Investigating the online customer experience – a B2B perspective

McLean, Graeme J. (2017) Investigating the online customer experience – a B2B perspective. Marketing Intelligence and Planning, 35 (5). pp. 657-672. ISSN 0263-4503

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    Abstract

    Purpose This paper explores the online customer experience (OCE) within business-to-business (B2B) websites. The purpose of this paper is to understand the influence of website credibility and information quality on the OCE during search for information and services. In addition, this paper acknowledges the role of customer support within the offline environment and thus explores the potential role of online customer support during a customer's online experience. Design/methodology/approach An online experiment was conducted with 195 participants along with an associated questionnaire for data capture. Three tasks were developed for participants which they had to complete on three different business advisory websites. The online experiment gave all participants the experience of using a business advisory website. In order to analyse the hypothesised relationships, structural equation modelling was used. Findings The results outlined that the credibility of the website and the quality of the information on the website have a significant effect on the OCE in a B2B context. The research highlights the need for online customer support with a service representative during search on a B2B website. The credibility of the website as well as the success of the search drives the need for online customer support. The lack of online customer support will result in customers becoming dissatisfied with their experience if they have an unsuccessful search. Practical implications Managers of B2B websites should acknowledge the importance of website credibility cues and information quality cues. Each of these variables drive the success of a customer’s search and in turn the customer’s impression of the experience. Additionally, managers ought to provide customers online support, through functions such as an online help desk or a live chat function, as those who have an unsuccessful search expect to be able to seek online support from a company representative, the same way as they would do in the offline environment. Online customer support can act as a service recovery tool for website providers. Originality/value Empirical research on the OCE within B2B websites is limited and somewhat out-dated. Due to technological advancements and changing customer expectations, this research has filled a knowledge gap on the OCE in a B2B perspective. Website credibility and information quality have been overlooked in previous research in relation to the OCE. In addition, this study outlines the need for online customer support resulting from the need to clarify information and the success of the search.