Background of the Problem
Ensuring the high quality of the services provided is among the utmost concerns in the contemporary world. One of the most notable and evident ways to make services both more accessible and productive is adopting the systems of electronic services or, shortly put, e-services. The concept of e-services originated at the turn of the 21st century and signified the transition from the previously limited use of the Internet in business to more thorough and multi-faceted employment of its potential. Before this shift, people generally tended to perceive the use of the Internet in business as no more than facilitating “access to goods and order fulfillment” (Rust & Lemon, 2001, p. 86).
However, in the late 1990s, Hewlett Packard pointed out that the world was already moving past merely completing the sales on the Internet to providing many other business services, such as the remote bulk printing of regularly updated newsletters sent directly to customers (Henten, 2009). Thus, ever since its emergence in the late 20th century, the concept of e-services emphasized the potential of the Web not merely to facilitate simple commercial exchanges but to deliver a broad range of services.
While e-services as a concept have originated in business, the potential of their application in other areas, including but not limited to government and public services, was almost immediately recognized. Understanding that the Web allows receiving and providing information in a swifter manner than the traditional exchange of physical documents, governments all over the world began implementing e-services in the public sectors of their respective countries. To facilitate this process, they adopted legislation designed to stimulate the adoption of e-services on the one hand and “guarantee transparency, efficiency, and effectiveness in the provision of services” on the other hand (Ancarani, 2005, p. 6).
The examples of such legislation include the e-Europe Action Plan adopted by the Barcelona European Council in 2002 or the Government Paperwork Elimination Act 1998 in the USA (Buckley, 2003). Contemporary governments already perceive the provision of services via electronic means as a “central and vital component” of their policies (Holgersson, Exelsson, & Melin, 2017, p. 60). Keeping these developments in mind, one may safely consider that the provision of public e-services is a worldwide trend that has existed for two decades and shows no signs of abating.
The government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) does not ignore this trend and aims to provide e-services to the organizations, citizens, and residents of the country in a swift, efficient, and satisfactory manner. As of now, each of the UAE’s seven emirates already has an e-government portal, initiatives, and strategy of its own, and the united federal portal also exists (Athmay, 2015).
High-ranking officials in the UAE explicitly designate the provision of high-quality e-services as a paramount goal, and service centers should be adaptable and forthcoming in providing them. For example, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai noted that “people’s expectations today are different than they were five or ten years ago,” and a truly modern government always “adapts and meets changing expectations” (Mohamed, 2019, para. 2).
This intent does not stay a mere declaration, and government initiatives, such as evaluating the service centers to identify the best and the worst ones, serve its purpose (“Accountable government,” 2019). Therefore, the government of the UAE and that of Dubai Emirate recognize the importance of e-services and strive to improve its quality.
Close governmental attention to the adequate provision of satisfactory e-services brings positive results. During the 2010s, the UAE has improved its rating in the United Nations for E-government development index (EDGI). In 2014, the country’s overall position was 32nd – ahead of most nations in the region, but behind Bahrain (“United Nations e-government survey,” 2014). Among the 193 countries surveyed, it was a relatively high result, due to the UAE’s educated population and well-developed Internet infrastructure– but with potential for improvement nevertheless (Alketbi, 2018). By 2016, the UAE improved its rating slightly and was already number 29 among the 193 participants (“United Nations e-government survey,” 2016).
In the latest 2018 rating, the country’s rating became even higher, as it ranked 21st (“United Nations e-government survey,” 2018). Moreover, in the Online Services Index, the UAE ranks 6th with the same score as Sweden (“United Nations e-government survey,” 2018). These results illustrate the success of governmental measures initiated by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai (“Press release,” 2018). Hence, governmental projects to improve e-services bring results that do not remain unnoticed.
As mentioned above, high-ranking members of the UAE government stress the importance of adaptability in providing e-services to ensure better quality. One of the approaches that allow to assess, evaluate, and improve the quality of the services offered is the philosophy of Total Quality Management (TQM). This approach focuses on delivering services while “consistently meeting customer requirements” by purposefully creating a working environment that supports customer satisfaction under all circumstances (Oakland, 2014, p. 5).
TQM achieves it by measuring quality not separately for every organizational unit or type of activity, but in a network of interactions between the service providers and customers with a focus on the satisfaction of the latter. In essence, TQM stresses the necessity of assessing the quality of the services not only through normative evaluations by separate criteria, as in EDGI, but through the perception of said services by the receiving side as well. As a result, implementing TQM in public e-services allows tailoring services according to the needs and preferences of the general population or specific target groups more effectively than the normative approaches based on the evaluations of individual criteria assessed through numerical data.
Dubai Emirate currently implements TQM in its delivery of public e-services, as evidenced by numerous declarations that set the priorities for the service providers. For instance, the “Customer Happiness Charter” (n.d.), published by the UAE Ministry of Community Development, adheres to the general principles on TQM. In particular, it stresses that the quality of services – and, in particular, public e-services – results from a constellation of the proud and competent employee, a service-providing entity dedicated to its task, and a proactive customer with a positive attitude toward his or her interaction with a service provider (UAE Ministry of Community Development, n.d.).
This systematic approach that focuses on the relationship between all the parties involved instead of assessing each of them individually testifies that the UAE as a whole and, in particular, Dubai Emirate adopt and implement TQM in the delivery of public e-services. However, there remains a question of what is the exact effect of TQM on the quality of e-services delivered, especially if one measures the quality of the services not by formal quantified criteria, as in the UN report, but by the level of among the customers.
Statement of the Problem
Despite the noticeable developments, the acceptance of the e-services in the UAE and, in particular, Dubai Emirate is neither universal nor unequivocally positive. There are instances when people prefer resorting to the traditional face-to-face interactions rather than the use of e-services, although the latter is supposed to be more accessible and generally comfortable to use. This reluctance to use public e-services suggests that the customers’ satisfaction with the services provided leaves much to be desired. This supposed disappointment may owe much to the disappointing fact that many e-government web sites, including those developed and used in Dubai Emirate, are currently “not meeting the basic accessibility principles” (Kamoun & Almourad, 2014, p. 209).
According to a recent study analyzing the e-service websites in Dubai, there were accessibility barriers in every website evaluated (Almourad & Kamoun, 2013). As one can see, despite the “strong regulations to meet the accessibility needs of people with disabilities to public e-services” adopted in the UAE, the problem with e-service quality still exist and mandate solution (Almourad & Kamoun, 2013, p. 10). Thus, improving the quality of public e-services becomes an important concern for Dubai Emirate.
As noted above, TQM is one of the foremost ways to assess and evaluate the quality of the services provided and is currently implemented in public e-services in the UAE and, in particular, Dubai Emirate. It becomes crucial in light of the fact that some customers are still reluctant to use e-services, which suggests customer dissatisfaction with the quality of said services. Thus, the problem consists in the fact that, despite the implementation of TQM, discontent persists among at least some customers that use public e-services in the UAE and, specifically, Dubai Emirate. An essential part of this problem that constitutes the topic of the present study is that the precise effect of TQM on customer satisfaction – or lack thereof – is not apparent and remains a subject for further evaluation.
Purpose of the Research
This research is intended to address the problem outlined above by establishing the precise effects of the implementation of TQM on customer satisfaction with the public e-services or lack thereof in the Dubai Emirate community.
Objectives of the Research
- Based on the empirical study of the information from happiness centers in public sectors as well as other sources, including but not limited to monographs, articles from scholarly journals, and official websites of the UAE government, establish how TQM impacts the timeliness of the e-services provided.
- Based on the empirical study of the information from happiness centers in public sectors as well as other sources, including but not limited to monographs, articles from scholarly journals, and official websites of the UAE government, establish how TQM impacts the customer’s ability to follow up on the processing of the documents through e-services
- Based on the empirical study of the information from happiness centers in public sectors as well as other sources, including but not limited to monographs, articles from scholarly journals, and official websites of the UAE government, establish how TQM impacts the perceived accessibility of e-services
- How the customers generally perceive and evaluate E-services as compared to the face-to-face interaction with the employees?
- What is the specific impact of TQM on the customers’ perception and evaluation of e-services as compared to the face-to-face interaction with the employees?
- How the implementation of TQM affects the waiting period as compared to the face-to-face interaction with the employees?
- How the implementation of TQM affects the customers’ ability to follow up on the processing of the documents as compared to the face-to-face interaction with the employees?
- How the implementation of TQM affects the accessibility of a given service when attempting to receive it via a website as compared to the face-to-face interaction with the employees?
- What are the other possible ways in which the implementation of the TQM affects the customers’ satisfaction with the E-services in the Dubai Emirate community?
Scope of the Research
This research is limited to the Dubai Emirate of the UAE. Dubai contains numerous customer happiness centers that range in both purpose and the quality of the services provided. This is illustrated by a thorough review of more than 600 public happiness centers initiated by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai (Mohamed, 2019, para. 23). One of Dubai’s customer happiness centers – Al Muhaisnah Centre for Preventive Medicine – was even identified among the five worst centers in the entire UAE. This fact illustrates that some of the emirate’s public happiness centers have much potential for improvement in their interaction with the custoimers, thus making Dubai a suitable case study for analysing the impact of TQM on customer satisfaction.
Another reason to limit the scope of the research to Dubai Emirate is that it should be uniquely characteristic of the governmental approach to the e-services taken in the UAE. It was Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, who was responsible for introducing “a modern and sophisticated concept for the innovative applications of e-government” in the UAE (Badran, 2018, p. 71).
A specific example is Smart Dubai Government Establishment “anchored in the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President & Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai” (“About Smart Dubai,” n.d., para. 1). This project stays a continued focues for HH Sheikh Mohammed, as evidenced by the 2015 law making Smart Dubai an establishment and the 2016 rebrending (“About Smart Dubai Government,” n.d.). These facts demonstrate Dubai Emirate assigns particular importance to providing high-quality e-services to its citizens and residents. Therefore, Dubai Emirate represents a suitable case study for the effect of TQM on customer satisfaction by e-services in the UAE not merely due to the sample advantages it offers, but also because it should be especially characteristic of the governmental approach to providing public e-services in the country.
Significance of the Research
This research allows assessing and evaluating the impact of TQM on the E-services sector in Dubai or lack thereof. In particular, it helps to identify the perceived advantages and downsides of the e-services as compared to personal interactions. These advantages and disadvantages include the customers’ ability to follow up the processing of the documents, the average waiting periods for the processing of the documents, the perceived accessibility of the e-services as compared to face-to-face interactions, and other possible factors.
As a consequence, the study may establish the general effectiveness of TQM in ensuring a higher quality of public e-services provided in Dubai Emirate and determine the potential ways to improve it, thus promoting customer satisfaction. Since the improvement of public e-services is among the priorities of the contemporary Dubai Emirate and occupies a prominent place in the political agenda of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the Ministry of State for Happiness and the customer happiness centers may benefit from the study’s findings. Hence, the significance of the study should be evident and is not to be called into question.
Definition of Terms
Customer satisfaction characterizes the customer’s perception and evaluation of the goods or services received. It occurs when the services or goods provided corresponds to the customer’s requirements and expectations to a sufficient degree (Persad & Padayachee, 2015). As a consequence, it contributes significantly to the positive attitude toward the type of services or goods received – or to the negative attitude in case customer satisfaction was low. Through these reactions, whether positive or negative, higher or lower rates of satisfaction influence the customer’s likelihood of continuously using the same services in the foreseeable future (Liao, Chen, & Yen, 2007).
Xu, Wu, and Jing (2017) also point out that customer satisfaction basically amounts to “a desire or belief of customers to accept service” (p. 220). Hence, for the purpose of this study, one may define customer satisfaction as the positive evaluation of the services received based on their correspondence to the customer’s requirements and leading to the likely use of the same services later on. This term will be operationalized by implementing the concept to evaluate the effectiveness of TQM in imroving the quality of e-services.
The concept of e-government refers to the practice and policy of maintaining the link between the government and the people with the use of new information and communication (ICT) technologies. The term originated from the attempts of the advanced nations to optimize their public services by lowering the levels of public expenditure, further influenced by the resurgence of neo-liberal thinking and the advances in the ICT (J. Gant & D. Gant, 2002). Gant and Gant (2002) define E-government as “the delivery of government services online” (p. 2). However, this definition may be too narrow, as pointed by Marzooqi, Nuaimi, and Qirim (2017).
They note that e-government is a broader concept that entails all “use of information technologies and telecommunication systems by governmental agencies” to improve its interaction with the people, and not just the direct use in service delivery (p. 2). Thus, for the purpose of this study, one may define e-government as the policy and process of using of ICT – primarily Internet – to facilitate government-citizen interaction. This term will be operationalized by implementing the concept to outline the practice of delivering public e-services in Dubai.
E-service as a concept seems to lack one that would delineate it precisely and be universally accepted. Scholars have offered varying interpretations of the term stressing different aspects, depending on the specific task they solved by using it. The scientists themselves are well aware of the problem and recognize that there is currently no common and universally shared understanding of what constitutes an e-service and what are its essential components.
In their study of how the term “e-service” is used in scholarly papers, Lindgren and Jansson (2013) demonstrate that there is no consensus among the authors on its precise meaning or contextual use. A more recent publication also stresses that, as of now, there is “no common understanding of either the ‘service’ or the ‘e-service’ concepts” that would merit the universal acclaim of the scholars in the field (Jansen & Ølnes, 2016, p. 649). Considering these disagreements, crafting the definition of “e-service” is an admittedly complex task, and any definition offered will most likely be subject to criticism.
However, this unclarity makes it all the more essential to use the term “e-service” in a precise and strictly defined manner in the course of this study to avoid potential blunders and misinterpretations. Fortunately, even while disagreeing on the particulars of the concept, the scholarly literature identifies al least some critical constituents that allow developing a sufficiently precise definition of “e-service.” Buckley (2003) defines e-service as “the delivery of public services to citizens, business partners and suppliers, and those working in the government sector by electronic media including information, communication, interaction and contracting, and transaction” (p. 3).
Rowley (2006) interprets the e-services as “…deeds, efforts or performances whose delivery is mediated by information technology” (p. 3). These definitions stress the same points: the government as the service provider, the general public as the service receiver, and information technology as the means of delivering the service. As a result, for the purpose of this study, e-service is defined as public services provided by means of information technology. This term will be operationalized by implementing the concept to identify the types of services to be covered in the study.
Total Quality Management
TQM refers to the philosophy of management that emphasizes thinking about quality in terms of all functions of a particular enterprise rather than evaluating these functions one by one. In essence, TQM stresses the idea that the total overall effectiveness of a given system in terms of quality is more than the performance of all its constituent elements taken separately. As a result, it views the creation of quality products or services as a “start-to-finish process that integrates interrelated functions on all levels” instead of assessing them individually (Omachony & Ross, 2005, p. 5). Hence, the first essential component of TQM as a concept is the systematic and integrated approach to the generation and evaluation of quality, which is what makes it “total.”
However, the “quality” part is as essential to TQM as the “total” part, as it also subverts the interpretation of quality as offered by the preceding philosophies of management. TQM concentrates extensively on generating “products and services that are useful to customers” and correspond to their needs (Hackman & Wageman, 1995, p. 310). More recent publications also stress that the primary focus of TQM is on “consistently meeting customer requirements” by creating a working environment that helps to achieve such results (Oakland, 2014, p. 5).
Essentially, TQM rejects the normative definition of “quality” and interprets it not as following the normative rules set for a specific field, but as achieving positive results in the form of higher customer satisfaction (Zink, 1998). Hence, for the purpose of this study, one may define TQM as a management philosophy that takes an integrated approach to all functions involved in providing high-quality services with an explicit focus on customer satisfaction. This term will be operationalized by implementing the concept to identify how TQM is preset in the delivery of public e-services in Dubai Emirate.
Organisation of the Proposal
This proposal will be organized in six consecutive chapters, each covering a specific part of the study. The first chapter will introduce the problem and offer necessary background information, including research purpose, objectives, and scope, research questions, significance and potential application of the study results, and the definition of terms used. The second chapter will provide a literature review, summarizing current scholarly achievements in the field as well as the most common approaches to and perspectives on the problem, identifying gaps in knowledge, and also offering a theoretical framework for the study.
The third chapter will elaborate on research methodology with specific attention to research design, sample and population, instrumentation, data collection, and data evaluation and analysis. The fourth chapter will describe the expected results of the study. Chapter Five will set milestones and timeline for the proposal, outlining the schedule on which the research is to be conducted. Finally, the sixth chapter will wrap the proposal up.
An empirical study of TQM implementation and e-services based on a particular case requires attention to two aspects of the problem as covered in scholarly works. On the one hand, it is necessary to reflect the current state of research, including notable gaps, with regards to the phenomena studied – in this case, customer satisfaction with the provided services, and the effect – or lack thereof – that TQM has on customer satisfaction. On the other hand, it is necessary to point out and consider the peculiarities of a given case to better understand the potential of the study and as well as its limitations. As a result, this literature review contains sections that analyze existing research on customer satisfaction, TQM, and the relation between these, in general, as well as sections on the e-services and their quality in Dubai Emirate, in particular.
Background of Dubai Emirate’s Community and Its Implementation of E-Services
As mentioned above in Chapter 1, Dubai Emirate is uniquely characteristic of the governmental approach to e-services taken in the UAE. It is due to the emphasis that Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai puts on “a modern and sophisticated concept for the innovative applications of e-government” (Badran, 2018, p. 71). Considering this, it is unsurprising that scholarly literature paid attention to the specific case of public e-services in Dubai – although, due the relatively recent origin of the emirate’s e-government, it is still not particularly plentiful.
Scholars generally try to trace the causes of the swift emergence and development of e-government and public e-services in Dubai to the historical circumstances that defined the characteristic features of the emirate and its community. For example, Karmakar (2015) briefly retells the history of the emirate from its foundation by Sheikh Maktoum bin Butti Al-Maktoum in 1833 to the turn of the 21st century. The author stresses that Dubai’s position as an important trading hub in the Gulf region prompted its rapid economic development for the most of the 20th century, which was further magnified by the emirate’s adherence to the “Western-style model of business” (Karmakar, 2015, p. 84).
Thus, according to the author, the well-developed infrastructure of a significant economic hub offered valuable opportunities for the adoption of Internet-mediated technological and organizational solutions. At the same time, the pressure brought by the increasingly cosmopolitan population of the emirate due to the swift economic development prompted the leadership of the emirate to seek more efficient ways of delivering public services to its residents, which naturally led to the adoption of e-government and e-services.
While Karmakar (2015) pays attention to the economic features of Dubai as a significant financial and commercial hub of the region, it does not offer an in-depth study of the emirate’s population in its relation to the implementation of e-government and e-services. Badran (2018) fills this gap by pointing out that characteristics of the emirate’s population offer as many opportunities for implementing high-tech solutions in the delivery of public services as does its infrastructure.
Specifically, the author notes that the high rates of smartphone usage in Dubai emirate community promoted not only the development of public e-services per se but the development of smart-government – technological solutions that would allow citizens and residents to access public services via their smartphones – as well (Badran, 2018). Hence, scholarly literature demonstrates that Dubai based its choice in favor of e-government and e-services not merely on the technical possibility to do so, but also on the relative readiness of the population to embrace such type of services.
Yet another reason behind the energetic promotion of e-services in Dubai, as identified in the scholarly works, is the staunch support of this innovation on the highest level of the emirate’s political leadership and top-management. Sethi and Sethi (2008) point out that Dubai’s e-government initiative announced in 2000 was the brainchild of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.
The personal contribution of Sheikh Mohammed’s attention to the matters of e-government and the delivery of public e-services is further stressed by Badran (2018). Apart from it, Sethi and Sethi (2008) also emphasize the role of the high-level executive committee comprised of specialists and experts in developing the steps for making Sheikh Mohammed’s vision a reality. Thus, the scholars also agree that, without a keen interest in e-services among the emirate’s political leaders and top managers, Dubai would hardly be able to develop its e-government in such a swift manner.
Alketbi’s (2018) doctoral dissertation occupies a special place among the research that analyzes the factors making Dubai a prime spot in the Middle East and the entire world for the implementation of public e-services. The author identifies several crucial factors that prompt the successful adoption of e-services and are largely present in Dubai, thus explaining the emirate’s notable achievements in the field. Alketbi’s (2018) findings partially coincide with those of preceding authors. In particular, his attention to system design and integration is quite similar to Karmakar’s (2015) emphasis on Dubai’s outstanding infrastructure as a reason for the successful adoption of e-government and e-services.
Similarly, the identification of top management support as another factor conducive to a successful implementation of public e-services is in line with Badran’s (2018) notion that Sheikh Mohammed’s leadership was crucial in promoting Dubai’s e-government. However, Alketbi (2018) also identifies such factors as “culture conducive to change, effective communication and training, good employee involvement and empowerment, trust and security” (p. 210). This focus on those who facilitate the delivery of public e-services directly is not present or at least not as stressed in other studies.
To summarize, scholarly literature identifies four major groups of factors that stimulated the adoption of e-government and e-services in Dubai. First of all, the emirate’s rapid economic development provided it with the resources and infrastructure to pursue innovations in the delivery of public services. Secondly, the relatively high rates of technological savvy among the emirate’s residents created advantageous conditions for the implementation of e-services. Thirdly, the energetic support of Dubai’s political leadership – specifically, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai – was paramount for developing and implementing e-government programs in the emirate. Finally, employee involvement and work culture among the service providers was also a factor conducive to the adoption of e-services. Yet while this set of factors explains how Dubai was able to implement public e-services, it does not
Measurement of the Successful Implementation of E-Services in Dubai Emirate
In general, existing research offers two different ways of evaluating the rate of success in adopting and implementing e-services in Dubai emirate. One of these ways to do it is through the use of international ratings and rewards reflecting the emirate’s achievements in the field of e-government and public e-services. For instance, Badran (2018) refers to the United Nations Government Services Award Dubai earned on 23 June 2013 as evidence of the successful implementation of e-services in the emirate.
Alketbi (2018) also points to the high ranking of the UAE in the United Nations e-government survey of 2014, although, for some reason, omits the results of the same bi-yearly survey for later dates, which demonstrated a steady and continuous rise of the UAE’s position. However, measuring the success of implementing e-services by international ratings carries a danger of oversimplifying the issue, as it promotes purely quantitative rather than qualitative approach: ratings only count whether the e-service was provided, but do not account for the quality of said service.
One of the ways to evaluate the quality rather than mere quantity of e-services provided is by measuring the particular technical characteristics that should make them more or less comfortable for the end-users. One of such characteristics is performance, understood both as the time needed to provide a service and as the number of requests handled simultaneously. Hesson and Al-Ameed (2007) analyze Dubai’s public e-services – namely, the process of online security evaluation – based on this criterion and arrive at the conclusion that the system’s performance is satisfactory. Still, the narrow scope of the research – the authors do not analyze any type of e-service expect for the online security evaluation – reduce the significance of this conclusion and the potential for its extrapolation on other public services.
Another technical criterion used in research to evaluate the overall success of public e-services as implemented in Dubai is the accessibility of said services from the perspective of the end-user. Kamoun and Almourad (2013) conducted an analysis of numerous e-government resources in Dubai and discovered accessibility barriers in all websites studied. In a later study, the same authors have confirmed their previous findings and established that, among all Dubai e-government websites they tested, none conformed fully to the established accessibility standards, especially for the users with varying disabilities (Almourad & Kamoun, 2014).
These results demonstrate that the accessibility of e-services as delivered in Dubai still leaves something to be desired, meaning their quality is not as high as it could potentially be and, consequently, not as satisfying for the end-users.
It is theoretically viable to judge the success of Dubai emirate in implementing e-services based on the afore-mentioned technical criteria, as the high level of technical excellence involved in service delivery should supposedly lead to a better experience on the customer’s part. According to Marzooqi et al. (2017), technical factors, including the accessibility, organization of the user interface, or the promptness of processing the request and delivering the service, play an essential role on creating a positive customer experience.
However, there are also other factors involved – organizational ones, such as transparency and personalization, and behavioral ones, such as proactivity of the service providers and the overall degree of trust toward them among the customers (Marzooqi et al., 2017). Considering this, measuring the success of the implementation of e-services merely by technical criteria is not the most effective approach, as it only takes into consideration some of the factors that influence the quality of the service as perceived by the receiving side.
Other scholars may offer a similarly limited approach focusing on behavioral aspects instead of technical or organizational ones. For example, Welch, Hinnant, and Moon (2005) propose analyzing the effectiveness of e-government and the delivery of e-services through the lens of the customers’ trust. One of the authors’ main conclusions is that “that those individuals who are more satisfied with e-government and government Web sites also trust the government more,” meaning that a high degree of trust toward public e-services is a sure indicator of high quality of said services (Welch et al., 2005, p. 387).
While this is a valid criterion to judge the success in the implementation of public e-services, it is, as shown above, only one factor among the numerous others. As a result, the emphasis on behavioral factors – just as the focus on technical aspects discussed above – leads to the oversimplification of the issue.
As one can see, ways to measure the success of e-services in a given case, such as Dubai emirate, amount to either referring to ratings and awards by an authoritative international organization or stressing particular aspects of the service delivery, be those technical, behavioral, or organizational. The approach based on ratings and award is purely quantitative and, as such, indicates the fact of e-service being provided but offers little opportunity to evaluate its quality. Studies that use particular factors – technical, behavioral, or otherwise – as criteria for measuring the success only consider some aspects of the problem while not paying enough attention to the others.
Apart from that, the over-emphasis on either behavioral, organizational, or technical aspects tends to obscure the ultimate criterion for evaluating success in providing public e-services. The core purpose of e-government is to ensure a more effective provision of public services via the Internet. Technical, organizational, and behavioral features of public e-services are only important insofar as they create a better experience for the end-users. Hence, the literature review suggests that the ultimate criterion to judge the success of Dubai’s implementation of e-services is customer satisfaction.
A considerable body of research indicates that customer satisfaction is the foremost factor that contributes to the desire to use or eschew goods or services, including e-services. Yüksel and Yüksel (2008) note that “customer satisfaction is a relative concept” and thus, always has to be judged against a certain standard (p. 65). Numerous studies indicate a connection between customer satisfaction and the desire to continuously use goods or services. Persad and Padayachee (2015) point out that, if the services provided corresponds to the customer’s requirements and expectations, the customer is likely to us the same type of service in the future.
Liao, Chen, and Yen (2007), as well as Xu, Wu, and Jing (2017), also note that the lack of such correspondence decreases the customer’s desire to accept the service. Thus, the scholarly literature suggests that customer satisfaction studied through the lens of continuous willingness to use the same services may serve as a primary indicator of the quality of the e-services. This approach is all the more valid since it is based on the perception of those whose requirements these services are designed to satisfy.
The effect of TQM on e-services and customer satisfaction
As mentioned in Chapter 1, Dubai emirate implements the principles of TQM in the delivery of its public e-services. However, scholars disagree on whether the implementation of TQM is necessarily conducive to the higher quality of goods and services provided. Some insist that TQM causes direct improvement in a given organization’s functioning in terms of quality. For example, Bricknell (1996) suggests that TQM inevitably leads to lower costs and greater efficiency as well as higher rates of customer satisfaction – a notion also supported by Dawson and Patrickson (1991). Caudron (1993) points out that TQM can lead to a significant improvement in the performance of an organization.
Among the later studies, Sinha, Garg, and Shall (2016) also stress that the implementation of TQM is paramount for improving performance. Considering the fact that the examples provided by the authors range from electronics and automobile manufacturing to banking and healthcare, this body of research seems to suggest that TQM is a direct and efficient way to improve the performance of an organization and ensure the better quality of goods and services provided.
However, there is also a considerable number of studies that doubt the overall effectiveness of TQM as a means to improve an organization’s performance and ensure the better quality of goods produced or services provided. Some of the authors point out that the positive impact of TQM takes a long time to manifest while also incurring high expenses. For example, Ahire and Rana (1995) maintain that TQM necessitates significant investment over a long time in technical, human, and financial terms before any positive result may be achieved, which may make its implementation economically unfeasible.
Other doubt that TQM brings positive changes to an organization’s functioning at all: for instance, Fisher (1992) notes that TQM may bring no notable changes to the performance or quality of the goods or services provided. Moreover, Eskildson (1995) demonstrates that the implementation of TQM may even disrupt the efficient functioning of said organization and result in a worse performance. To summarize, there is no agreement in the literature on whether TQM, upon implementation, necessarily leads to a more efficient performance or the better quality of goods or services provided.
Apart from that, scholarly literature rarely, if ever, focuses on TQM in the context of providing public e-services. Even in recent studies, most authors focus on manufacturing rather than the service sector. For instance, Sinha et al. (2016) study the effect of TQM on the production of the automobile parts in India, while Shafiq, Lasrado, and Hafeez (2019) examine its impact on the textile industries of the developing countries.
Even when the scholars concentrate their attention on TQM in the provision of services and, specifically, e-services, they still focus on private business enterprises rather than on governments. Brah and Rao (2000), as well as Massad, Heckmn, and Crowston (2006) and Al-dweeri, Obeidat, Al-dwiry, Alshurideh, and Alhorani (2017) all study the effect of TQM on the provision of e-services, but only in the context of online shopping. Considering this, there is an evident lack of relevant studies regarding the impact of TQM on the delivery of public e-services.
As one can see, the effect of TQM remains a debatable and unevenly studied topic. Some of the authors emphasize the positive impact of the approach and maintain that its implementation results in greater efficiency, the better quality of goods and services provided, and, as a consequence, higher rates of customer satisfaction.
Others point to TQM’s high costs of implementation in terms of technical, human, and financial resources, which potentially make it an economically unfeasible option, or its tendency to disrupt the existing organizational routines resulting in stalling performance indicators or even the decrease in efficiency. Apart from that, scholars mainly focus on TQM as applied to private business enterprises – mostly in manufacturing – and rarely, if ever, concentrate on its effect on the delivery of public services by government entities. As a result, this study may not only contribute to the ongoing discussion of the impact of TQM but also help to fill one of the existing gaps in the research.
The Gap in the Research
The review of existing scholarly literature allows identifying the following gaps in the research:
- Researchers tend to measure the success of e-services as provided in Dubai emirate by quantitative criteria, such as international awards or the UAE’s or emirate’s position in ratings, or on technical or behavioral criteria, but there is a lack of studies evaluating Dubai’s e-services through the lens of customer satisfaction directly
- Despite ample literature on the topic, there is no agreement on the positive of the negative effect of TQM on the quality of services provided by a given organization and, consequently, the level of customer satisfaction by said services.
- Literature covering the effectiveness of TQM or lack thereof concentrates on private business enterprises – more often in manufacturing than in the service sector – and there are virtually no studies of the delivery of public e-services by government entities through this lens. As a result, it remains unclear how the implementation of TQM influences the quality of public e-services and the resulting customer satisfaction.
Dubai emirate features a rapidly developing e-government with a broad array of e-services but is also home to many users who express dissatisfaction with the e-services provided and prefer traditional face-to-face interactions, which makes it a suitable case study to address all there gaps identified above. Studying the effect of TQM on customer satisfaction with public e-services would allow measuring the emirate’s success in implementing e-services by yet another criterion, clarify the impact of TQM on public e-services specifically, and contribute to the general discussion on the effectiveness of TQM on a given entity’s functioning and performance.
This study analyzes the impact of TQM on customer satisfaction by e-services in Dubai emirate through the lens of the expectancy-disconfirmation paradigm. This theory was originally developed in the late 1970s and stressed the interrelation between the customer’s preexisting expectations of a given service and satisfaction after receiving said service. In the paper outlining the primary points of this paradigm, Oliver (1977) opined that the confirmation of preexisting expectations leads to high rates of customer satisfaction, while disconfirmation affects it adversely and results in the lower possibility of using a particular type of services or a specific service provider in the future.
According to him, the perceived performance was “a positive function of expectation and disconfirmation,” thus making the analysis of expectations a prerequisite of any study of customer satisfaction (p. 485). In another article published three years later, Oliver (1980) further refined his theory and formulated its central premise: “performance-specific expectation and expectancy disconfirmation play a major role in satisfaction decisions” (p. 460). Thus, the expectancy-disconfirmation paradigm views customer satisfaction with a service encounter as a direct derivative of expectations that are already in place before using the service.
The expectancy-disconfirmation paradigm is not unequivocally accepted by the scholars of consumer satisfaction and has received its share of criticism. Its basic premise that “consumers purchase goods and services with prepurchase expectations about anticipated performance” provokes particularly sharp rebuttals (A. Yüksel & F. Yüksel, 2001, p. 108). As Yüksel and Yüksel (2008), who are probably the most consistent critics of the paradigm in the contemporary literature, pointed out, it is not always reasonable to expect a customer to have performance-specific expectations, especially if said customer encounters the service for the first time.
Apart from that, while not denying the importance of disconfirmation, they note that it may not be the only factor influencing the overall customer satisfaction by the service encounter (A. Yüksel & F. Yüksel, 2001). One should be aware of these objections and the limitations they imply when using the expectancy-disconfirmation paradigm in a study of customer satisfaction.
Yet while the afore-mentioned criticisms of the expectancy-disconfirmation paradigm are admittedly valid, they do not make the theory less applicable for the study of customer satisfaction with public e-services in Dubai. As mentioned above, Dubai is one of the world’s leaders in implementing e-government and e-services – by quantitative and technical criteria at the very least. Apart from that, the emirate’s population is well-equipped to use said services. As noted by Alketbi (2018), excellent education and technological savvy ensure that the UAE and, in particular, Dubai has a community “capable of both using and administering e-government services” on a regular basis (p. 11).
Therefore, considering the pervasiveness of public e-services in Dubai Emirate on the one hand and the population’s capability to use them regularly on the other hand, one may rightfully expect that its residents would be familiar with them. Consequently, it is logical to assume that residents of the emirate will have specific expectations in terms of quality before using e-services. Thus, scholarly literature identifies no particular arguments against using the expectancy-disconfirmation paradigm as the underlying theoretical framework for the case of TQM and e-services in Dubai.
There are multiple studies covering the social, economic, and historical factors that lead to the swift emergence of e-government in Dubai, but virtually no research that would explore such a specific aspect as the implementation of TQM in the delivery of public e-services and its impact on the quality of said services. When judging the success of Dubai’s e-government, scholars either refer to quantitative international ratings or analyze technical, organizational, or behavioral factors instead of assessing customer satisfaction directly.
There is no agreement in the literature on whether TQM is necessarily conducive to better performance, more efficient functioning, and higher customer satisfaction. Apart from that, the vast majority of the studies focus on manufacturing rather than services or specifically e-services. Even the research that concentrates on e-service delivery still tends to examine private business enterprises rather than government entities. Consequently, it remains unclear how the implementation of TQM influences the quality of public e-services.
The case study of Dubai’s e-government, where some users express dissatisfaction with the e-services provided, will contribute to filling the gaps listed above. It will offer a direct criterion for measuring the emirate’s success in providing e-services, clarify the impact of TQM on the quality of public e-services specifically, and contribute to the discussion of the effectiveness of TQM as a management philosophy. The expectancy-disconfirmation paradigm, which interprets customer satisfaction as a function of preexisting performance-specific expectations, offers a suitable theoretical perspective to establish the effect of TQM on customer satisfaction by e-services in Dubai emirate.
About Smart Dubai. (n.d.). Web.
About Smart Dubai Government. (n.d.). Web.
Accountable government performance. (2019). Web.
Ahire, S. L., & Rana, D. S. (1995). TQM pilot projects selection using an MCDM approach. International Journal of Quality and Reliability Management, 12(1), 61-81.
Al-dweeri, R. M., Obeidat, Z. M., Al-dwiry, R. A., Alshurideh, M. T., & Alhorani, A. M. (2017). The impact of e-service quality and e-loyalty on online shopping: Moderating effect of e-satisfaction and e-trust. International Journal of Marketing Studies, 9(2), 92-103.
Alketbi, H. (2018). An evaluation of e-government effectiveness in Dubai smart government departments (Doctoral dissertation). Web.
Almourad, B., & Kamoun, F. (2013). Accessibility evaluation of Dubai e-government websites: Findings and implications. Journal of E-Government Studies and Best Practices, 2013, 1-15.
Ancarani. A. (2005). Towards quality e-service in the public sector: The evolution of web sites in the local public service sector. Journal of Service Theory and Practice, 15(1), 6-23.
Athmay, A. A. (2015). Demographic factors as determinants of e-governance adoption: A field study in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Transforming Government People Process and Policy, 9(2), 159-180.
Badran, A. (2018). Smart-governments for smart cities: The case of Dubai smart-government. In W. A. Samad & E. Azar (Eds.), Smart cities in the Gulf: Current state, opportunities, and challenges (pp. 59-82). Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan.
Brah, S. A., & Rao, B. M. (2000). TQM and business performance in the service sector: A Singapore study. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 20(11), 1293-1312.
Bricknell, G. (1996). Total Quality revisited. Management Services, 40(1), 18-20.
Buckley, J. (2003). E-service quality and the public sector. Managing Service Quality, 13(6), 453-465.
Caudron, S. (1993). Keys to starting a TQM program. Personnel Journal, 72(2), 28-33.
Dawson, P., & Patrickson, M. (1991). Total Quality Management in Australian banking industry. International Journal of Quality and Reliability Management, 8(5), 66-76.
Eskildson, L. (1995). TQM’s role in corporate success: Analyzing the evidence. National Productivity Review, 14(4), 25-38.
Fisher, T. J. (1992). The impact of quality management on productivity. International Journal of Quality & Reliability Management, 9(3), 44-52.
Gant, J. P., & Gant, D. B. (2002). Web portal functionality and state government e-service. In Proceedings from The 35th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Big Island, HI, 10 January 2002 (pp. 1-10). New York, NY: IEEE.
Hackman. J. R., & Wageman, R. (1995). Total quality management: Empirical, conceptual, and practical issues. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40(2), 309-342.
Henten, A. (2009). Services, e-services, and nonservices. In A. Scupola (Ed.), Cases on managing e-services (pp. 1-9). Hershey, NY: Information Science Reference.
Hesson, M., & Al-Ameed, H. (2007). Online security evaluation process for new e-services. Business Process Management Journal, 13(2), 223-246.
Holgersson, J., Axelsson, K., & Melin, U. (2017). External user inclusion in public e-service development: Exploring the current practices in Sweden. In Proceedings from 16th IFIP WG 8.5 International Conference, EGOV 2017, St. Petersburg, Russia, September 4-7, 2017 (pp. 60-70). Berlin, Germany: Springer.
Jansen, A., & Ølnes, S. (2016). The nature of public e-services and their quality dimensions. Government Information Quarterly, 33(4), 647-657.
Kamoun, F., & Almourad, M.B. (2014). Accessibility as an integral factor in e-government website evaluation: The case of Dubai e-government. Information Technology & People, 27(2), 208-228.
Karmakar, A. (2015). E-governance and its role in infrastructure services of UAE, case study – Dubai. In T. M. Vinod Kumar (Ed.), E-governance for smart cities (pp. 81-98). Singapore: Springer.
Liao, C., Chen, J. L., & Yen, D. C. (2007). Theory of planning behavior (TPB) and customer satisfaction in the continued use of e-service: An integrated model. Computers in Human Behavior, 23(6), 2804-2822.
Lindgren, I., & Jansson, G. (2013). Electronic services in the public sector: A conceptual framework. Government Information Quarterly, 30, 163–172.
Marzooqi, A. A., Nuaimi, E. A., & Qirim, N. A. (2017). E-governance (G2C) in the public sector: Citizens acceptance to e-government systems – Dubai’s case. In Proceedings from ICC ’17: The Second International Conference on Internet of things, Data and Cloud Computing, Cambridge, United Kingdom, (pp. 1-11). New York, NY: Association for Computing Machinery.
Massad, N., Heckman, R., & Crowton, K. (2006). Customer satisfaction with electronic service encounters. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 10(4), 73-104.
Mohamed, H. (2019). Five best and worst government centres revealed. Web.
Oakland, J. S. (2014). Total Quality Management and operational excellence (4th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Oliver, R.M. (1980). A cognitive model of the antecedents and consequences of satisfaction decisions. Journal of Marketing Research, 17, 460-469.
Oliver, R.M. (1977). Effect of expectation and disconfirmation on postexposure product evaluations: An alternative interpretation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 62(4), 480-486.
Persad, K., & Padayachee, K. (2015). The factors that influence customer e-services adoption. South African Computer Journal, 56, 80-106.
Press release: The UAE is ranked sixth globally in online services index according to the UN EDGI report covering 193 countries. (2018). Web.
Rowley, J. (2006). An analysis of the e-service literature: Towards a research agenda. Internet Research, 16, 339–359.
Rust, R. T., & Lemon, K. N. (2001) E-Service and the consumer. International Journal of Electronic Commerce, 5(3), 85-101.
Sethi, N., & Sethi, V. (2008). E-government Implementation: A case study of Dubai e-government. Web.
Sinha, N., Garg, A. K., & Dhall, M. (2016). Effect of TQM principles on performance of Indian SMEs: The case of automotive supply chain. The TQM Journal, 28(3). Web.
Shafiq, M., Lasrado, S., & Hafeez, K. (2019). The effect of TQM on organizational performance: empirical evidence from the textile sector of a developing country using SEM. Total Quality Management & Business Excellence, 30(1-2), 31-52.
UAE Ministry of Community Development (n.d.). Customer happiness charter. Web.
United Nations e-government survey. (2014). Web.
United Nations e-government survey. (2016). Web.
United Nations e-government survey. (2018). Web.
Welch, E. W., Hinnant, C. C., & Moon, M. J. (2005). Linking citizen satisfaction with e-government and trust in government. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 15(3), 371-391.
Xu, X.-Y., Wu, S.-Y., & Jing, H. (2017). Explore the differences between perceived service quality and customer satisfaction based on customer expectation of service attributes. International Journal of Services Technology and Management, 23(3), 21-236.
Yüksel, A., & Yüksel, F. (2001). The expectancy-disconfirmation paradigm: A critique. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 25(2), 107-131.
Yüksel, A., & Yüksel, F. (2008). Consumer satisfaction theories: A critical review. In A. Yüksel (Ed.), Tourist satisfaction and complaining behavior: Measurement and management issues in the tourism and hospitality industry (pp. 65-88). New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers.
Zink, K. J. (1998). Total Quality Management as a holistic management concept: The European model for business excellence. Berlin, Germany: Springer.