This chapter explains which methods that were used to attain primary data. A qualitative approach has been used by conducting interviews with employees and customers of the Handelsbanken. The concerns for using interviews for collecting primary data are discussed.
The purpose of this thesis has an exploratory nature, meaning that it aims to explore the re-lationship between a bank and its customers. Thus, imply that a qualitative study was the best method for generating results. The best results could be achieved through a case study. (Lee, 1999). An instrumental case study was conducted with Handelsbanken in Jönköping, Sweden. The reasoning for using an instrumental case study was that it enabled insights in the bank’s customer management and reasoning behind its marketing. Thus, it benefited the research whether Facebook can be used for customer management in the banking in-dustry and how customers and employees of a bank value interacting in SM. (Silverman, 2010). In addition, conducting a single case study is appropriate when the aim of the study is to explain or question a theory (Marschan-Peikkari & Welch, 2004; Creswell, 2009). Ac-cording to Creswell (2009) qualitative studies focus on identifying parts of an organizational phenomenon that are meaningful. The emphasis is to understand the participants’ percep-tion of the subject at hand, which is why a qualitative study is suitable for a study with an exploratory purpose (Creswell, 2009).
The purpose was to answer whether interactions through Facebook can be used for im-proving the relationship between a bank and its customers. Hence, the first theories to be discussed were theories of WOM and how to add customer value. This was followed by a discussion of business relationship and which strategies from RM that can be used when implementing Facebook. RM focuses on how to develop a long-term relationship with consumers and is suitable for providing an answer of how this can be done with the use of SM. Furthermore, the frame of reference includes theories of SM, a description of Face-book and a discussion about how these concepts can be combined.
To obtain empirical findings interviews were conducted with employees and customers of Handelsbanken. In addition, observations on Facebook were performed; which will be fur-ther explained in the following sections.
Interviews have been chosen for the study since an understanding can be established with the respondents that the aim is to obtain the full story and the reasoning behind their an-swers, not only standardized answers. (Weiss, 1994). An advantage with conducting inter-views is that the interviewer can gain information direct from the participants, which is use-ful when sufficient information cannot be gathered through observations and theories.
The aim of the interviews with the customers was to provide insights in whether Facebook is reaching out to them or if the efficiency is overrated by Handelsbanken. Since a list of customers could not be provided by the bank due to secrecy, a convenience sampling was tried out as a method to collect a random sample group of customers. (Malhotra & Birks, 2007) This was done by visiting the bank’s office and approaching customers. The criteria for this sample were that the participants were customers of Handelsbanken and have an account on Facebook. However, this method turned out to not be successful since no cus-tomers were willing to participate in the study. A reason for their unwillingness could be that the customers had reserved a time slot for their errand at the bank office, and an inter-view was not included in that time slot.
A new method was chosen and the snowball effect was considered more appropriate. A group on Facebook was created asking after customers of Handelsbanken willing to partic-ipate in a study. These participants were asked to suggest other customers of the bank that were also users of Facebook. (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). After eleven interviews no further insights could be provided by conducting more interviews. The customers were represent-ed by a target group from various locations in Sweden, with different occupations, genders and age. The settings and duration for the interviews with the customers can be viewed be-low in Table 2 Interview Settings Customers.
The Interview Questions
During all the interviews open-ended questions were used to enable the respondent to re-flect and elaborate upon her/his opinions. In addition, open-ended questions are less bi-ased and provide the researcher with plenty of information. (Malhotra & Birks, 2007). The interviews were divided into different parts with the intention to target various aspects of the participant’s perception of the issue at hand.
The interviews were divided into three parts; the personal use of SM, the perception of the launch of Handelsbanken in SM and the perception of the bank. The first section regarded the private use of SM. The first question was whether the participant knew what SM is, since the knowledge of SM is essential to be able to conduct the rest of the interview. The following questions for the first section was whether the participant use SM, if yes, which SM and how they use it. These questions were asked because it may affect their opinions of Handelsbanken’s presence in SM. If the participant does not use SM it can explain a lack of interest of the bank’s presence on SM. The second section was devoted to the reflections of the launch of the bank on Facebook. Furthermore, the participants were asked about their knowledge of Handelsbanken’s presence in SM and whether they have interacted with Handelsbanken on Facebook. In addition, the reasoning for their actions or non-existed ac-tions was questioned. Whether the participant has interacted with Handelsbanken or not and the reasoning for the existing or non-existing actions provides beneficial insights for the research questions of the customers’ and employees’ responds to the presence of Han-delsbanken on Facebook. In addition, if the employee has limited knowledge of the bank’s presence in SM, it can explain if the customers have lacking knowledge.
The last section of the interviews was devoted to the personal relationship with the bank. The customers were asked questions regarding the perception of the bank, which services he/she uses and how he/she communicates with the bank. If the customer always visit the office when having questions or is trying to find answers herself/himself on the internet may affect whether they are willing to communicate with the bank on Facebook. The em-ployees were asked questions regarding their relationship with the bank, their perception of the bank’s marketing and how they deal with unsatisfied customers. The employees’ per-sonal perception of the efficiency of the bank’s marketing approach, customer service and relationship with the bank may affect how they promote the Facebook page to customers.
By interviewing both customers and employees the empirical findings enabled a compari-son between the goal of launching Handelsbanken on Facebook, how the Facebook page is perceived and market by the employees and how it actually affects the customers. Thus, the four research questions “How do the customers respond to the presence of Handelsbank-en on Facebook”, “How do the employees respond to the presence of Handelsbanken on Facebook?”, “Was the goal of launching Handelsbanken on Facebook fulfilled according to the response of the customers and the employees?” and “How can Handelsbanken im-prove its Facebook page?” could be answered.
The reasoning for observing how consumers interact with Handelsbanken through Face-book is that the way consumers think does not always reflect how they act. Consumers may exaggerate their concerns for an issue and deemphasize their actions to avoid being judged negatively. Observations of consumers’ actions online enables a deeper analyze of whether interaction through Facebook can be used as a tool for improving the relationship between Handelsbanken and its customers. In addition, the observations gives a deeper understand-ing in which situations a customer choose to interact with the bank through Facebook, is it when they need help, want to express their dissatisfaction or during other situations? The observations enabled comparisons between the consumers’ opinions and their behavior. According to Creswell (2009) qualitative studies are often performed through interviews and observations, meaning that information are attained through observing people acting in the context of the study, which in this case would be on Facebook. Observations can be useful when studying behaviors that the participants are not comfortable to discuss or not are not fully aware of. (Creswell, 2009).
The observations were conducted through monitoring the Facebook page of Handelsbank-en and observing what kind of interactions, if any, the customers have with the bank. The observations were performed without participating in the interaction between the customer and the bank. In addition, further insights regarding the interaction between customers and the bank was obtained by using the mail-function on Handelsbanken’s Facebook page. An email was sent with questions and it was observed whether a response was given and how long time it took. In addition to receiving useful information about interaction patterns, it proved whether interacting on Facebook is working.
Since the sample size is rather small when conducting interviews, the analysis consists of quotes and summaries rather than statistics and numbers. The insights provided by the an-swers from the interview questions are interpreted and analyzed in relation to the theories in previous chapters. (Weiss, 1994).
During the analyze it is important to consider possible errors. A non-sampling error to consider is whether a respondent makes a neutral response and the interviewer interprets the answer negatively or positively. To decrease this kind of error it is important to analyze if the body language is consistent with the oral answers. Another non-sampling error is that the respondents may not give straight answers since the questions in the interview are open-ended. Therefore, the interviewer might have to interpret their answer and make as-sumptions about their opinions. It is also important to reflect if the interviewer has influ-enced the participants of the study, e.g. the environment for the interviews. (Creswell, 2009).
The analysis was conducted through an issue-focused analysis, meaning that the outcome of the interviews was described. The aim is to focus on issues that can be learned from all of the participants in the study. The contribution from the different participants may vary and the discussion will move from topic to topic. Information gathered through the inter-views has been categorized to enable a more clear understanding. (Weiss, 1994). Thus, the analysis follows the structure of the theoretical framework, albeit, with some adaptions to the empirical findings. Consequently, the empirical findings will be presented and analyzed in the categories of customer information search process, why or why not interacting on Facebook, whether the content on Facebook encourage interaction, whether the Facebook page add customer value, business relationships and the implementation of Facebook at Handelsbanken.
A potential limitation of conducting interviews is the possibility of biases. The participants might be affected by the way the interviewer behave, ask questions or respond to answers and questions. The interviewer must ensure that the respondents feel comfortable to an-swer questions, but should stay neutral to decrease bias. In addition, it is a risk that the re-spondents want her/his answers to reflect opinions or behaviors that do not reflect the re-ality. For example, if customers do not want to reveal that they do not care about which bank they belong to or which services it offers.
A limitation with interviewing the employees of the bank is the possibility that they want to provide information that augment positive perceptions of the bank rather than the truth. The employees’ anonymity is secured by a contract; however, this might not be enough to overcome the feeling of betraying the employer when revealing negative information.
Moreover, none of the customers of Handelsbanken that participated in the study had vis-ited the Facebook page of the bank. 5000 Facebook-users have “liked” Handelsbanken on Facebook and if any of them had been interviewed additional insights could have changed the results of the study. However, due to the customer secrecy of the bank, information about the customer base could not be obtained.
Due to the fact that Handelsbanken is a decentralized organization and each office decide by itself how to approach its market, the marketing strategy and implementation of Face-book may vary depending on where the office is located. If the interviews had been con-ducted with employees from another office in a bigger or smaller city the results may have been different.
Ethical issues are important to consider when conducting qualitative research. According to Framework Research Ethics (2010) there are some important rules to consider for ethi-cal research. The first rule adopted for this study was that the participants in the research were anonymous and information gathered was handled with regard to this. Hence, the names of the participants are fictional. In addition, the participants were informed and asked for approval in advance when being recorded. Thus, guarantees the integrity, quality and transparency of the study. The second adopted rule was that the participants of the study were informed about the purpose and methods of the research and how their partici-pation contributed to the study. The third approach to the study was that participation in the research was voluntary and that the participants were free to refuse participation when-ever they wanted. Furthermore, the questions asked during the study were opened-ended and not leading to ensure the independence of the study. (Framework Research Ethics, 2010). To make sure that the employees felt that they could express their opinions and thoughts, a contract (see appendix 9.5 & 9.6) was signed before the interview started, ex-plaining how the interview was going to be performed, who will have access to the information gathered and how their anonymity will be secured. For the customers the same con-tract was agreed upon orally. The reasoning for different approaches to customers and em-ployees were that a written contract for employees would increase the feeling of anonymity and opportunity to express more openly, without fearing to not representing their employ-er in the best way. However, for customers a written contract might have been intimidating and an oral contract was considered to be more appropriate.
Table of contents
1.2 Problem Discussion
1.3 Case Study on Handelsbanken
2 Frame of Reference
2.2 Business Relationships
2.3 Social Media
2.4 Handelsbanken’s Implementation of Facebook
3.1 Research Approach
3.2 Research Design
4 Is Handelsbanken Using Facebook Efficiently?
4.1 Customer Information Search Process
4.2 Why or Why Not Interacting on Facebook?
4.3 Does the Content on the Facebook Page Encourage Interaction?
4.4 Does the Facebook page Add Customer Value?
4.5 Business Relationships
4.6 Implementation of Facebook
5.1 Discussion and Suggestions for Further Research
6 List of References
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Relationship Management in the Banking Industry: The Use of Facebook