This paper describes a study using mystery shoppers across multiple channels which investigated the traditional ‘line of visibility’ from service quality literature, and customer perceptions of organisational competencies “below the line”. We posited that in a multi-channel e-commerce environment, inconsistency or service breakdown above the line of visibility gives a negative impression of organisational competence below the line. We found that our multi-channel customers, using a mixture of face-to-face and ICT (information communication technology) channels, formed positive and negative impressions of a range of organisational competencies, and made comparisons between the service levels provided across different channels. We also found that ICT-mediated channels can create an emotional connection with customers; customers prefer to have a choice as to whether to use self-service channels or not; and that customers expect staff members to be empowered not restricted by ICTs.
Tate, Mary and Johnstone, David, "ICT, the Changing Line of Visibility, and Customer Impressions of Organisational Competencies" (2009). AMCIS 2009 Proceedings. 682.