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Hege Aasheim and Ingrid Stensønes MSoc. Sc. Service Management Copenhagen Business School, October 2011

Supervisor: Professor Jonas Hedman, and Co- supervisor: Nikhil Srinivasan Center for applied ICT

STU’s: 191.743 Pages: 116


Executive summary

Facebook has close to 800 million users. With this enormous popularity, even financial institutions have started to show an interest for this platform. This is a paradox as Facebook is an open and transparent medium, while banks offer complex and personal products concerning peoples’ economy. This makes the issue of banks in social media particularly interesting.

Danske Bank and their Facebook usage, is the subject for a single case study in this research. The chosen problem formulation is therefore: “What are financial

institutions doing in the online space of Facebook?” Subsequently, a more specific question is answered: “How fit is the technology of Facebook for Danske Bank, in regard to deliver a service, taking the richness of the medium into consideration?”

The focus is thus on the fit between banking services and Facebook.

The research starts out with looking into the context of the social media landscape and characteristics for the banking industry. Then the applied theories of “task technology fit”, “media richness theory” and service theories are looked into. The service

characteristics are adapted and revised in order to reflect the needs of a bank, and each characteristic is being analyzed separately against Facebook in order to

determine the fit. The service characteristics that will be looked into are: intangibility, contactability, accessibility and perishability. This result in a new, revised model called “Financial Services Fit Model”. This model derives from the three established theories, and will be used to analyze the data material.

Due to the single case design, generalization on financial institution’s Facebook usage could not be made. However, through the research, it was found that Danske Bank uses Facebook for interaction and communication with customers. The fit for using Facebook to overcome the service characteristics also turned out to be high, due to the richness of the medium. The transparency does however limit the usage to a certain degree. It is argued that Danske Bank does not take full advantage of the medium’s opportunities, which testifies the need for more research and knowledge on the topic.

Nevertheless, Facebook provide a valuable arena for interaction with customers, in times where technology and self- service dominate.



We would like to express our appreciation to everyone that supported us during the thesis process. We would especially like to thank our supervisor; Associate Professor Jonas Hedman for valuable inputs and constructive feedback, and for sharing his expertise with us. We would furthermore like to express thankfulness to co- supervisor and research fellow Nikil Srinivasan, for providing us with valuable advices and guidance.

Thank you!

Hege Aasheim and Ingrid Stensønes Copenhagen, 2011


Table of Contents

1. Introduction... 1

1.2 Problem area... 2

1.3 Problem formulation... 5

1.4 Structure of the paper... 6

2. Context description... 7

2.1 Banking trends... 7

2.2 The technology and the characteristics of social media... 8

2.3 Word-of-mouth (WOM)...10

3. Theory... 14

3.1 Banks as service providers...14

3.2 Task technology fit model...19

3.3 Media-Richness Theory...24

4. Financial services fit model... 30

5. Methodology... 39

5.1 Research design...39

5.2 Data collection...41

5.3 Validity and reliability...43

6. Case description... 47

6.1 Danske Bank...47

usage ...48

7. Data collection... 51

7.1 Page content...51

7.2 The Facebook Wall...54

8. Analyzing the Data... 65

11. Conclusion... 98

Bibliography ...102


Table of figures

paper (author’s own)... 6 Figure

authors)... 19 Figure
(1987)... 24 Figure
own) ... 30 Figure

1987)... 37 Figure
activity... 64 Figure
own) ... 92


Table of tables

characteristics... 36

template... 43

activity... 63

contact... 74

contactability... 81

accessibility... 86

perishability... 89

evaluation ... 91

Table of appendices

Appendix 1: Facebook for dummies


1. Introduction

Few aspects in life are static, and technology and customer behavior are no exceptions. A prominent trend in terms of technology is the rise of online social media sites. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, blog sites and so on are social communities with an enormous number of users. According to Kozinets (2010), as many as a billion people around the world participate in online communities as a regular part of their daily social experience (1Kozinets, 2010 p. 2).

The first online networking- site was sixdegrees.com. This site was created in order to assist people in connecting with friends and other acquaintances. The website lasted from 1997 to 2001. LinkedIn was launched in 2003, and was meant to be a site where professionals could network with each other. Friendster became another popular site around that time, aiming to connect friends that had lost touch. When Friendster decreased in popularity, MySpace started to gain members. MySpace became a platform where fans and bands/musicians could connect. In 2004, Facebook saw the light of day. The page started out as a community for Harvard students, but is today open for everyone (Boyd and Ellison, 2007). As of today, Facebook has close to 700 million active members all over the world, leaving little doubt about its popularity (pcmag, 2011).

With so many people gathering online, the line between life online and “real” life is

increasingly diminished, and the way people interact with each other, search for and access information have changed. The offline and online world have blended in to one, and people use the technology to communicate, to connect, to socialize, to express and to understand (1Kozinets, 2010 p. 2). Evidence for change in online behavior can for example be found by looking at online traffic from December 2006. YouTube then had five times more visitors than all the four largest broadcasting networks (NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox) in the US combined (Shao, 2008). Due to trends like this, it has been said that when examining the developments that has occurred during the recent years, the most important story that is told, is about community and collaboration. This collaboration happening between the masses is seen on such a scale that has never been observed before. Social media pages such as


YouTube and Wikipedia are the results of this, collaboration between millions of users (Shao, 2008).

Foster, Francescucci and West (2010) argue that technology has changed the way in which organizations communicate with their customers. Organizations now communicate through a dialogue with consumers, instead of pushing information on them (Foster, Francescucci and West, 2010). For example, “pages” are a feature on Facebook, allowing for official

representatives of an organization or business to create a page on Facebook in order to showcase work and interact with fans (1Facebook, 2011).

Even traditional businesses, like financial institutions or banks, are making use of the page feature on Facebook. When browsing Denmark’s five biggest banks on Facebook, which are, according to Finansrådet (finance advice organ); Danske Bank, Nordea Bank, Jyske Bank, Nykredit Bank and Sydbank (finansraadet, 2011), they all have a page presence on Facebook.

However, according to Social Semantic’s latest report (1kommunikationsforening, 2011) on social media use in Denmark; among Danish businesses, just 9 percent of firms in Denmark use social media for service and customer support. Approximately 12 percent of Danish businesses still see social media as a one-day wonder, and do not deem it that important.

However, 2.6 million Danes are active members on Facebook (1kommunikationsforening, 2011).

After briefly looking at these social media trends and the popularity social media has among the population, it is interesting to see what firms do in these social media spaces. Especially, it is interesting to see what a traditional financial institution uses a Facebook page for. The discussion above leads over to the problem area in this thesis.

1.2 Problem area

Along with being traditional, financial institutions have also experienced and embraced several changes due to competitive pressure, customer needs and new technology


developments. Between 2002 and 2007, Internet-banking transfers in the US and Canadian banking industries grew by 239 per cent and bill payment by 138 per cent (Zuccaro and Savard, 2010). Another example is that in 2009, 88 per cent of the Swedish population had never actually visited a physical branch (The Banker, 2011). This gives an indication that most of the day-to-day banking is being replaced by digital interactions. It is also stated that the most important interaction channels for a bank on a daily basis will be ranked as follows:

1: Mobile, 2: Internet, 3: ATM, 4: Call centers, and 5, Branch (The Banker, 2011). The physical branch has traditionally been where the service delivery of financial products has taken place, and it is still a mentality in the industry as many banks still reinforce a branch- led approach, according to King (2010). As the branch function has changed, and been replaced by technology, it is interesting to see how new channels is fit for delivering banking services.

According to the financial forum (1Finanswatch, 2010), sites like Twitter and Facebook are the new “battlefields” for banks. These are forums for banks to have a dialogue with customers, get an overview of critique against them, and a chance to defend themselves. It has been speculated that in the future, banks may even use social media channels to give financial advice (1Finanswatch, 2010).

The fact that several financial institutions are present on Facebook makes it interesting to see how banks are using the technology. A bank’s offerings involve money, personal economy and other complex deliveries, making it fascinating to see how they use the open and transparent medium of Facebook. It is also interesting to look at whether or not Facebook is fit for a financial institution in order to deliver the service it is supposed to deliver to its customers. The chosen bank to be looked at in this thesis is Danske Bank, which is Denmark’s largest bank.

Goodhue and Thompson (1995) developed The Task Technology Fit model, which says that IT is more likely to have a positive impact on performance and be used if the capabilities of the IT match the tasks that the user must perform (Goodhue and Thompson, 1995). The task


Facebook is fit for delivering traditional service challenges. The task technology fit

framework looks at the tasks that should be performed, together with the characteristics of the technology, and whether the utilized technology is fit to perform or assist the particular tasks.

Marketing theories have identified four characteristics of service deliveries. They are referred to as intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity and perishability, and will be looked at in this paper. As Facebook is a relatively new phenomenon, the medium itself will also be analyzed.

In order to do so, the media-richness model, which classifies mediums after cues they provide, or in other words, how rich the medium is considered to be, will be utilized. This model will be used in order to explain the technology aspect of the task-technology fit model.

As no research exist on how a bank uses Facebook, these theoretical assumptions will make up a new model appropriate for the purpose to analyze the fit of banks using social media.


1.3 Problem formulation

After looking at the problem area, and the argumentation presented above, a problem formulation is made.

The overall research question of the paper is as follows:

1. What are financial institutions doing in the online space of Facebook?

As an extension to the main research question, and to narrow it down, the fit perspective will be analyzed, in order to see how Facebook fits the tasks of Danske Bank, which will be the chosen case of the paper. The richness of Facebook will also be taken into consideration in order to explain the technology. Different tasks will require a different level of richness and cues.

2. How fit is the technology of Facebook for Danske Bank, in regard to deliver a service, taking the richness of the medium into consideration?


1.4 Structure of the paper


paper (author’s own)


•   Introduc1on


•  Context


•  Applied


•   Research


•  Methodology


•  Case


•   Data


•  Analysis


•  Discussion


•   Conclusion


2. Context description

This section consists of a review of the literature on the chosen topic. Research on the topics of banking, social media usage and technology are presented below. It will start out with talking about characteristics of the banking sector in terms of IT usage. Then there will be a more general discussion upon social media and the phenomenon, together with word of mouth related topics.

2.1 Banking trends

The main offerings that come from banks are the interest they offer on savings, and what they charge lenders. Though, heavy competition exists, forcing banks to offer similar prices on savings and loans. What this entails for banks is that non-price factors such as customer service become more important. Financial services are also complex, and often a challenge for customers to understand. This leads the customers to rely on trust toward the bank and the bank’s representatives for proper advice (Roman, 2003).

The importance of IT in the banking sector

Banks can substitute IT with labor and the other way around, depending on their choice of service strategy and whether that strategy is more IT intensive or labor intensive. The size of the provider organization is often a key aspect of service design. Size can generate economies of scale that help deliver services at lower cost. On the other side, size can be an obstacle if customers are depersonalized, or, if searching for higher profits make service more of a routine (Tallon, 2010). Large banks are often using a strategy of operational excellence, emphasizing transactions, accuracy and productivity. On the opposite side, the smaller banks use a strategy of customer intimacy. The result is therefore that size is a predictor of how banks provide service to customers. Small banks tend to be more geographically focused and more locally oriented, and then again have better knowledge of their customers and their needs. Small banks cannot differentiate themselves through economies of scale, and in this way, Tallon (2010) argues that small banks will place customer intimacy rather than

efficiency and productivity at the heart of all client interactions (Tallon, 2010). Personnel in large banks are not as acquainted with customers in the same way that a local bank may be.


large banks (Tallon, 2010).

IT to create playful spaces

Banks are able to develop personalized messages to sell customized products and services, as they have rich knowledge of customers’ life stage, assets, risk preferences, and so forth. What banks do not do, according to Ellis- Chadwick, McHardy and Wiesenhofer (2002) , is linking up members who are alike according to a few distinct personality variables (e.g., age, income, and recent job switch) and therefore likely to have similar financial (and even non-financial) questions. Such spaces can be open to non-customers and may even be populated, from time to time, by experts and guests from the organization. These communal and socializing types of play enhance the willingness of consumers to share their thoughts, questions, answers and experiences with others, including the organization. The creation of playful spaces where customers become performers of their own identities and create their own content builds trust and credibility among other customers, non-customers, and the organization (Ellis-

Chadwick, McHardy and Wiesenhofer, 2002).

2.2 The technology and the characteristics of social media

Social media can be deemed as a verb, and is the act of posting content on online, mobile or virtual communities. The key concept of social media is that the content is shared with the ones that are identified as your followers. The reason for describing the social medium as a verb is that participation is active instead of passive (Agresta and Bonin Bough, 2011). Many also refer to social media as web 2.0. This term contains a collection of web services that facilitate interaction of web users with sites to create user generated content and encourage behaviors such as community or social network participation (Chaffey, 2009 p. 22). Social networks are often made up of people who share the same interests. This can be both social and consumer specific interests. Communicating through these social networks can fulfill consumer interests, relationship building and transactions (Berger and Messerschmidt, 2009).

It is argued that one of the reasons user-generated-media is so popular, is the fact that it is easy to use, and as the term states, controlled by the users (Shao, 2008). It is also a fast way to interact with others, and consume information. Consumers get access to vast amounts of


information without participating, or having to involve themselves in a high degree (Shao, 2008).

Foster, Francescucci and West (2010) argue that different types of social media exist, and that they can be classified according to how much social presence, media richness, and self- disclosure they contain (Foster, Francescucci and West, 2010). Wikipedia is an example of a social media channel that is low on social presence and media richness. It is an open and editable page, and the content is written collaboratively by a large amount of anonymous Internet volunteers. Articles are written in more than 270 languages, and anyone with an Internet access can contribute (wikipedia, 2011). A blog is somewhere in the middle, as it shares both text and photos, and people have the ability to make their own comments to the content (Foster, Francescucci and West, 2010). Blogs are the most popular online personal publishing platform. Permalinks and trackbacks (allowing for linking between blogs) and commenting opportunities are unique features with blogs (Brady, 2005). Among those with the highest media richness and social presence are YouTube and Facebook. These social media channels attempt to replicate a three-dimensional interaction, like live chat, picture-, video- and text sharing (Foster, Francescucci and West, 2010).

Engagement levels

Researchers have categorized levels of engagement that people display in social networks.

Some consumers “lurk” in social networks, meaning that they observe others, but do not generate any content themselves. “Newbys” are those who have just started to comment in a social network and do not display signs of commitment. The term “celebrities” are

characterized as members with an extensive knowledge of the discussion topic. Then there are “minglers”, referring to those that do not participate regularly, “devotees” are enthusiastic members, while the “insider” possesses expert knowledge. Both “devotees” and “insiders”

exhibit strong social and emotional ties to the network (Quinton and Harridge-March, 2010).

According to Kozinet (22010), far more people are willing to join a community than

contribute to it. About 1/10 of 1 per cent will write on the wall, and tiny fractions of this will post photos or videos, or reply to discussion topics. Kozinet calls such communities “semi- quasi- not – quite- communities” (2Kozinet, 2010).


2.3 Word-of-mouth (WOM)

One cannot discuss social media and social networks without mentioning word-of-mouth.

Electronically word-of-mouth occurs when people discuss products, brands and services among each other on the Internet. Some consumers might have tried a product before, and can thus recommend it, or not recommend it to other consumers. Positive word-of-mouth can be viewed as a customer’s willingness to recommend a product to others (Gruen,

Osmenbekov and Czaplewski, 2006). WOM of this nature is motivated by the desire to spread knowledge, help others, or even warn them against poor service and products

(Kozinets, de Valck, Wojnicki and Wilner, 2010). Word-of-mouth is viewed as a social force that has a huge impact on consumer’s purchase decisions. Some scholars have even argued that WOM is more influential than traditional marketing tools (Kozinets, de Valck, Wojnicki and Wilner, 2010).

Research also shows that marketers should not panic by negative word of mouth. A little negative WOM together with positive adds credibility. Other researchers argue that it is the volume of WOM, and not their negative and positive valence that matters (Kozinets, de Valck, Wojnicki and Wilner, 2010). Agresta and Bonin Bough (2011) suggest that if inappropriate comments from a customer occur in a business-sponsored community, the advice is to not respond, or respond offline. The reason for not responding is that a business does not want its social media space to be crowded with information of no value. If the complaint or negative comment is based on inaccurate information, the business should answer immediately and try to correct the misinformation. If someone is just looking to steer up trouble, a business should not respond. This is because a response might just encourage the person to a negative discussion that will color the social media room. A suggestion from practitioners is to encourage the customers to make contact with the company through a more private line, where the problem can be dealt with away from the public sphere (Agresta and Bonin Bough, 2011).

Even if online discussions can generate some unfavorable comments for all to see, such forums provide marketers with the opportunity to follow a discussion about their brand. They


can see the initial post, who has commented on what, and in general what response it has generated. This is not possible for word-of-mouth that happen offline (Quinton and Harridge- March, 2010).

Communities created by commercial actors

Lately, researchers have been giving more attention to organization-sponsored communities and their potential (Berger and Messerschmidt, 2009). These are communities that are started up, or sponsored by companies. The fact that consumers use these communities to research new products and form relationships is a major argument for organizations to sponsor online communities that facilitates word-of-mouth about their product (Berger and Messerschmidt, 2009). It is also argued that since the relationships, which are formed in these networks, are grounded in social bonds, they are hard to copy by competitors. Social networks can be powerful and create a competitive advantage (Quinton and Harridge-March, 2010). However, a social network is not built up around information sharing alone, but also around trust, friendship and alliances. One should therefore be careful to insert too much marketing in a social community, as it will undermine its integrity (Kozinets, de Valck, Wojnicki and Wilner, 2010). As an example, a page can be viewed as company sponsored community.

According to Agresta and Bonin Bough (2011), a company should not produce too much content on a Facebook wall. This might be viewed as spam and be annoying to the followers.

They rather suggest putting up real valuable content to give the customers something to talk about (Agresta and Bonin Bough, 2011). As mentioned by Berger and Messerschmidt (2009), more and more consumers have less trust toward information coming from commercial sources. Instead, they go online and search for product reviews created by other consumers, and ask them questions directly. Online communities often attract like-minded users, and are therefore a perfect platform to search for this kind of product information (Berger and Messerschmidt, 2009).

When investigating online communities, Quinton and Harridge-March (2010) found that the most useful product and service information came from regular posters in the community (Quinton and Harridge-March, 2010). It also happens that other community users and customers know the answer to something better than a sales assistance that is employed to


A majority of their customers are there because loyal customers have recommended them. In other words, E-bay has very low costs in acquiring new customers. Loyal customers also staff the help desk for free. People who start to use their service tend to ask for assistance by the person who recommended the site for them (Reichheld and Schefter, 2000).

Complaining behavior

As mentioned above, negative comments and complaints are a part of a social media

community space. Due to this, a section discussing some complaint behavior is appropriate.

Despite its strategic relevance, many service companies (including banks) are not giving complaint management the importance it deserves. Siddiqui and Tripathi (2010) have identified six essential components of an effective service recovery process: fail-safe your service (do it right the first time), welcome and encourage complaints, act quickly, treat customers fairly, learn from recovery experience, and learn from lost customers. To respond effectively to consumer complaints can have a significant impact on satisfaction, repurchase intentions and the spread of word of mouth. The research therefore also points out different complaining tendencies among customers of banking services. The first category is named

“none – complainers”. Those who end up here do not complain because they either do not know where to do so, or how to complain. Second is the category “switchers”. They believe in complaining, but do not think that the complaining will lead to any differences. Thirdly are the “prompt complainers”. This group feels the urge to complain right away. The final

category is “the positive thinkers”, who believe that a service failure is part of being a human, and they will deserve a second chance (Siddiqui and Tripathi, 2010).

Many consumers view financial services as complex, thus a service that needs pre-purchase information and evaluation. Because financial products are viewed as being complex, they are also high-involvement products (Berger and Messerschmidt, 2009). For the financial services marketer it may be difficult to identify true versus not so true, loyal customers. This might be because even if a customer experiences dissatisfying service, many financial service customers stay with their financial service provider simply because switching is too much stress (Licata and Goutam, 2009).


Sum up

• Banking products are similar of nature, and should be differentiated from competitors with different strategies. Larger banks often benefit from economies of scale, while smaller banks might emphasize more customer intimacy. As banks can develop personalized messages to its customers due to the rich customer information, it is suggested that they use the information to link up people with similar personality variables, as they are likely to have similar financial questions.

• Different social media channels exist, each with its own features. However, shared- and user made content is common. Even though it is user generated content, a large number of the community members will never contribute.

• When a consumer spreads knowledge, it can be viewed as WOM. It is argued that such information is more valid that information coming from a company. In fact, companies should encourage forums allowing for such information sharing. It gives a chance to follow discussions, and users of the forum can assist each other.

• It is argued that the complex nature of banking services makes people loyal due to a resource demanding switching process. This might therefore lead to complaints and mistrust among customers.


3. Theory

This section will elaborate on the theoretical foundation for this paper. Each section will cover a theoretical aspect. The first part will contain service theories, or more specifically the four service characteristics: intangibility, inseparability, heterogeneity and perishability. The next section will discuss the task-technology fit model and its implications. The last theory section will discuss the media-richness model. Together, the theories discussed in this section will make up a guiding framework for this thesis.

3.1 Banks as service providers

“A service is any act or performance that one party can offer to another that is essentially intangible and does not result in the ownership of anything. Its production may or may not be tied to a physical product” (Kotler and Keller, 2006, p. 402).

More and more firms are being classified as service providers, and service firms often make up a significant part of a country’s GDP. In Denmark, the GDP composition by sector is:

agriculture 1, 2 per cent, industry 22, 1 per cent and services 76, 6 per cent (Central

intelligence agency, 2011). Even though banks can be said to be service providers, important differences exist between different service firms, and not just between service firms and goods (Mills and Margulies, 1980). Mills and Margulies (1980) have attempted to classify service organizations that are similar of nature. Service organizations such as financial institutions, banks, insurance companies and credit unions are classified as “maintenance- interactive” service organizations. These types of service organizations are classified by a lot of contact between customers and employees, as many of the products are complex (Mills and Margulies, 1980). Further, the environment in these service organizations is

characterized as being relatively stable. Customers might switch service provider once or twice in their life, but most of the customers are loyal, as switching can be a resource demanding process (Mills and Margulies, 1980).


Research also shows that consumers more seldom switch service providers than product providers. The reason might be because consumers use more time searching for information when selecting a service provider in the first place, due to the nature of services (Tarn, 2005).

Since consumers feel more perceived risk and thus uses more time to research information on beforehand, the amount of information available is important for service providers (Tarn, 2005). Already in the 70’s, Shostack (1977) was one of the first practitioners that raised the concept of services and the need to break free from product marketing (Shostack, 1977). One aspect of services that can differentiate them from goods is that they are intangible, which is said to be the most distinctive feature of services. Together with intangibility, Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985), also identified heterogeneity, perishability and inseparability.

These four characteristics have broad acceptance among marketing scholars. Grönroos (2007) also discusses a service aspect he refers to as lack of ownership. This implies that the

customer is not left with any physical goods as a proof of a transaction, which often is used to judge the interaction itself (Grönroos, 2007). Grönroos (2007) also sees accessibility as a vital point for service firms. By this he means human resources, machines, technology, offices and extra service. The resources that are put into making a service more accessible are tangible, which provides the customer with some means for evaluating and comparing service offerings (Grönroos, 2007).

It can be argued that the innovations in the financial services industry over the last years have made their service offerings much more accessible to their customers. According to

Sanghera, de Chernatony and Brown (2002), consumer loyalty to financial institutions used to be the result of a high degree of indifference towards them. However, due to increased competition, technological innovations and the increased knowledge of financial institutions’

customers, this is no longer the case (Sanghera, de Chernatony and Brown, 2002). Internet banking can be seen as a new delivery channel, which has made financial services available to customers 24 hours a day, and customers usually take care of their own services.

Customers now expect services to be accessible to them whenever they want them to be (Sanghera, de Chernatony and Brown 2002).



Intangibility refers to services being performances rather than objects, and therefore difficult to view on beforehand. It is hard to set a uniform standard of quality on performances. Due to the characteristics of intangibility, service firms might find it difficult to understand how their customers perceive their services and evaluate service quality (Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry, 1985). Services are also often hard to view on beforehand. However, physical aspects that surround the service can work as tangible evidences, which can be evaluated by

customers. This can include location, store, equipment, uniforms and so on (Wilson,

Zeithaml, Bitner, Gremler, 2008). These physical aspects should also represent the brand and its values (de Chernatony and Segal-Horn, 2001). It is also suggested that a firm strives to make the communication sources they utilize toward their customers as personal as possible.

The customers should be able to see and get a sense of whom they are communicating with.

Stimulate word of mouth is also a strategy to overcome the intangibility challenge. It has been argued that successful service brands are those that build a dialogue with their customers, and emphasize the aspect of integrating them in the delivery process (de Chernatony and Segal-Horn, 2001). Word-of-mouth also entails that the firm should stimulate communication between their customers. A final suggestion is to engage in post purchase communication, meaning that they stimulate to dialogue with their customers about previous encounters with the firm (Schiffman and Kanuk, 2007, p. 547).


Services are heterogeneous, meaning that they are dependent on the service personnel. An employee’s performance might vary from day to day and is therefore difficult to standardize (Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry, 1985). Another reason for claiming that services are heterogeneous is that each customer that consumes a service will judge it differently (Vargo and Lusch, 2004). This makes it challenging for the service provider to ensure a standardized way for performing the service. Suggested strategies for overcoming heterogeneity are to industrialize and customize service. A blueprint can be made, in order to ensure that the employees deliver the same experience every time, through all channels (de Chernatony and Segal-Horn, 2001). In other words, the service provider should strive to ensure a uniform service delivery, and at the same time customize it slightly to the needs of the individual consumer.



Inseparability in service deliveries refers to the fact that production and consumption happens at the same time. The characteristics of inseparability make it more difficult for a service firm to plan for quality on beforehand (Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry, 1985). The customer is also a participant in the actual service delivery, making an extra challenge for service

personnel, as customer behavior is unpredictable. Usually, there are other customers around during a service delivery; they thus affect each other’s service experience, in either a positive or a negative way (Wilson, Zeithaml, Bitner and Gremler, 2008). Parasuramn, Zeitaml and Berry (1985) suggest emphasizing selection and training of public contact personnel. By this is meant that the service firm should strive to train their personnel in how they deal with, and behave when they are in contact with customers. This includes recruiting the right people, and give them a thorough training (Kotler, 2005, p. 386). Manage customers is another suggested strategy. As the consumer is a large part of the service delivery, his/her attitudes should be kept positive from the start. Especially if one keeps in mind how customers influence each other’s service delivery perception (Grönroos, 2007). Manage customers in the service delivery is thus vital.


This aspect implies that services cannot be stored and resold. If a consultant uses an hour to advice a customer, this service cannot be used again or resold at a later time (Wilson, Zeithaml, Bitner and Gremler, 2008). On the other hand, some aspects of services can be stored. Examples are computer systems for an airline, knowledge and people, to mention a few (Vargo and Lusch, 2004).

A suggestion is to use strategies to cope with fluctuating demand. Fluctuating demand is a challenge because services cannot be stored, and a sudden increase in demand can be hard to handle. A service firm should therefore strive to meet these fluctuations in a satisfying manner. How this is done, varies from firm to firm, and from situation to situation.


Critique of the four service challenges

Even though the service characteristics have been discussed and recognized, some critique of them should be mentioned. A lot of the critique is centered on the fact that the service

characteristics might only be applicable to manufacturers, and not customers themselves (Vargo and Lusch, 2004). However, as the research question in this paper focuses on Danske Bank and what they are doing, this point is not seen as that important for this paper. Some critique also focuses on the fact that many of the service characteristics have applications for goods too. In other words, it can be argued that it is wrong to separate goods from services.

One argument that centers on this is the fact that if one examines the concept of intangibility more closely, it becomes clear that all goods have a service component, and all services have some sort of tangible representation, making it misleading to separate goods from services (Vargo and Lusch, 2004). On the other hand, banks do actually have both service and goods components, which makes the service components relevant in spite of this argument.

The most discussed strategy for overcoming intangibility is to strive to “tangibilize” the offering, by for example providing the customers with tangible cues, like logo usage. On the other hand, this can be confused with image. Marketers selling tangible goods are on the other hand often advised to stress the firm’s image and the intangible benefits surrounding the product. These intangibles are considered the firm’s most valuable assets (Vargo and Lusch, 2004). The concept of heterogeneity concerns how humans affect the service exchange. However, humans can be said to be the constraining factor in both service deliveries, and the purchase of goods. No product is sold without some sort of human interaction (Vargo and Lusch, 2004). There are also many standardized services made possible by IT technologies, for example online purchase of airplane tickets. It has also been argued that banks offer a highly standardized service, as offerings such as an Internet banking option will be the same for every customer (Vargo and Lusch, 2004). However, with the recent focus on customization and relational perspectives, one can argue that businesses should strive to maximize consumer interaction, and not limit it (Vargo and Lusch, 2004).

The fact that a service is perishable and cannot be stored has been critiqued because it can also be said to be true for goods. Examples of products that are perishable can be fresh foods,


fashion, and new technology trends. On the other hand, many aspects of a service can be stored, for example computer systems for an airline company (Vargo and Lusch, 2004).

Sum up

• Services have some unique characteristics that separate them from products.

The most recognized characteristics are: intangibility, heterogeneity,

inseparability and perishability. Different strategies are suggested in order to overcome them.

• The characteristics have been criticized despite the recognition they have got.

One example of criticism is that it is wrong to separate goods from services.

3.2 Task technology fit model

In short, the task technology fit theory says that IT is more likely to have a positive impact on performance and be used if the capabilities of the IT match the tasks that the user must

perform. For a technology to have a positive impact on performance, the technology must be utilized, and it must be a good fit with the tasks it should support (Theories used in IS

research wiki, 2006).


The figure above illustrates in a simple manner the principle of the task- technology fit


determine the fit. It can be said that task – technology fit is the degree to which a technology assists an individual in performing his or her tasks. Thus, when the gap between the

requirements of a task and the capabilities of a technology widens, task-technology fit is reduced (Goodhue and Thompson, 1995). If one were to test task technology fit, it would require three steps: identify distinct task environments, specify ideal technological support for each task environment, and test the performance effect of task/technology alignments (Zigurs and Buckland, 1998).

The three parts that the Task-technology fit model consists of will be presented below.

Technology Characteristics

The part of the task-technology fit framework called technology characteristics concerns the technology or tools used for completing a task. In the field of information systems research, technology refers to different computer systems and user support services. This can be hardware and software, and/or different support services that aim to assist users in performing a task (Goodhue and Thompson, 1995). The model is intended to be general enough to focus on either the impacts of a specific system or a more general impact of an entire set of systems, policies and services provided by an information systems department.

In this paper, the media richness framework will be used to explain this technological aspect, which is Facebook. The media-richness model will be explained in detail in the next section.

Task characteristics and fit

A task can be defined as an action that is taken by an individual in order to turn inputs into outputs. Individuals who need access to a lot of information in order to complete their tasks, might heavily depend on technology that makes it easier to store and shift through all the information (Goodhue and Thompson, 1995). Task-technology fit can thus be said to be the degree to which a specific technology helps an individual performing the task he or she is set to do. In other words, it is the match between task requirements, individual abilities and the functionality of the technology. If the requirements of a task do not match the technology that is used to execute it, task-technology fit is reduced. It is also argued that one starts out with


the assumption that no technology is a perfect match to assisting in a task, especially if the task is considered to be complex (Goodhue and Thompson, 1995).

It is believed that as tasks become more complex, technology offers less functionality, and the task-technology fit will decrease (Goodhue and Thompson, 1995). Fit is the degree to which a technology provides features that support the requirements of a task and the abilities of an individual (Dwyer, 2007). The effect of the task technology fit has proven to be

strongest for routine tasks, and individuals that used information systems for non-routine tasks were less pleased. This might be due to the fact that these individuals are constantly forced to use their information systems for figuring out new problems, and thus expect more from it (Goodhue and Thompson, 1995). It is also worth noting that the precise nature and meaning of “fit” is rarely stated (Zigurs and Buckland, 1998).

Previous use of the Task-Technology Fit Model

The task- technology fit model has both been used and extended with other models, or simply revised to make it more applicable for particular studies (Dishaw, Strong and Bandy, 2002).

The fact that other scholars have combined the task-technology fit model with other models and revised it for their particular study is an argument for doing it in this paper.

Other studies have utilized the task-technology fit model for e-commerce, social networks, and wireless business applications. In the e-commerce study, done by Klopping and McKinney (2004), the task was online shopping, and the task-technology fit was used to predict online shopping behavior. The task of online shopping had never been used for the task-technology fit model before this study, and the researchers found that the task-

technology fit was applicable in other settings than the workplace, and is a valuable addition to other models (Klopping and McKinney, 2004).

The study that analyzed social networks, applied two theoretical frameworks (Dwyer, 2007).


development and match those requirements to technical features of the social networking sites. In other words, the task-technology fit model was used in order to investigate whether or not social networking sites have the necessary abilities to facilitate relationship

development and building among individuals. It should also be noted that when searching for scholars having utilized the task-technology fit model for the same purpose as this paper, this study was the closest that was found.

The model has also been used to examine the success factors and impacts of implementing wireless business applications (Gebauer and Shaw, 2004). The authors stress the fact that the fit between information technology and organizational tasks have to be achieved during the technology development process (Gebauer and Shaw, 2004). The researchers found that the task-technology fit could be utilized in order to examine wireless business applications.

Further research should be put into analyzing user characteristics, which the authors feel should be added to the technology and task characteristics (Gebauer and Shaw, 2004).

The reason for mentioning these studies are to show that the task-technology fit model has been used for newer technologies, and that it has not only been used for tasks within an organization. This is an argument for choosing this particular model for the paper. Several of these studies have also combined the task-technology fit model with other models, as this paper attempts to do. As mentioned in one of the previous sections, the authors have not been able to find any studies that have used the task-technology fit model for the exact purpose as in this paper. However, as it has been used for newer technologies, and combined with other frameworks in previous studies before, the authors find that it is an appropriate model to make use of.

Critique to the task technology fit model

Goodhue and Thompson (1995) have also argued that models focusing on fit alone are insufficient for explaining the relationship between technology and task performance. The reason for arguing this is that individuals must also utilize the systems. Utilization of different technologies or IT systems is a complex outcome, dependent on for example the personal features of the user and situational factors surrounding the user. The task technology


fit could therefore benefit from adding this perspective. This is important to take note of when utilizing this model for the thesis. This fact makes up one of the reasons that the

authors wish to examine what happens on Danske Bank’s Facebook page. This way, it is also possible to say something about the actual utilization of the technology. Task-technology fit can also be seen as a predictor of whether or not systems are believed to be useful and give an advantage. The aspect of utilization is strongly related to these constructs, and should thus be included (Goodhue and Thompson, 1995). It has also been argued that the task technology fit model in combination with other models can provide a more superior model than the task technology fit model alone (Klopping and McKinney, 2004). This is a valid argument for combining the task-technology fit model with the media richness model in this paper. The critical aspects are important to keep under consideration while using the model for the analysis. The critique is also an argument for not just examining the task and the

technological capabilities that Facebook offers, but also the actual activity that happens on the page.

Sum up

• The task technology fit model consists of:

o Technology: the tool used for completing a task o Task: an action that turns inputs into outputs

o Fit: No definition of fit exists - but if there is little match between the task requirements and the functionality of the technology, the fit is reduced.

• A performance is most likely to have a positive impact outcome if the capabilities of the IT match the task.

• The Task technology fit model has been used in combination or as an extension of other models related to information systems in order to make it more applicable for a particular study.

• The model has been criticized for the insufficient fit focus alone for explaining the relationship between the technology and task performance. The aspects must be put into use before they can deliver performance impacts.


3.3 Media-Richness Theory

The media richness theory will explain the part “technological characteristics” in the task- technology fit model. The media richness theory is presented and discussed, in order for the authors to use it critically to discuss Facebook, and its attributes and characteristics.


Daft, Lengel and Trevino (1987) characterized media as high or low in richness, based on the capability to facilitate shared meaning. A medium that is rich has the ability to provide insight and rapid understanding. The figure above ranks mediums in terms of their capacity for processing equivocal information. The four classifications are as follows: face- to- face, telephone, addressed documents and finally unaddressed documents. This model is included because the authors believe that the ability to facilitate multiple cues and understanding is important when using a medium in order to deliver service.


The media-richness theory was developed in the mid-1980s, and has since then been one of the fundamental theories of communication media adoption and use (Kock, 1997). The theory claims that task performance will improve when task-information processing requirements are matched to the medium’s ability to convey rich information (Suh, 1998).

Another way of saying it is that the media-richness theory claims that communication


effectiveness is influenced by the capabilities of the chosen medium (Dennis and Valacich, 1999).

The theory argues that communication media that is able to send rich information consisting of multiple cues is better suited for equivocal tasks, where the available information can be interpreted in numerous ways. However, the results from applying the theory empirically have not been very convincing. This is particularly the case when new media is involved (Dennis and Valacich, 1999). The criteria of media richness are based upon its feedback capabilities, the communication channels utilized, language variety, and personal focus. The more the media incorporates these factors, the richer it is considered to be (Suh, 1998).

According to the media-richness theory, the richness of the medium is what makes people able to interpret and reach agreement about complex issues. A less rich medium is more appropriate for conveying routine activities. It is also argued that different types of tasks require different media capabilities (Suh, 1998).

The four criteria of media-richness

Face to face communication is considered the richest communication medium. This is because it allows for rapid mutual feedback and also simultaneous communication of multiple cues. Head nods, smiles, eye contact, tone of voice, and other nonverbal behavior can be used to regulate, modify, and control the communication exchange. Face to- face communication also uses high variety of natural language and conveys emotion.

The richness of each medium is based upon a mix of four criteria that will be elaborated on below. The point of this theoretical discussion is that for effective communication to occur, the richness of the medium should match the level of message ambiguity.



The feedback aspect entails that questions can be asked and corrections made. According to Dennis and Kinney (1998), most communication consists of the sender presenting a message and a receiver accepting it. In order for the communication to be successful, both sender and receiver must agree that that the receiver has understood the message. Dennis and Kinney (1998) also mention two types of feedback; concurrent and sequential. Concurrent feedback is delivered simultaneously with the message. This often takes the form of non- verbal

signals, and will not interrupt the sender. Nodding can be an example of concurrent feedback.

The other form, sequential, is when the receiver makes inputs that make the sender pause and give response to the receiver (Dennis and Kinney, 1998).

Multiple cues

A message can contain several cues, such as physical presence, voice inflection, body gestures, words, numbers and graphic symbols. The more cues a medium is able to deliver, the richer it is considered to be (Daft, Lengel and Trevino, 1987).

Language variety

Language variety refers to how well the medium is able to convey meaning and

understanding. Natural language can be used to express understanding of a broader set of concepts and ideas, while numbers have the ability to convey a greater precision of meaning (Daft, Lengel and Trevino, 1987).

Personal focus

If personal feelings and emotions are part of the communication, a message will be conveyed more fully. Some messages can be tailored to the needs and current situation of the receiver.

A media that is able to convey such a message is considered to be rich (Daft, Lengel and Trevino, 1987).


Previous use of the media-richness model

Text, audio, video and face-to-face communication has been examined together with the impact on task performance. The researchers found that their study did not support the media- richness theory, which are quite similar to the results of other studies (Suh, 1998). No

perceived benefits occurred from using a richer medium to complete a task.

A study comparing computer-mediated and face-to-face work groups to test the task-media fit has also been conducted. The study found that face-to-face communication outperformed computer mediated groups for negotiation and intellective tasks. There were however no significant differences between the two groups when performing decision and regular tasks.

The media-richness theory was thus only partially supported. The research also found that the relationship between communication and task performance appeared to be more dependent on previous experience the individuals have with the medium than the type of task to be performed (Suh, 1998).

It is also worth noting that empirical testing of the media-richness theory for new media, such as computer-mediated communication has not provided the theory with a lot of support. The authors suggest that the media-richness theory should be redefined to be able to support new media, or that a new theory should be developed altogether (Dennis, Fuller and Valacich, 2008). This is important to take notice of when using this model in the analysis.

Criticism of the Media-Richness Theory

The media-richness theory fails to take situational elements into consideration, which might shape the perception of the media. It has also been argued that most tests of the theory have examined the media choice of the senders, and not by examining the actual performance effects of media use. This is not beneficial because perceived effectiveness and actual effectiveness may not be entirely the same (Suh, 1998). This is an important argument for observing the actual communication that happens on Danske Bank’s Facebook page.


The media richness theory argues that different media can be placed along a continuum, stretching from lean to rich media. Some studies have found empirical support for this continuum, but it has also been argued that placing communication media on such a continuum without considering the context may be inappropriate. In addition to this

argument, communication medium has evolved considerable over the recent years. Tan, Wei, Raman and Sia, (1999) therefore argue that there is a need for an update of the media-

richness model (Tan, Wei, Raman and Sia, 1999).

Dennis and Valacich (1999) have also argued that the richest medium is the one that provides the best capabilities for a given situation. Thus no media is the “richest” in every given situation (Dennis and Valacich, 1999). Task has been a key element in media-richness

theories, and for example Kock (1997) is of the opinion that the key to effective use of media is to match media capabilities to the fundamental communication processes required to perform the task. Studies that test the media-richness theory have often operated in a

controlled setting, and not in reality (Kock, 1997). It is thus proposed that the media-richness theory cannot be used alone to explain technology adoption and usage (Kock, 1997). This is an important argument for combining the Media richness model with the task-technology fit model discussed above. This allows the authors to examine the media capabilities with the task requirements.

It was predicted that when newer communication mediums were introduced in the late 1970s, it would replace face-to-face communication. Although a lot of communication takes place through such media, the prediction of it replacing face-to-face communication has not become a reality (Tan, Wei, Raman and Sia 1999). Even though a number of new

communication media has emerged to facilitate organizational communication, the users do not necessarily view them as beneficial, preferring communicating face-to-face (Suh, 1998).

It is important to take note of the criticism of the media-richness model when using it in an analysis. The amount of criticism against the media-richness model is an argument for combining the model with other models. Even though newer communication media has not replaced face-to-face communication, it is a fact that a lot of communication takes place


online and in social media rooms. It is therefore argued that in spite of the criticism, using the media-richness model in combination with the task-technology fit model will be beneficial for this paper.

Sum up

• The media richness model characterizes media as high or low in richness on the basis of its capacity to facilitate shared meaning. Communication effectiveness is

influenced by the chosen medium’s capabilities.

• The more a medium incorporates these: feedback, multiple cues, personal focus and language variety, the richer it is considered to be. Face to face communication is considered the richest medium.

• The model has been criticized for being out of date, of among other things. It does not support newer mediums for example. Also, no medium is the richest in every given situation.


4. Financial services fit model

Three theoretical foundations have been elaborated upon above; theory of services

characteristics, the task technology fit model and the media richness model. In the coming section, the three theoretical assumptions will be linked together in order to form the basis of the governing model for this paper. The services theories are for services in general, but will be revised and changed to be better suited for analyzing tasks particular for banks. Also, the above- discussed frameworks were developed before Facebook, creating a need for revision.

In other words, the model that will be used for analyzing the data is a revised version of the initial frameworks. This model will be used in order to analyze Danske Bank’s use of Facebook for customer service deliveries. Below the model, a thorough description and explanation is provided.



Banking tasks

The characteristics that differentiate services from goods were initially referred to as intangibility, heterogeneity, inseparability and perishability. These four are acknowledged, but despite this, they have also been much criticized. As claimed by Mills and Margulies (1980), financial institutions are classified as maintenance- interactive service organizations, characterized by high customer- employer contact. This implies that not all service

organizations can be classified in the same categories, as there are variations between service firms. It should also be mentioned that these service characteristics originated in 1985 by Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry (1985). As development never stops, it stands to reason that some of these service characteristics may not hold their ground anymore. Due to this, the financial service fit model, developed for this thesis, aims to target financial institutions in particular, with the characteristics that are unique for them. The four aspects making up the

“banking tasks” in this model will therefore be elaborated upon.

Intangibility and less branch contact

Intangibility is one of the most distinctive features for a service organization, despite industry (Parasuraman, Zeithaml and Berry, 1985). In the case of financial institutions, this is

particular evident due to the decreased relevance of the physical branch. Technology and self- service solutions have taken over for the traditional banking channels. A branch has normally been an important arena for a bank, where the service offering can be presented more tangible, because a branch offers a physical location as well as employees. This provides the customer with physical evidence for evaluating the service. As less and less people actually visit physical branches, this is argued to make the aspect of intangibility highly relevant for financial institutions (The Banker, 2011).


Inseparability and heterogeneity are the traditional service characteristics normally referred to. However, due to new trends and technology, these are considered less relevant for today’s financial institutions. The inseparability aspect entails that the buying and consumption are happening simultaneously. Strategies such as selecting and training the right personnel


together with managing the customers are seen as ways to cope with this aspect. In today’s market, the self- service online banks have increasing popularity among people, and the personnel aspect is therefore made more redundant.

For the case of heterogeneity, the theory says that services are different every time due to the high involvement of service personnel and consumers in the transaction. The same argument, as for inseparability, is applicable for heterogeneity too. Because of the increasing self- service options in banks, the personnel aspect is becoming less important. The traditional arena for customer- employee meetings and contact has vanished, and less customer contact takes place. This is argued because many of the new banking channels, such as Internet- banking and ATM’s, allow the customers to serve themselves. Feedback, information sharing and daily contact therefore happen less frequent. Based on this, it is suggested that

inseparability and heterogeneity are less relevant challenges for a bank today, and has been replaced with a new aspect called “contactability”. A recent challenge for a bank in today’s digitalized world is therefore argued to be maintenance of customer contact. This is an argument based on the discussion above. Financial institutions today have customers that are capable of using the services with limited assistance from banking employees. This also entails that financial institutions have less contact with their customers. With this, less communication takes place between customers and employees. Contactability is therefore one banking task that makes up the financial services fit model.


As discussed by Grönroos (2007), accessibility is a vital point for service firms. IT

innovations have made financial services available to customers 24 hours a day. Customers are now able to access their account information from their home computer, without having to consult a physical branch. The aspects that lead to a service being more accessible are human resources, machines, technology and offices. These aspects are also referred to as extra services, making a service more tangible, convenient and quickly accessible to the customer (Grönroos, 2007). As these aspects of accessibility are tangible, they provide customers with information that they can use to evaluate a financial institution’s service offerings.


The aspect is however two folded. On one side, it is beneficial for customers that a financial service can be constantly accessible. For example ATMs and Internet banks that can be logged into at all times are innovations increasing the accessibility. On the other side, this constant accessibility may demand more from the financial service provider. Customers might expect the service provider to assist them 24 hours a day, since the service is available this many hours a day. How to meet this constant accessibility can therefore become a challenge for a financial institution. Because of this, accessibility is a part of the financial services fit model, as it is viewed as a vital aspect to have in mind for a financial institution.

It is also argued that because of the new banking channels and technological innovations, this aspect is even more relevant than before.

As technology is argued to make a service more tangible and easier to access, Facebook can be considered a part of making the service more accessible. The task of accessibility will therefore be looked at through Facebook in order to see how fit Facebook is to cope with the accessibility aspect.


Perishability entails that the service cannot be stored and resold. This means that service providers might experience a challenge during times of fluctuating demand. Strategies in order to cope with this aspect should therefore be incorporated in all service firms. Banking products are of a complex nature, and from time to time, one will need to come into contact with a bank employee in order to ask questions and receive advices (Berger and

Messerschmidt, 2009). Therefore, customer contact will happen from time to time despite self- service solutions. Also, much of a financial institution’s services are knowledge, advices and assistance. This type of service is hard to store, making it unavailable for other

customers. Perishability is therefore a challenge for a financial institution and is included in the financial services fit model.



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