd evidence for the existence of the ? ve dimensions according to the SERVQUAL scale (Zeithaml et al. , 1990). The results of these ? ve-factor solutions are summarized in Table VIII. In Table VIII we only include the aspects with factor loadings greater than 0. 5. The aspects are ranked under each factor according to their factor loadings.

It can be seen from the table that the two ? ve-factor solutions (importance and satisfaction) come to the same conclusions regarding the clustering of the aspects. There are some minor differences in the clustering of the aspects between the two factor solutions; however, these differences are related to the aspects with low factor loadings. It can be concluded that the factor analyses on both the importance of the Web quality aspects and the satisfaction with the Web quality aspects are compatible with the ? ve factors of the SERVQUAL scale. Correlation between Web sites and Web quality factors The importance of any of the ? e factors of the SERVQUAL scale might differ per type of Web site, just like it differs per service sector in the bricks and mortar world. Therefore, a correlation between the ? ve SERVQUAL factors and the different types of Web sites is useful to determine these differences. In order to categorize the fairly large number of different types of Web sites, a factor analysis (varimax, principal components, KMO value ? 0. 83) on the data on the use of Web sites (Table V) is conducted. The results of this factor analysis indicate that there are clearly ? ve groups of sites that form the underlying usage pattern.

These are: (1) e-shops for books, music, movies, etc. (Cronbach’s alpha ? 0. 75); (2) university and study information (Cronbach’s alpha ? 0. 64); (3) games, entertainment, and sport (Cronbach’s alpha ? 0. 66); (4) company information, stock information, and banks (Cronbach’s alpha ? 0. 69); and (5) general information on daily news, travel, libraries, and search engines (Cronbach’s alpha ? 0. 58). Importance Satisfaction Factor 1 (Reliability) A complete overview of the order is presented before ? nal purchase decision Tax and/or other charges are clearly detailed Different payment options are stated clearly

All relevant order con? rmation details are sent by e-mail within 24 hours Access to anticipated delivery times is available at all times Terms and conditions of sales are accessible Order-tracking details are available until delivery Order cancellation and returns details are con? rmed within three days Full details of product or service pricing are available The registration process is simple Full product or service characteristics are available Registration process details are retained The Web site offers free shipping and handling within a set of rules Access is fast The user can make a purchase without Web ite registration Factor 1 (Reliability) All relevant order con? rmation details are sent by e-mail within 24 hours A complete overview of the order is presented before ? nal purchase decision Terms and conditions of sales are accessible Order-tracking details are available until delivery Different payment options are stated clearly Tax and/or other charges are clearly detailed Access to anticipated delivery times is available at all times Order cancellation and returns details are con? rmed within three days The home page features options for new and registered users Registration process details are retained

Factor 2 (Tangibles) Finding your way on the Web site is easy Information is found with a minimum of clicks Navigation is consistent and standardized There are well programmed search options Instructions are directly available Opening of new screens is kept to a minimum Applying SERVQUAL Factor 2 (Tangibles) Finding your way on the Web site is easy Information is found with a minimum of clicks Navigation is consistent and standardized The number and type of links are meaningful The purpose is clear Scrolling through pages and text is kept to a minimum Instructions are directly available It is easy to print from the Web

Factor 3 (Empathy) Factor 3 (Empathy) Links are provided to pages on related products Links are provided to pages on related products and services and services A customer platform is provided for the On travel sites a ? ight/hotel search is provided exchange of ideas A standard navigation bar, home button and On travel sites the user can customize seat and back/forward button are available on every meal preferences and the information is page retained (continued ) 931 Table VIII. Con? rmative factor analysis (? ve-factor solution) IJQRM 20,8 Importance Satisfaction It is easy to print from the Web

On travel sites a ? ight/hotel search is provided Web sites that focus on brand awareness have a store locator The user is invited into a frequent buyer program Factor 4 (Assurance) The security policy is accessible The privacy policy is accessible External validation of trustworthiness is important The Web site contains company details Brand image is important Page availability information is given on entry The user is invited into a frequent buyer program A customer platform is provided for exchange of ideas Factor 4 (Assurance) The privacy policy is accessible The security policy is accessible

The Web site contains company details External validation of trustworthiness is important 932 Factor 5 (Responsiveness) The frequently asked questions and answers contain links that take the user to the relevant page(s) Information is provided to frequently asked questions and answers Queries or complaints are resolved within 24 hours User feedback is sought to measure customer satisfaction An e-mail address for queries and complaints is provided Table VIII. Factor 5 (Responsiveness) User feedback is sought to measure customer satisfaction Queries or complaints are resolved within 24 hours

The frequently asked questions and answers contain links that take the user to the relevant page(s) Access is fast Opening of new screens is kept to a minimum Graphics and animation do not detract from use Full details of product or service pricing are available Notes: Principal component analysis. Varimax with Kaiser normalization. Rotation converged in nine iterations (importance) and ten iterations (satisfaction). Factor loadings . 0. 5, ranking based on factor loadings from high to low Table IX shows the correlation matrix between the frequency of use of types of Web sites and the importance of the Web quality factors.

Some results are as follows: . All ? ve quality dimensions are most strongly correlated with e-shops, indicating that frequent users of e-shops tend to have higher quality expectations. . An increase in the frequency of use of the types of Web sites is in all cases most strongly correlated with either empathy (E-shops), assurance (company sites and search engines) or responsiveness (study related sites, Reliability Coef. Sign E-shops (books, music, movies etc. ) Study-related sites Games and sports sites Company and banking sites Search engines, daily news, travel Tangibles Coef. Sign Empathy

Coef. Sign Assurance Coef. Sign Responsiveness Coef. Sign 0. 220 ** 0. 174 ** 0. 239 ** 0. 232 ** 0. 233 ** 0. 171 ** 0. 167 ** 0. 183 ** 0. 156 ** 0. 202 ** 0. 114 * 0. 124 * 0. 168 ** 0. 112 n. s. 0. 171 ** 0. 144 ** 0. 136 * 0. 151 ** 0. 166 ** 0. 144 ** 0. 122 * 0. 115 * 0. 115 * 0. 123 * 0. 115 * Notes: * Correlation is signi? cant at the 0. 05 level (two-tailed); ** Correlation is signi? cant at the 0. 01 level (two-tailed); n. s. ? no signi? cant correlation . Applying SERVQUAL and games and sports). More frequent users of the Internet tend to ? nd reliability and tangibles less important.

All correlation coef? cients are positive, indicating that for all types of Web sites more usage leads to higher importance of all quality dimensions. The experienced user seems to have higher expectations of the quality of Web sites. Conclusion The results of this research can be summarised in the following way. Of a prede? ned list of Web quality aspects these aspects are considered to be the most important: access is fast; ? nding your way on the Web site is easy; a complete overview of the order is presented before ? nal purchase decision; and the registration process is simple. Of the ? e factors that can be found by means of factor analyses (reliability, tangibles, empathy, assurance and responsiveness) various aspects related to the factors reliability and tangibles are included in the top ten important aspects. Various aspects related to the factors empathy and assurance are included in the bottom ten aspects ranked according to their perceived importance. Both the importance of the Web quality aspects and the satisfaction with the Web quality aspects are compatible with ? ve-factor analyses that support the existence of the ? ve factors of the SERVQUAL scale of Zeithaml et al. (1990).

The importance of any of the ? ve factors of the SERVQUAL scale differs per type of Web site, just like it differs per service industry in the bricks and mortar world. So far, it can be concluded that the quality dimensions developed by Zeithaml et al. (1990) for service environments are equally useful in e-business. 933 Table IX. Correlation between the frequency of use of types of Web sites and the importance of the Web quality factors IJQRM 20,8 934 Further analysis of the data is needed. While this research project yields a number of very interesting results, we believe that there are a number of things that should be done to con? m our results as well as to expand our hypotheses. First, with the number of Internet users now over one billion, our sample is relatively small. Therefore, research with larger samples that pose the same or similar questions would be appropriate. Second, Internet users come from all over the globe. One has to suspect that there are differences between a sample taken from students of the USA and what might be found among students elsewhere. Possible, language, culture, religion, and a host of other factors may be important to a user’s impression of the quality of a Web site.

Finally, quality is an area of critical importance for commercial companies. Businesses need to understand what attracts people to their Web sites, what keeps them there, and what keeps them coming back. They need to understand the differences between the casual buyer versus the user who visits their Web sites on a daily basis. Web sites for companies like Dell, Cisco, Orbitz, and Covisint do millions of dollars of business each day. They need to understand the factors that keep these businesses growing better by understanding what encourages buying and what brings them back to the Web sites.

Likewise, their competitors need to understand these factors even more to compete in this highly competitive marketplace. Due to the signi? cance of this to business, we expect that this type of research will be ongoing for many years to come. The results of that research will be easier to use Web sites that are more customer focused and evolving as the user evolves. A Chinese proverb says, “May you live in interesting times”. We are certainly living in interesting times. References Agrawal, V. , Arjona, L. and Lemmens, R. (2001), “E-performance: the path to rational exuberance”, The McKinsey Quarterly, No. 1. Baldwin, S. 2002), Ghost Sites, available at: www. disobey. com/ghostsites (accessed 17 January). Buttle, F. (1996), “SERVQUAL: review, critique, research agenda”, European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 30 No. 1, pp. 8-25. Chiagouris, L. and Wansley, B. (2001), “Branding on the Internet”, available at: www. MarketingPower. com Cox, J. and Dale, B. G. (2001), “Service quality and e-commerce: an exploratory analysis”, Managing Service Quality, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 121-31. Cox, J. and Dale, B. G. (2002), “Key quality factors in Web site design and use: an examination”, International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, Vol. 19 No. 7, pp. 862-88.

Cronin, J. J. Jr and Taylor, S. A. (1992), “Measuring service quality: a re-examination and extension”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 56 No. 3, pp. 55-69. Crosby, L. and LeMay, S. A. (1998), “Empirical determination of shipper requirements for motor carrier services: SERVQUAL, direct questioning, and policy-capturing methods”, Journal of Business Logistics, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 139-53. Dale, B. G. (1999), Managing Quality, 3rd ed. , Blackwell Publishers, Oxford. Daughtrey, T. (2001), “Costs of trust for E-business: risk analysis can help e-businesses decide where investments in quality and security should be directed”, Quality Progress, No. 0, pp. 38-43. Dayal, S. , French, T. D. and Sankaran, V. (2002), “The e-tailer’s secret weapon”, The McKinsey Quarterly, No. 2. (The) Economist (2001), “Talking heads”, The Economist, 24 March. Fink, D. and Laupase, R. (2000), “Perceptions of Web site design characteristics: a Malaysian/Australian comparison”, Internet Research, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 44-55. Hager, L. and Elliot, B. (2001), “Web quality tool can raise ROI on contact center investments”, Gartner First Take, 15 November. Hirsh, L. (2002), “How big is e-commerce? ”, E-commerce Times, available at: www. ecommercetimes. om/perl/story/18403. html (accessed 27 June). Houtman, J. (2002), “Webpagina’s instelbaar voor oudere surfers”, Emerce, 25 March. Lam, S. S. K. and Woo, K. S. (1997), “Measuring service quality: a test-retest reliability investigation of SERVQUAL”, Journal of the Market Research Society, Vol. 39 No. 2, pp. 381-96. Manning, H. , McCarthy, J. C. and Souza, R. K. (1998), Forrester Report: Why Most Web Sites Fail, Forrester, Washington, DC. Riseley, M. and Schehr, D. (2000), “Priceline’s problems result from poor execution in a niche market”, Gartner First Take, 8 November. Schubert, P. nd Dettling, W. (2001), “Web site evaluation: do Web applications meet user expectations? Music, consumer goods and e-banking on the test bed”, Proceedings of the 14th Bled Electronic Commerce Conference, Bled, pp. 383-403. Statistical Research Inc. (2001), “Even veteran Web users remain skittish about sites that get personal”, 7 June, available at: www. statisticalresearch. com/press/pr060701. htm (accessed 15 March 2002). US Department of Commerce (2002), A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Internet, US Department of Commerce, Washington, DC, February.

Wan, H. A. (2000), “Opportunities to enhance a commercial Web site”, Information and Management, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 15-21. Zeithaml, V. A. (2002), “Guru view”, Managing Service Quality, special issue on service excellence, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 135-8. Zeithaml, V. A. , Parasuraman, A. and Berry, L. L. (1990), Delivering Quality Service; Balancing Customer Perceptions and Expectations, The Free Press, New York, NY. Further reading Cutler, M. and Strene, J. (2000), E-metric: Business Metric for the New Economy, NetGenesis Corp. Applying SERVQUAL 935