Customer Evaluations of Self-service Technologies in Public Transport
M J Reinders, R T Frambach, VU University Amsterdam, NL; M van Hagen, NS, NL
Empirical study of how self-service technologies in public transport are evaluated. Results show the importance of different characteristics of self-services and the effect on the service value when customers are forced to use these technologies.
Self-service technologies (SSTs) are increasingly introduced in public transport. A self-service technology (SST) can be defined as ?a technological interface that enables customers to produce a service independent of direct service employee involvement?. Examples of these self-service technologies or technology-based self-services (TBSS) include ?on-site? options such as a ticket machine and ?off-site? options such as getting travel information on the internet. In this study we look at how the use of self-service technologies within public transport is evaluated by customers. A positive or negative evaluation of a self-service has an effect on the total quality perception of the public transport service and on the attitude towards the service provider. Previous research already showed that in the evaluation of a self-service the attributes or characteristics of the SSTs play an important role. We could distinguish between functional attributes and hedonic attributes of SST?s: some attributes are necessary conditions for delivery of the service, whereas others help to enhance the value of the service. SST?s which offer hedonic or experiential benefits next to functional benefits could contribute to a better quality perception of the total service. In addition, we look at the effect on customers evaluations of the service when they are forced to use these new service technologies. This aspect is an increasingly relevant issue for research on self-service technologies, especially as companies are trying to stimulate the use of self-service technologies by making traditional service encounters increasingly unattractive, for example, by charging extra fees. Finally, our conceptual framework incorporates personal characteristics as a moderator in the evaluation of self-services.
We have tested our conceptual framework empirically. The empirical study is developed in cooperation with a Dutch railway company. The main service is a train service from A to B. In the study we distinguished two types of self-service options: transaction-related service options (buying a ticket via a machine or online) and travel information (getting travel information by means of a portal at the railway station or online). In general, results show that reliability and ease of use of the SST are regarded as the most important attributes in the evaluation of a self-service, whereas actuality of information is very important in the case of self-services related to travel information and price is very important in the case of self-services related to buying a train ticket. Furthermore, a lack of freedom of choice has a negative effect on customer?s perceptions of service quality as well as their attitudes towards the service provider. In addition, we found that when offering a back-up (i.e., the possibility to get a real-life person in case of emergency or when the machine is out of order) might help to partly restore the negative effects of having no choice. Finally, results are moderated by personal characteristics of the respondents. For example, the importance attached to the functional attributes of a self-service is higher when people travel by train more often and when they travel for business reasons. In contrast, offering hedonic or experiential benefits to the self-service (i.e., fun to use) is especially important for people who travel less often by train and who have less experience with new technologies.
Association for European Transport