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Managing Consumer Resistance to Internet-Based Services

June 1, 2014

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Athanasios G. Patsiotis, PhD (Greece), Tim Hughes, PhD (UK),
and Don J. Webber, PhD (UK)

Internet-based applications are very commonplace within business and personal contexts. Online banking, chat-based customer service, and shopping are just some of the e-functions that permeate our day-to-day lives. Some consumers, though, show great resistance to emerging online technology. Driven by privacy concerns, security risks, a lack of knowledge of available technologies, and/or simply preferences for human interaction, some still resist Internet-based tools by either delaying adoption or rejecting the technology altogether (Patsiotis et al. 2013).

Such technological developments offer several benefits for real estate professionals and their clients. Internet-based applications provide both a communication and distribution channel to manage customer interactions. Cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) databases allow agents to access customer information, even when they are not in the office. Web applications can also help automate marketing and sales activities, freeing up agents’ time to engage in other value-adding activities for their clients. Knowing when to leverage technological interfaces versus providing in-person service is essential to maximize time and resources.

This article looks at the potential implications of consumers’ adoption (or non-adoption) of Internet-based technologies within the real estate context. The profiles and preferences of four key adopter/non-adopter categories - users, imminent adopters, late adopters, and rejecters - can help agents understand how to leverage technology in sales and marketing processes.

Our Study

Extant research has traditionally concentrated on what influences adoption; consequently, little research has helped clarify the different types of non-adoption behavior. Our study examined how consumers engage with Internet-based applications in the context of Internet banking. Specifically, we sought to uncover the differences between consumers who actively utilize Internet-based technology (adopters) and those that do not (non-adopters). Thus, our study examined adoption from a different angle, looking at non-adoption behavior and the root causes for consumer resistance to adoption.

Participants in the study took a survey to assess the drivers and inhibitors of adoption behaviors. Survey questions were categorized along five key dimensions relative to Internet-based technology applications: interactivity (timeliness, control of process, responsiveness, etc.), knowledge (awareness of benefits, usefulness, ease of use, abilities, experience, etc.), human interaction/risk (preference for human interaction, perception of risks, privacy/security concerns, etc.), lack of trial (ability to gain experience and/or test before use, etc.), and emotive (emotions, positive/negative elements of using application, etc.). The interrelationships and interaction of each of these factors determines the likelihood of adoption/non-adoption or later adoption/no later adoption.

Based on the survey results, we classified respondents into four categories: users (currently use, and will continue to use Internet-based technology – 29%), imminent adopters (do not currently use, but will likely use Internet-based technology within 12 months – 29%), late adopters (do not currently use, but will likely use Internet-based technology after 12 months – 16%), and rejecters (do not currently use, and will not likely use Internet-based technology – 25%).

Implications for Real Estate Professionals

Our results have implications for real estate professionals who engage Internet-based applications in their sales and marketing processes. Clients may not always be open to adopting sophisticated technological methods of service delivery. This means that real estate professionals may have to navigate different customer preferences within the service encounter to achieve highest satisfaction among clients. Early in the relationship, it will be helpful for agents to assess where clients fall on the spectrum of technological adoption. A simple survey (or more informal verbal questioning) can help agents identify which category includes her client(s). Therefore, she can begin to determine how much, if any, a client will want to utilize technology in the sales process.

Once an agent has categorized her client(s), she can engage technology most effectively to meet the needs and preferences of her customers:

  • Users will likely be open to a variety of Internet-based applications in the sales process. In fact, users are likely to complete many search and analysis functions on their own. Virtual home tours and Web-based financing applications can make this client feel less reliant on you. To ensure the client perceives your value creation impact, leverage automated and electronic processes in your interactions as much as possible.
  • Imminent Adopters may be open to a technology approach to the sales process, but will likely require additional personal interaction to feel most satisfied. Helping this client learn simple technological interventions early in the sales process can be perceived as value-added behavior. For example, helping this client set up a Pinterest board with photos of houses “still being considered” may cement this client’s loyalty. Continue to provide additional interventions as you gauge his comfort and acceptance of the technology.
  • Late Adopters will likely require more personal interaction than technological interaction, especially in a relatively short-term (0-6 mo.) sales process. While he may adopt a stronger technology approach in the future, he will likely respond more favorably to personal interaction. Bringing hard copy files and helping this client stay organized via verbal and written feedback may be key to this client believing in you.
  • Rejecters will likely require an entirely personal approach to the sales process. Plan to make personal phone calls, face-to-face meetings, etc. the primary component of your interaction with this type of client.

    As an agent, you may well be more technologically sophisticated than your client, so it is important to keep your client’s level of resistance to Internet-based services in mind.

Conclusion

Understanding your clients’ inclinations regarding Internet-based technologies will help you manage his expectations most effectively. Whether your client prefers a technology-heavy approach (user), an entirely personal interaction approach (rejecter), or something in between, identifying when and how to leverage technology in sales and marketing processes can promote efficiencies and greatest customer satisfaction in the sales process.

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References

Patsiotis, Athanasios G., Tim Hughes, and Don J. Webber (2013), “An Examination of Consumers’ Resistance to Computer-Based Technologies,” Journal of Services Marketing, , 27 (4), 294-311.

Appendix: Aspects of the Five Dimensions

Dimension Aspects
Interactivity
- bidirectionality: two way direction, interaction, accessibility, accuracy, interdependence, mutuality, informality

- timeliness: speed & frequency of delivery

- mutual controllability: easy to manage the process, control of the process

- responsiveness: a good conversation
Knowledge
- benefits: economic gains, time & energy savings, usefulness, ease of use

- awareness: services offered & skills needed

- personal capacity: abilities, experiences
Human Interaction/Risk
- human interaction: face-to-face contact with sales professional/agent

- perceived risks: financial, other, reliability

- privacy concerns: access by others to personal information

- security concerns: software problems, others access by fraud
Lack of Trial
- lack of trial: opportunities for experience on a trial basis before use
Emotive
- emotions: enjoyable, pleasant, exciting, feelings of knowing other person & location

- perceived difficulties: negative elements of using the application

*For the detailed measures representing these dimensions, see Patsiotis et al. 2013

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About the Authors

Athanasios G. Patsiotis, PhD
Adjunct Professor of Marketing, Deree College,The American College of Greece (Greece)

Dr. Patsiotis has been a member of the DEREE Business faculty since 1999, and has taught across the curriculum. He currently teaches on Consumer Behavior, Marketing of Services, and Marketing Research. He has also taught at postgraduate level in MBA courses. Dr. Patsiotis has working experience in marketing positions and logistics management in service operations in Athens and London. He is a graduate of the University of Athens in Mathematics and the University of Westminster London, where he earned a Master of Arts in Marketing. He was awarded a PhD by the Bristol Business School of the University of the West of England with a dissertation on consumers’ resistance to self-service technologies. His current research interest focuses on customer service, consumer behavior toward self-service interfaces, and on the adoption of technological innovations within the services industry sector. He has presented papers at international conferences and he has published journal articles mainly on marketing financial services. He has also served as an invited reviewer of several manuscripts for publication in the International Journal of Bank Marketing.

Tim Hughes, PhD
Professor of Applied Marketing, University of the West of England (UK)

Dr. Hughes started his career in brand management at Heinz and then Nestle, before moving on to the financial services sector. He established a marketing department at Skipton Building Society and then headed up marketing at Bristol and West Building Society. As a consultant, for six years, he worked on marketing issues for companies in the UK and overseas. Later, this included a number of projects relating to the complexities of customer engagement through multiple distribution channels. Following the completion of his PhD on the response of UK financial services companies to e-commerce, Dr. Hughes has published extensively in internationally excellent journals such asBritish Journal of Management, Academy of Management Learning & Education, European Journal of Marketing, and the Journal of Marketing Management. Current research interests include academic/practitioner engagement, the application of self-service technology to customer service and Service-Dominant Logic. Dr. Hughes regularly runs training programs with industry and other organizations, for example: IBM (Customer Management and relationships); Sainsbury’s (Delivering Product and Service Innovation); NHS (Applying business thinking in the new marketplace). He teaches Delivering Customer Value on the MBA.

Don J. Webber, PhD
Professor of Applied Economics, University of the West of England (UK)

Dr. Webber’s research focuses on the application of quantitative and qualitative methods to social science issues from an economics perspective. He has written over 70 published journal articles on topics such as the effect health on employment propensity, the inter-regional variation of productivity, and the impact of peer groups on students learning behaviors. Prior to joining University of the West of England, Bristol, Webber was an Associate Professor at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand where he was honored with two faculty research awards: a member of the team that won the 2010 Award for Best Research Team and the individual winner of the 2010 Award for Research Excellence for outstanding research performance. He has successfully completed research contracts for various organizations including the UK Government’s department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), NHS Bristol Primary Care Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, New Zealand’s Department of Labor and the Welsh Government.

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