The United Arab Emirates is one of the leading economies in the Middle East and North Africa region. The government has made a concerted effort to diversify the economy of the country to reduce its over-reliance on the oil and gas sector. Just like many countries in the MENA region, the United Arab Emirates has been relying heavily on the petroleum sector to support its economy (45). However, the government is aware that one time it may run out of this important resource and the country may face serious challenges if alternative sources of income are not promoted early enough. It is for these reasons that the country has been investing heavily in other sectors to ensure that the economy remains as diversified as possible. The United Arab Emirates has the most diversified economy in the MENA region (Kumar 56). The service industry is one of the areas of the economy that has received massive growth over the past decade. The city of Dubai is currently one of the leading tourists destination centers in the world. Some of the amenities that have been developed over the recent past and the infrastructural development in the country have been attracting tourists from all over the world. The city currently has the tallest building on earth, one that has helped in boosting tourism in the country. The cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi have also experienced rapid development of the financial sector. Local banks have emerged and international financial institutions have moved into these cities because of the growing demand for financial products. Other areas of service industry that have experienced massive growth over the recent past include education, transport, and entertainment among others (Kumar et al. 43). Although the country still relies on the petroleum industry to support its economy, it currently has one of the fastest developing service sectors in the entire region.
The use of the digital platform in the service industry is becoming increasingly common in the United Arab Emirates. The use of e-services has become popular because of a number of reasons (Kumar 73). One of the reasons why e-services are becoming common is the emerging technologies that are transforming the world in which we live. Technology has affected almost every aspect of the social, economic and political sphere in the modern world. People have come to realize that with technology, they can do a lot without having to make a physical movement. The other reason why e-services have become popular is the issue of convenience. In the modern society where economy is driven by the middle class, the time has become of essence as people try to ensure that they do a lot within a very short time. The middle class is struggling to ensure that they achieve career progress and that requires spending a lot of time at the workplace. These people still need to spend some quality time relaxing, making their shopping, and doing a number of things to help them achieve success in their social life. The use of e-services makes it easy for them to do so many things within a short period. They can shop, buy tickets, pay rent, pay school fees, and do a host of other things without having to make physical movement due to the emergence of e-services.
Companies have come to realize that one of the best ways of ensuring that there is customer satisfaction is to introduce e-services (Bharadwaj and Mitra 44). In the United Arab Emirates, many service companies have embraced e-services to ensure that their clients can get services on the online platforms without having to make physical movements. Banks in this country have come up with electronic banking and mobile banking services to enable their clients to make financial transactions any time and without having to make physical movement from their homes or offices to the banks. The transport sector has come up with e-services where clients can make complete air ticket bookings on the online platform. The taxi sector also has a platform where clients no longer have to go to the stations to get the taxis. They can order the services through the online platforms. In the retail sector, e-services are also gaining popularity at a rapid pace. People are currently making their shopping online, and most of the retailers have come up with ways of meeting the needs of their clients in the online platform. Grigoroudis and Siskos note that customer satisfaction has become attached to the ability of a firm to offer products in a convenient manner (32). In this paper, the researcher will focus on analyzing how customer satisfaction is related to availability of e-services in the service sector within the United Arab Emirates.
The United Arab Emirates currently has one of the most robust service industries not only in the Middle East but also in the entire MENA region. The government has been making heavy investments in infrastructure and other areas to help boost the service industry. According to Bharadwaj and Mitra, the service industry is becoming heavily reliant on e-services (52). Time is becoming a major concern among people purchasing various products in the service sector and they are always concerned about how to meet all their needs within a very short deadline. The problem among the local firms in the United Arab Emirates is that they are yet to understand the significance of e-services in their normal operation. A study by Bhattacharya shows that most of the local firms in the UAE are slow when it comes to embracing emerging technologies (35). A good example was the need to come up with e-banking services. For a long time, most firms ignored the relevance of introducing this product in the market. The local firms waited for the foreign firms operating locally to introduce such services for them to do the same. Knight warns that in the modern society, being slow on the issue of embracing emerging technologies may be very dangerous (89). Another example that demonstrates the sluggish approach to the emerging technologies in the local market is the e-shopping experience. In North America and Europe, online retailers such as Amazon.com and e-bay have been offering retail services to their clients in an online platform for the last twenty years. However, it is only recently that local companies have started offering e-shopping for their customers in this country. In fact, Knight says that these services are only available in major cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi (30).
The world is increasingly becoming a global marketplace where firms can operate in any country as long as they have the willingness and financial capacity to do so (Kapoor et al. 42). However, achieving success currently depends on the ability of a company to meet the expectations of the customers. Currently the issue of convenience and how it can be enhanced using e-services has emerged. Firms have realized that the only way of meeting the expectations of their customers in terms of convenience is to offer them an online platform where they can purchase the products they want without having to make physical movements. However, their ability to embrace emerging technologies is still a major issue that needs to be addressed in the best way possible by the management of these firms. As Knight says, customers will always be loyal to firms that meet their expectations in the best way possible (78). The main problem is that most local firms have not been serious when it comes to embracing e-services in their operations. Most of these firms still emphasize the need to operate on traditional brick-and-mortar business model. This traditional business model is not bad, but successful firms are now blending it with e-services as a way of cutting down the cost of operations and expanding market share. The reason why local firms must embrace emerging technologies is that competition in the market is increasingly becoming stiff. If these firms fail to embrace the new technologies in the market, then they may be overtaken by foreign firms which are already making entry into the local market. The stiff competition in the market today requires firms to be very innovative when it comes to meeting the needs of customers. Existing studies do not offer clear guidelines on how local firms can take advantage of the emerging technologies to offer their customers superior value within the United Arab Emirates. The researcher seeks to find a way of addressing this research gap.
Rationale for the research
Customer satisfaction is a major issue that firms are currently struggling with within the market. In the United Arab Emirates, the growing relevance of Dubai city as a global business and tourism hub is attracting both local and international firms. The service sector is one of those that are growing very rapidly and it is expected that competition in this sector is likely to become stiffer than it currently is. To achieve success, it will require the local firms to go beyond offering the obvious. They will have to embrace creativity and innovation not only in the products that they offer to their customers but also in terms of the approach that they use to deliver products to their customers. This research is very important because it focuses on one of the major areas of customer satisfaction that most of the local firms are yet to take seriously. Many retailers and companies in the service sector still believe that having beautiful displays in their brick-and-mortar stores is the best way of attracting customers. However, Agarwal et al. warn that there is a new group of middle class who no longer have time to visit these physical stores (49). Some of the local companies have learned about this new fact and are coming up with ways of offering their customers products through the online platform. However, others are yet to appreciate the need to have an online platform that can facilitate online transactions.
The study will look at the relationship between availability of e-services within a company and customer satisfaction. It will explain what makes clients more satisfied when they are allowed to use e-services in their purchasing activities. This information will be a reminder to the local firms in this country that a time has come when e-services can no longer be ignored. The study will also explain how local firms can embrace emerging technologies and introduce e-services in their operations. This will provide important information to these firms and enable them to come up with new strategies for offering their services to the customers based on the emerging technologies. This report will provide a rich source of knowledge that can be used by other scholars interested in conducting further studies in this field. In this report, the researcher will start by reviewing existing literature on this topic. The researcher will then look at the gaps in the existing bodies of knowledge based on the changes that have taken place since these books and articles were published and the areas they ignored. Primary data collection and analysis will focus on addressing the identified gaps in the research. It means that the final report will provide up-to-date information that comprehensively looks at the topic based on both primary and secondary data analysis. The information will be critical for scholars who are interested in further investigating the issue.
Research aim and objectives
When conducting a research, it is important to come up with clear aims and objectives. By the end of the study, a researcher will want to ensure that success is achieved given the time and resources spent in the process. The only way of determining if success is achieved by the end of the study is to come up with clear research aims and objectives. The outcome of the study will then be measured based on how well the aim and objectives have been achieved (Bhattacharya 56). That is why it was important to define the aim and objective at this initial stage of proposal development. The following statement shows the aim of this research.
To determine how firms in the United Arab Emirates can take advantage of the emerging technologies to offer superior value to the clients.
To achieve the above aim, it is important to come up with specific objectives that will provide measurable milestones for the researcher. The following are the objectives of this study.
- To determine factors influencing the use of e-services among firms in the United Arab Emirates.
- To come up with ways of promoting the use of e-services among firms in the service sector
The researcher intends to use both primary and secondary data to achieve the above aim and objectives in this study.
Research questions and hypotheses
Research questions are important in terms of defining data that should be collected from both secondary and primary sources. According to Bhattacharya, when one sets out to conduct research, it is always not easy to precisely predict the forces that will be met in the field (28). One of the biggest challenges that sometimes researchers face is massive amount of data. Having a massive amount of data may be as challenging as having limited amount of data. A researcher may not find it easy to select the most appropriate studies when faced with such significant amount of information. It is possible to spend a lot of time reviewing data that is irrelevant to the research and that may have serious implications on the study. Research questions act as a guide when selecting the most appropriate information in the field. They guide the researcher in identifying studies that are relevant and those that are of limited use in the study. The focus of the researcher will always be to find data that directly respond to the questions in the study. It is for these reasons that the researcher came up with research questions to help in the process of data collection. The research questions will be based on the research aim and objectives set above. The following is the primary research question.
How can firms in the service industry within the United Arab Emirates use emerging technologies to offer their clients superior value?
The following are supportive questions that will be critical in collecting specific data for the study.
- What are the factors influencing the use of e-services among firms in the United Arab Emirates?
- What is the relationship between customer satisfaction and the availability of e-services in the service sector?
The above research questions will be critical in collecting both primary and secondary data in the study. Conclusion and recommendations that will be made shall be based on the responses obtained from the above research questions. Based on the primary research question above, the following are the hypotheses that will be used in this study.
- H1o. There is no relationship between e-services and customer satisfaction within the service industry in the United Arab Emirates.
- H1a. There is a close relationship between e-services and customer satisfaction within the service industry in the United Arab Emirates
- H2o. Customers in the United Arab Emirates currently do not prefer using e-services when making their purchases.
- H2a. H2o. Customers in the United Arab Emirates currently prefer using e-services when making their purchases.
Based on the preliminary review of literatures and the knowledge of the researcher, it is expected that this study will reject the two null hypotheses above. It is expected that the results from the analysis of data will support the two alternative hypotheses.
According to Kuada, when conducting a research, it is important to understand that a number of limitations may emerge that may significantly affect the entire process in various ways (73). The study strongly suggests that it is important to identify these challenges at the initial stage of research planning so that mitigation measures can be developed at the initial stage of planning. The main limitation that the research is likely to face is time. Given that this is academic research, there is a strict schedule for the study. It may not be easy to conduct study in the entire population because of time. To address the problem of limited time, the researcher intends to use only a sample of the entire population, as will be explained in the methodology section. Collecting primary data may involve movement from one location to the other talking to the respondents over the issue. It may require a lot of financial resources to make the movements and make phone calls in preparation for the collection of data. Sampling will help solve this problem.
Customer satisfaction and e-services are topics that have become very popular in the modern society where competition is very stiff almost in all industries. It is expected that there are numerous studies that have focused on these two topics but from differing angles. If care is not taken, the researcher may end up collecting data that is not relevant to the study. The research questions will help in addressing the problem. Scruggs and Mastropieri say that sometimes respondents may promise to participate in a given study only to change their minds on the specific dates of the research (38). If that happens, then the sample size that had been predetermined may be affected. To address the problem, the researcher intends to expand the sample size.
Service industry in the United Arab Emirates
According to Agarwal et al., the United Arab Emirates has one of the fastest developing service industries in the Middle East and North Africa regions (60). The industry has received massive boost from the government through various approaches. Massive investment that the government has made in the infrastructure of the country has benefited the service industry. The road and rail transport has been improved in the country, making it easy for people to move from one location to the other. Improved security in the country has also made the country attractive to foreigners, especially those who are interested in spending their holiday in the country. One of the service industries that have been growing very rapidly over the recent past is tourism. A study by Bharadwaj and Mitra shows that the city of Dubai is currently one of the leading tourists destination centers in the world (44). The city has been attracting tourists from all over the world because of its man-made sceneries. It has the tallest building on earth and has developed other attractive sceneries meant to attract tourists.
The banking industry is another sector of the economy that has been growing very rapidly over the recent past. According to Knight, for a long time the economy of the country has been relying on the oil and gas industry (75). However, banking industry is one of the sectors that have registered impressive growth over the recent past. Local firms have emerged to take advantage of the attractive opportunities in the banking sector. The industry has also attracted financial institutions from Europe, North America, and MENA region. Baking industry has been thriving because of the attractive trade in oil and gas. It has also benefited a lot from the construction, real estate, and general service industry. They all need financial institutions to operate normally.
According to Bienstock et al. other service industries that have registered impressive growth in the United Arab Emirates over the recent past include the education and entertainment sectors (41). The government has invested heavily in its education sector to help ensure that its citizens do not have to travel abroad for higher education. In fact, the country has been attracting foreign students because of the highly equipped local institutions in the country. The entertainment sector has also been growing at a considerably high pace, especially in the city of Dubai which has become a major global tourists attraction center. The social amenities have made this city very attractive not only among the locals in the region but also in the international community. In the transport sector, the government has made very heavy investments to spur growth. Emirates Airline, which is wholly owned by the government of Dubai, is one of the leading airline companies in the world. Etihad Airways is also another major airline company in the global markets. Success of these two major airlines shows that the service industry in this country is experiencing impressive growth. The government has been promoting private investment in the service sector to help promote growth. Public-private partnerships have become common in this country as a way of boosting growth in the service sector
Background of e-services
According to Agarwal et al., the term e-commerce is “a highly generic term, usually referring to the provision of services via the Internet,” (54).The internet has completely transformed the manner in which trade is conducted in modern society. For a long time, brick-and-mortar was the only known business model that was used to trade. However, the desire to offer customers convenient way of shopping for the products they desire led to the emergence of e-commerce. Firms are finding it very important to use the internet to conduct business transactions because of the convenience it offers. Customers no longer have to physically visit the retail outlets to get the services they need. They only need an internet-enabled device such as Smartphone, tablet, or computer to make an online purchase. The product is then delivered to their doorsteps as soon as they make payment. Banks came to realize that e-commerce is a force that cannot be ignored in the current competitive business environment. They started offering internet-based banking products that enabled their customers to make transactions in their accounts via their personal computers. It further simplified e-business as customers were able to make complete transactions via the internet.
It took a long time for e-services to spread from North America and Europe to other parts of the world (Alina and Sorescu 47). This was partly due to the unavailability of stable and reliable internet connection. In the United Arab Emirates, effective penetration of e-commerce started less than one decade ago (Knight 34). However, the popularity of these services has been growing very fast as the locals have realized that they can purchase most of the products they need on the online platform without having to waste time and money traveling to the retail stores. The country has seen an emergence of the middle class, especially in the city of Dubai, who are keen on achieving success in their careers. The middle class often struggles to balance the limited time they have between social and work life. The emergence of e-services has been very beneficial to them because they no longer have to make physical movements out of their offices or homes when they want to purchase an item. They only need internet-enabled devices to make their online purchase.
The concept of customer satisfaction has become very important in the modern business environment as firms struggle to ensure that their clients are happy with the products offered to them. Knight says that it “is marketing term that measures how products or services supplied by a company meet or surpass a customer’s expectation” (87). In the past, the idea of customer satisfaction was not very important among firms that dominated their respective industries. During that time, customers had to accept what was presented to them because of lack of alternatives. In some industries, the competition was non-existence as large firms dominated the market. However, that is no longer the case in modern society. Competition is a real threat that has forced firms to come up with ways of improving customer experience. Firms are aware that if they fail to meet expectations of their customers, then they risk losing an important share of their market.
The concept of customer satisfaction has become so important that firms are now coming up with different strategies to meet the expectations of their customers. A satisfied customer often makes a repeat purchase. When a customer is thrilled with the product or services offered to them, they easily become evangelists of that company, encouraging their customers to purchase such products so that they can enjoy the good experience. However, when the client is not satisfied, they will not only avoid making a repeat purchase of the product but also discourage their friends to avoid the company’s products. It means that for a firm that seeks to operate sustainably in the market, there is no option but to continue offering high-quality products in the most appropriate way possible to continue meeting the needs of their customers.
Customer satisfaction is often determined by a number of factors. The quality of product offered to the customers is one of the most important factors that determine how satisfied customers are with a given product. The product must meet their needs in the best way possible for them to be satisfied (Knight 44). Other than the quality of the product, the next important factor is the manner in which the product is offered to the customer. The concept of customer service emerged because of the desire by companies to ensure that the process of delivering products to the customers is as pleasant as possible. It is in this context that e-services emerged. Firms realized that customers sometimes find it challenging to visit the retail outlets to make their purchases because of their tight schedules. In an effort to increase their level of satisfaction, firms have come up with various ways of improving clients’ needs. E-services are increasingly becoming a basic need among customers purchasing various services. In the United Arab Emirates, the need for e-services has become serious as companies struggle to protect their market share. They want to offer their customers convenience in terms of product delivery (Agarwal et al. 57). As such, e-services have become attached to customer satisfaction. Firms that do not offer e-services risk having highly dissatisfied customers who can easily switch their loyalty to other firms.
Scholars have come up with a number of theoretical models to help explain this concept of customer satisfaction and how it is influenced by a number of forces (Alina and Sorescu 65). In this stage, the researcher will look at one of the theoretical models that have often been used to explain customer satisfaction. The customer satisfaction pyramid below makes it easy to understand the expectations of customers.
Source (Agarwal et al. 112)
As shown in the above figure, there are three levels of customer satisfaction. The first level is the state where products offered to customers create satisfaction. They meet the expectations of the customers and as such it offers the firm ability to survive in the market. Important to note is that customers at this level will continue purchasing products from such a company due to lack of a better alternative. This is a very dangerous level for a firm operating in a highly competitive business environment. It is easy at this stage for a firm to lose its important clients to competitors. The next level is a stage where products offered and the manner in which it is offered meets desires of the company. Meeting the desires of the clients means that the product has gone beyond meeting normal expectations.
Customers will be thrilled when their desires are met. They will become loyal customers who always think of that particular brand every time they plan to purchase a given product. The firm is likely to become successful under such circumstances. At the top of the pyramid is the ability of a firm to meet unrecognized needs. When e-services emerged for the first time, it was considered transformational. It was able to meet needs of customers who never even knew such needs existed.
According to Claes et al. (83), it is important to clearly define the variables when conducting a study. In this paper, the primary focus is to determine how local firms in the service industry can use emerging technologies to offer superior value to their customers. The study is focusing on how firms can use e-services not only as a way of increasing sales but also as a means of offering their customers unique value (Alina and Sorescu 65). In this case, the independent variable is the use of emerging technologies. When applied appropriately, this independent variable will have an impact on dependent variable which is customer satisfaction. The relationship between the dependent and independent variables can be summarized in the figure below.
Impact of e-services on customer satisfaction
It is clear from the above analysis that customer satisfaction is an issue that firms can no longer ignore as they try to protect their market share. It is also clear that the United Arab Emirates has become a major global market that is attracting firms from all over the world. Its robust service industry is growing rapidly because of improved infrastructure and security. It is expected that numerous foreign firms are likely to go to target this market in the coming years, and that would make competition in the market even stiffer. Firms will not only be struggling to get access to new markets but also to protect their existing market share. When faced with numerous options, customers often tend to be choosy (Knight 61). They start demanding more but are willing to pay less because they know that they have alternatives from which to choose. In such contexts, the issue of customer satisfaction becomes an integral part of strategic plans that a firm makes. A firm must come up with ways of meeting the needs of its customers in the best way possible to ensure that they remain satisfied. Customer satisfaction is an important issue that some firms have gone an extra mile to ensure that is achieved (Knight 73).
Achieving such levels of satisfaction may take different approaches. The need for e-services is increasingly becoming a necessity among local firms in the United Arab Emirates. This is specifically the case among the working class. Most of these people spend a lot of time at work because of the desire to climb career ladder. Some of them even consider going to classes after work for higher educational attainment. It means that time they have to address their social needs is shortened. They may not get time to visit brick-and-mortar stores to make purchases, but that does not mean the need to make such purchases is completely eliminated. E-services enable them to make such purchases without having to leave their offices or homes. They can purchase air tickets, entertainment tickets, or buy items on an online platform as long as they have internet-enabled devices. E-services are meeting a need that was unrecognized before, and customers in the local market have embraced it. This service is now becoming so basic among the middle class that they have their satisfaction levels attached to it. When they cannot find the product they need in the online stores, they are forced to travel to the physical stores to make their purchase. Given that they have very limited time, the process of visiting the physical stores may be frustrating to them, and that may affect their morale in the workplace.
The review of literature has provided important information that will be used as the basis of this study. It will help the researcher to have a better insight into the topic. The review has looked into detail the issue of customer satisfaction and the emergence of e-services in the service industry. However, it is important to note that gaps exist in the existing bodies of research that will require attention of the researcher when collecting primary data. The researcher noted that there was a problem getting the right sources that focus on the use of e-services in the service industry within the local market of the United Arab Emirates. Most of the existing studies focus on the markets in Europe and North America. It was also evident that the existing literature does not give a clear focus on the relationship between customer satisfaction and the availability of e-services. These gaps will be addressed through collection and analysis of primary data.
According to Kumar, when planning to conduct research, one of the most important areas in the proposal is the methodology section (56). When preparing proposal for an academic study, one must understand that there is an approval that must be obtained from the relevant authorities. Some proposals may require funding for the process of actual data collection and analysis to be made possible. As such, Goddard and Melville warn that a lot of care should be taken when developing the proposal (43). It is in the methodology section that one outlines how the actual process of collecting and analyzing data will be done. It is in this section that those responsible for the approval are concerned with before allowing the actual research to be conducted. Academic proposals are often slightly different from other proposals meant for sourcing funds such as those used in non-governmental organizations. In this section, the researcher will focus on the research design that will be used, the population of the study and the sampling method that relevant for the study. The researcher will clearly outline the data collection method and analysis that will be done to arrive at the findings. According to Khan, when conducting an academic research it is important to ensure that ethics is maintained at all stages of the study, especially when handling human participants (71). The problem will be addressed in this section of the research proposal. The researcher will also focus on the issue of reliability and validity of the study. As mentioned in the introduction, this study may be relevant to other scholars and policymakers. As such, the issue of validity and reliability must be taken into consideration.
According to a study by Mangal, choosing an appropriate research design is one of the most important processes when planning to conduct a research (63). When choosing an appropriate research design, one must take into consideration the research topic, research aim, and research questions. The chosen research design must be capable of meeting the research aim in the best way possible. In this research, the aim will be to determine the relationship that exists between customer satisfaction and availability of e-services in firms that they purchase services from in the United Arab Emirates. The study will focus on determining the impact of e-services in the service industry on customer satisfaction. The selected research design must be capable of meeting this research aim. The researcher considered mixed method (both qualitative and quantitative) research as the most appropriate research design in this study based on the topic and the aim of the study. It is important to look at both methods to determine why they are appropriate for this research.
Qualitative research design
According to Kothari, qualitative research “is a primarily exploratory research used to gain an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations. It provides insights into the problem or helps to develop ideas or hypotheses for potential quantitative research,” (88). From the above definition, it is clear that qualitative research helps in explaining the reasons why something happened, the motivation towards a given incidence, and the opinions of those interviewed on how an issue can be addressed. Qualitative studies explain the phenomenon and what took place. In this study, there are a number of phenomena that will need to be explained to ensure that they are clearly understood in the context of the research topic. The first phenomenon is the emergence of e-services at the global level and at local level within the United Arab Emirates. Using qualitative research design, the researcher will be able to explain how e-service emerged, forces that motivated its emergence, how it was received in the market, and reasons why it has become very popular among shoppers. To answer these questions, it will be necessary to have descriptive statistics. The researcher will need to be capable of providing information about why and how this phenomenon has spread very first from North America and Europe to the United Arab Emirates.
Through qualitative research design, it will be possible to explain why the concept of customer satisfaction has become very important in the modern marketplace. Firms are becoming highly innovating primarily because of their desire to ensure that their clients remain satisfied. Through qualitative research methods, it will be possible to understand why the problem has become very important. It will also be possible to determine how firms are trying to achieve success through customer satisfaction. The study will make it possible to determine the relationship that exists between customer satisfaction and e-services in the marketplace. As Ketchen and Bergh explain, this design uses unstructured questions (112). It means that respondents are offered opportunity to answer the questions posed to them in their own words. As such, they are capable of justifying their responses in the best way possible. The interviewer is also capable of asking for clarification in case a response is not clear or the answer provided by the respondent is controversial. This research design will be critical in confirming the hypotheses that were set in this study.
Quantitative research design
According to Brink et al. quantitative research is a study that uses statistical figures to arrive at conclusions (31). In this respect, the study will take the form of an interview. The will researcher will identify a sample and conduct an interview with them. In this study, there is a need to compare the existing relationship between two variables to determine the cause and effect. The researcher is interested in establishing how independent variables (use of e-services) affect the level of satisfaction of customers (dependent variables) in the United Arab Emirates. It requires a method that will be objective and capable of statistically generalizing the findings. Quantitative research design was considered the most appropriate approach to use in this research. The quantitative research design involves the systematic empirical study of an event or an issue by using statistical tools. The main objective is to employ mathematical models in developing a generalization (Jonker and Pennink 38). Quantitative methods will help in this study to determine the magnitude of the issue being investigated. It will facilitate testing the hypotheses and allow the use of research samples as a representation of the entire population (Sreedharan 41). It will enable the researcher to use statistical data to establish the relationship between customer satisfaction and availability of e-services. The quantitative research will help in determining if the level of satisfaction of customers can be improved if they are offered online platform where they can purchase the services they need.
When conducting this research, it will be necessary to compare the level of satisfaction among customers when they are offered an online platform for trade and when they are forced to use traditional methods to make their purchases. To determine the magnitude of their satisfaction levels before and after they are offered the online platform, quantitative statistics will be necessary. It will make it possible to compare the change in the level of customer satisfaction before and after introducing e-services. According to Jonker and Pennink, e-services also make it possible to use graphs, charts, and figures to present the analyzed data (42). Using these graphs, charts, and figures makes a report easy to understand. The reader of such a report is able to understand the findings based on the figures and graphs.
Why the mixed-method research is important
Using both qualitative and quantitative research methods was considered very important in this study. According to Scruggs and Mastropieri, when using a mixed research method, one is able to take advantage of the strengths of the two research designs (63). Weaknesses of the qualitative research method are addressed by the quantitative research method and vice versa. The results will not only offer statistical explanation of a given phenomenon but there will also be a justification for the statistics that will be provided through the qualitative analysis.
According to Jonker and Pennink, when conducting academic research, it is often important to clearly define the sources of data that will be used to inform the conclusion and recommendations that shall be made at the end of the research (61). In this paper, it was considered appropriate to use both primary and secondary sources of data. Secondary data was important because the issue of employee satisfaction and the use of e-services in the modern marketplace has attracted attention of many scholars. A lot of studies have been conducted in these two areas and it was prudent to determine what these other scholars have said to avoid duplication of knowledge. The review was considered important because it makes it possible to identify research gaps. Secondary data will be collected from books, journal articles, and other reliable sources. The second source of data was primary sources gathered from participants who agreed to take part in this study. The researcher used a questionnaire to collect data from these respondents. In this section, the design for this questionnaire will be discussed in detail. It will help in understanding the profile of those from whom data was collected and the approach used to collect data from them. The questionnaire that will be used in this study will have four distinct sections.
The first section of the questionnaire will focus on background information of the participants who will be sampled. The researcher believes that it is important to understand the background of the respondents before collecting data from them. The second part of the questionnaire will focus on the demography of the respondents. The details that will be gathered shall focus on issues such as the gender and gender of the respondents. According to Scruggs and Mastropieri, people of different gender tend to view specific issues from different perspectives (34). For instance, a given statement may be viewed as being stereotypical by one gender and not by the other. Sometimes people of a given gender may answer a question differently primarily because of their gender and what society has made them believe in terms of social expectations. Determining the gender of the respondents may help in determining if there was bias along the line of gender of the respondents. Age is another important factor when selecting participants in a given study. Age is closely related to experience and sometimes people of a given age may respond in a given manner. In this study, the issue of age was very important. A study by Kothari showed that the elderly people are not as enthusiastic about technology as the younger generation (97). One can, therefore, conclude that these people are not significantly attracted to the use of e-services because they prefer using traditional approaches to purchasing products. Capturing the age of the respondents made it possible to determine bias within this particular demographical space.
The third part of the questionnaire will focus on the respondents’ academic qualifications and work experience. According to Scruggs and Mastropieri, academic background of an individual shapes his or her thinking (82). A person who lacks any college experience may be unable to understand some concepts in a social setting. Such an individual may view things differently from another individual holding a master’s or doctorate degree. It will be necessary to capture the academic qualifications of the respondents because sometimes bias is caused by one’s academic background. Their experience, for the employees of specific service companies who will be part of the research, will also be captured. Scruggs and Mastropieri say that the experience one gains when taking part in a given activity may influence their perception of that activity (43). For instance, a person who has taken time working in the marketing department will be aware of the challenges faced in the department and how satisfaction of customers is influenced by the availability of e-services within a firm. This was important information that had to be looked into in the study. The fourth section of the questionnaire will focus on specific issues about customer satisfaction and the use of e-services. The section contains both structured and unstructured questions to facilitate both qualitative and quantitative data analysis. This section will provide the data that shall be analyzed to obtain the desired outcome from the study.
The questionnaire will use a mix of both open-ended and closed-ended responses to gather data from the respondents. Closed-ended questions are important because of the need to conduct quantitative data analysis. According to Jonker and Pennink, closed-ended questions are often structured in a given manner that allows the researcher to assign numerical values for the purpose of analysis (57). It is easy to collect data using structured questions because the respondents are expected to provide answers in a given manner. The responses obtained from such structured questions can then be coded and analyzed using mathematical methods. On the other hand, the open-ended questions that will be used in the study will make it possible for the research to collect the emotions of the respondents over the issue under investigation. It will allow the respondents to provide information that will justify the statistics obtained from them. Although it may be time-consuming to collect data using unstructured questions because of the fact that the respondents are allowed to provide answers in the best way they can, such answers are often comprehensive in providing the needed information about a given issue. They go beyond the statistics by trying to explain why a given phenomenon occurred in a given manner.
The issue of customer satisfaction is a major concern in the modern business environment and firms are keen on achieving it. Sometimes the respondents may indeed provide information that may be misleading for personal or organizational reasons. Given that the study will need highly reliable data, it is important at this planning stage to determine how the questionnaire will be structured. The researcher intends to conduct a face-to-face interview with the sample respondents. According to Kothari, one of the main advantages of this method of collecting data is that it allows the interviewer to go beyond what the respondents say when they answer specific questions (115). It allows a researcher to gather both verbal and non-verbal cues in the responses of the participants. Verbal cues allow the researcher to determine if the information being provided by the respondents is truthful. Reading body language and facial expressions enables a researcher to confirm the information from the respondents. Bhattacharya says that when one is manufacturing a lie, they may take longer to answer a simple question because they are trying to create the answer in their mind (72). A face-to-face interview will also be appropriate in this study because it will allow the researcher to clarify issues that may be unclear to the respondents. It will be easy to convince the respondents to take part in this study if the researcher meets with them physically as opposed to using e-mails or making phone calls. The method is also advantageous when handling participants who are semi-literate or illiterate to take part in the study because the researcher can translate the questions in case it is necessary. However, the researcher does not anticipate such a challenge during the study.
The population and sample
According to Jonker and Pennink, when planning to collect primary data from respondents, it is important to clearly define the population and determine whether it will be necessary to collect data from the entire population or if it will be necessary to collect data from a sample of the entire population (90). This research aims to determine customer satisfaction levels in the UAE’s service industry and how it is affected by availability of e-services. The population of the possible respondents from whom primary data can be collected is huge. Data can be collected from people working in the service industry and those who use services offered by this industry within the United Arab Emirates. It means that that the population is very large because every adult resident of this country can qualify to take part in the study. This is an academic research that has limitations in terms of time and resources available for the study. As such, it is necessary to select a sample that can be used instead of the entire population.
When selecting a sample, Kothari advises that it is necessary to ensure that it represents the entire population as much as possible (125). The sample selected must provide data that would be as close as possible to what would be obtained in case the entire population was used. It means that an appropriate sampling method must be chosen that will make it possible to collect the desired data from the respondents. The researcher intends to use stratified sampling to select respondents who will take part in the study. There will be two strata that will help in collecting primary data. The first stratum will include customers who have been using products offered by the service industry. The second stratum will include employees working in some of the leading service companies in the United Arab Emirates. To qualify as a respondent, one must have used e-services either as a customer or as an employee when serving customers. In each stratum, the researcher will use simple random sampling to select specific people who will take part in the primary data collection.
As mentioned above, data will be gathered from primary and secondary sources. Primary data gathering will be done with the help of a questionnaire. It has been explained in the questionnaire design that the researcher will conduct a face-to-face interview with the respondents. Data gathered from primary sources will help in addressing the gaps identified in the kinds of literature. It will help in understanding the relevance of e-services in the service sector within the United Arab Emirates. Both primary and secondary sources of data will be used to inform the conclusion and recommendations that will be made in the final report.
Scope of data collection
According to Jonker and Pennink, research is very important because it provides new knowledge in a given field that can be used by policymakers and other scholars to inform their practice and future research (94). One must understand that the research may be very critical and when its recommendations are implemented or used as a point of reference, then it may have devastating consequences if it is not relevant in the context within which it is used. It is for that reason that it is recommended that the scope of the data collection be clearly defined, especially the primary data. Those who consume the document must be informed about the context under which the study was conducted and the relevance of the outcome in case one intends to use it for policymaking or for purposes of further research. Secondary data will be collected from books and journals that focus on both the international and local markets. Primary data on the other hand will be collected from a sample of respondents who are currently residing in the city of Dubai. Time and resources are an issue in this academic study and as such, the scope of primary data collection will be narrowed to this city. The city was chosen because of its robust service industry that has experienced massive growth over the past decade. The city has one of the fastest-growing tourism industries in the world. Its banking sector, retail industry, and many other service sectors are also growing very rapidly. Getting people who meet the set qualifications above in this city is relatively easy. The city is also chosen because of its high population compared to other parts of the country. The researcher knows that getting people to interview in this city will not be a problem. When using information obtained from this research, it is important to take into consideration the scope of data collection. The report will be relevant to those who use it in the context of service industry within the United Arab Emirates. Outside this context, the report will not precisely focus on what happens in other markets around the world.
After collecting the raw data from the participants, the next important step will be analyzed to help come up with appropriate findings. The research design chosen for the study is the mixed research method. Responses obtained using structured questions will be analyzed using mathematical methods. The researcher plans to use Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) to analyze quantitative data. The structured data will be coded into the spreadsheet and analyzed in order to come up with the needed findings. To make the findings easy to understand, the results of this mathematical analysis will be presented using graphs, charts, and figures. The analysis will also be done qualitatively based on the responses obtained from the unstructured questions. The explanatory research will help in shedding more light on the statistical output in the study. Qualitative analysis will be critical in explaining the statistics obtained through quantitative analysis.
When conducting an academic research, one of the most important factors that one must consider is the need to maintain ethics at every stage of the study. According to Jonker and Pennink, many times researchers forget to put necessary emphasis on the issue of ethics (113). They fail to take into serious consideration the need to be moral when handling subjects of the study and when making conclusions and recommendations that may have significant impact on those who intend to use the report for various purposes. In this study, one of the most important factors that were put into consideration was the need to protect human subjects. It is expected that views of the respondents will differ in various respects. Sometimes respondents may be concerned that their opinion may subject them to unfair criticism from their peers who may not be tolerant towards divergent opinions. As such, the researcher intends to protect all the respondents from being the target of others because of their opinion. The researcher will ensure that the respondents remain anonymous for the entire process of the study. To enhance anonymity of the respondents, the researcher will assign them specific codes instead of using their actual names. The codes will ensure that no one can trace the participants. The raw primary data will only be shared between the researcher and researcher and the professors who will be supervising this research project.
The researcher will first seek permission from the management of the companies that will be selected to take part in this study. The management of these companies may not be comfortable when they realize that a research is being conducted and that their employees are the respondents in such a study. To avoid such suspicions, permission will be sought from the relevant managers. It is the hope of the researcher that the management of the selected companies will support this academic research and that through them the researcher will be able to reach out to the employees who will be sampled for the study. Kothari says that when planning to collect data from specific respondents, it is ethical to inform them of the intended study early enough to ensure that they are adequately prepared (88). The researcher will make phone calls and ensure that the participants are adequately prepared for the study.
The researcher understands that the report that shall be made from the research project may be relevant in various contexts. As such, the issue of reliability will be very critical to ensure that the report is not misleading. The conclusion and recommendations that shall be made will entirely be based on the findings made from the analysis of primary data and review of the literature. The researcher will avoid making conclusions and recommendations based on personal opinion over the issue under investigation. Personal biased will be avoided at all stages of this study. The researcher will not allow personal opinion to influence the process of sampling participants, selecting sources to be used in the analysis, the analysis of primary data, or making conclusions and recommendations. The researcher will try to ensure that the study captures the topic and that the research aim and objectives are met effectively.
Reliability and validity of data
The issue of reliability and validity will be major concerns for the study. Jonker and Pennink say that validity is “the ability of research instruments to produce results that are in agreement with theoretical and conceptual values,” (121). The researcher will ensure that validity of the study is enhanced as a way of making the study applicable in various contexts. The primary data collected from the field will be free from any form of bias to further enhance validity of the outcome of this study. Reliability will also be enhanced because of the need to make this report very credible. The researcher will ensure that sample selected to be representative of the study is as comprehensive as possible. The researcher will ensure that it is possible to make a credible generalization from the sample selected.
This is major research that involves numerous activities planned in various stages. At this point, the researcher has come up with a proposal that outlines what is to be done when the actual process of data collection will start. If the proposal is approved, the next step will be to review more literature before going to the field to collect primary data from the selected respondents.
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