The study will involve an American firm located in Canada and will seek to establish, analyze, and draw conclusions on use of e-support in business as compared to telephone using the company. Collection of data and important information will involve both questionnaires and interviews of a sample of 100 individuals generated randomly. The questionnaires shall focus on questions employees will fill for analysis while the interview shall be utilized to gather additional information not covered in the questionnaire for example through interviewers’ judgment that may not have been provided by the interviewee. This primary source of data would provide the real situation on the ground while it will be merged with the secondary sourced data for or during the analysis. Since some parameters would be difficult to punitively link for instance with usage of e-support, both qualitative and quantitative approach shall be utilized for analysis.
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Provisional Work Schedule
- First week: Research proposal
- Second week: Proposal adjustment and modification
- Third week: Field survey, permission request etc
- Fifth week: Preparation of the questionnaires and Interview questions
- Sixth week: Carrying out research on field
- Seventh week: Analysis of data and research writing
This research will require access to the library books and databases with materials on history and recent theory on e-support and telephone network practice and application. Computer and necessary printing equipment for writing and printing the report, recorders for data collection and other related costs. Cost for transport, telephone calls cost and emails when required to contact the company staff where the research will be conducted.
Information technology has helped international firms and institutions in various levels ranging from exchange of trade information to customer support. It has been embraced widely because it comes with reduced costs of operation such as shipping costs related to exchange of information such as letters. International businesses have found themselves with a need to apply quicker technology even as outsourcing becomes of interest to many. Adopting appropriate and timely technological innovations in an international business organization is important so as to render the organization gain competitive advantage over local and other international organizations (Morone (1989; cited in Lena, 2002), and such may determine or influence the long-term profitability of an organization (Aston, 1990; cited in Lena, 2002).
This study will seek to investigate the importance of electronic support applied in international business and the role it has played in boosting it. The study will investigate the role of the information sector in the growth of international business between countries and the relationship amongst firms and their customers. The study will enumerate the impact of e-support in international business and the benefits compared to the telephone network as well as the future trends.
Scope of the study
The study will focus on the history of evolution of information technology in the business arena, and its usage in the international business. The study will focus on determining the impacts and influences of the e-support technology on the international business. Again, the study will separately look at usage of telephony network in the business arena including international business. The study will then involve comparison of telephone usage and e-support as relating to their advantages, impacts and acceptance in the business field, including their future. The analysis will consider regional application of the principles, ideas and most recent innovations in the customer support technology for carrying out international business as well as their limitations, related laws and regulations.
The research will seek to analyze the influence and impact of customer e-support for international businesses in selected places. The study will aim at determining the future status of the e-support technology and the likely trend. This will be achieved by considering the already developed theory and research on e-support and its relationship and influence on international business. The study will also consider the evolution of the business and e-support relations. The study also will collect current and primary information relating to acceptability of information technology in the e-support field and how people in the business and customer fields feel about it.
- To establish the relationship between customer e-support and phone technology and international business, their advantages and disadvantages as well as the preferences.
- To determine the influence of customer support on international business, current and identify the future needs.
- To determine the implementation needs, advantages and disadvantages of implementation of e-support and information technology in general and the need for improvement in the current trends.
Justification of the study
e-support is a relatively emerging technology in many organizations and some would be expected to merge it with the telephony network to achieve faster operations (Bonocore, 2001) among other benefits like diverse applications (Business Wire, 2004), while others may need to make substantial changes. A change in an organization as concerns adoption of new technological innovation may be driven by cost factors among others as shall be seen in this study. E-support adoption requires understanding of its advantages over the older practice of telephone network, in addition to developing appropriate strategy and policy to adopt it although some like emails are not free from faults and limitations (Mann, & Fiona, 2000) and (Davis, 1989).
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As noted by Bonocore (2001) many advances in the internet and its usage in the business field have taken place since the beginning of it in 1969 by the Advanced Research Projects Agency in collaboration with a group of military contractors and universities. Being termed ARPANET system, it was used to allow sharing of information and resources across long distances through packet-switched network as an experimental project and was designed to survive the then possible nuclear attack. It then found usage in universities and corporations and even developed by engineers and scientists to suit the needs at hand. A standardized set of rules was established to define sequencing, timing and format standards for communication amongst various computers as if they were one and this is where the name was developed-Internet Protocol (I/P).
Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) where transactions take place through dedicated leased telephone lines using standard electronic message formats offered advantages over paper formats in accuracy, higher production and lower cost to business communication and transactions. In addition, it offered quicker response to customer orders and enquiries and facilitated just-in-time system as well as shipments being realized on the same day (Bonocore, 2001). The limitation of EDI include inflexibility, costly and not favourable to small enterprises and is being replaced with the internet which can achieve about one-tenth of the cost of EDI and capability to eliminate the barriers related to its adoption by the small firms (Bonocore, 2001). The author gives the example of Boeing Company which realized a five fold increase in its customers by the use of parts ordering system when it switched to usage of Internet-driven system from an EDI system. Computer-mediated communication (CMC) allows customers to interact one-on-one through direct usage of computer system and interfaces based primarily on the usage of text message entry, but now include usage of voice, images and graphics as a result of sophisticated technology. There are different types of CMC technology. These include the email, charts and Voice over the Internet Protocol (VoIP) (Bonocore, 2001).
An email (e-mail) is an electronic message which is written in the text form in a web page of a company providing these services and then sent electronically through an email address of the recipient opened with an Internet Service Provider (ISP). The recipient then can access it when he opens his account in the ISPs website. The email uses programmed software such as Microsoft Outlook and Eudora in order to be sent. Acceptance of emails into the business has in no doubt been influenced by ease with which communications can be transmitted and delivered. Today, emailing represent one of the ways international and local institution answer enquiries from their customers in addition to receiving important information such as bank details and information to help the company assist the customer such as log-in information. Some companies for example in the sourcing industry require application for jobs positions through emails, an action that may not be provided through charting or telephone. This information may be stored, printed or even modified to fit specific needs unlike in telephony network where the message would require transcription in order to convert to forms that allow particular handling and storage that can for example easily be printed, sent back, stored, filed, or read through in a meeting. In addition to requiring more staff, telephone reach may provide a means of virtual contact like the email, but email may provide a continuous contact between companies and customers since today some companies have an automated systems of updating customers through email messages as per the subscription.
Charting over the internet represent another one-to-one contact between two or more people at the same time so as to solve problems more easily or convey the information more effectively. While emailing is a quicker way of passing information, it is limited by the fact that the receiver may never again log-on to the ISP after opening an account, or may stay for along time before doing it(Mann & Fiona, 2000). Thus, charting is a better way to handle the current need because the two would be sure that the information is relayed. Again, the email may be limited by the quality of information exchanged within a short time as a result of misunderstanding. There may be no other way of correcting it unless another message follows-even an error in the information relayed would wait till the company sends a message to the customer requesting such adjustment. Charting however allows direct feedback and solution is provided more rather based on the information provided and required not as only judged by any or two or more parties being involved. A customer would get an instant reply based on the details he provides, and if what he provides is unsatisfactory, he would be required to provide it without much delay as compared to email. Telephone on the other hand would require that another call be made. It is easier to misunderstand information as spoken than as written since readers can take their time and read over again sometimes with little effort. Two or more users may be logged on in different places and using the network in a real time chat or synchronous CMC. Additional resources such as synchronous charting, security, small group and large group discussion, threading and design flexibility may come with internet conferencing (Mann & Fiona, 2000). Conferencing may be available through white board provided by e-support service providers such as FootPrints Live e-Support. In addition some systems allow customers to talk through the internet through computers which have voice-and-sound enablement and this helps the organizations reduce telecommunication and call centre costs (Business Wire, 2004). There is more potential for companies to continue adopting intelligent means of communication like where virtual machines are designed to answer client mails.
Adoption of these advanced technological communication systems may be hampered by a company’s status in that the whole system may require a total overhaul. The success for communication technology in an international business may be influenced by its level of technological adoption. The three levels according Sheldon, Karl and Daniel (2001) include the substitution level where in this case a company may be expected to be replacing the telephony network as a tool to achieve operational efficiency as the main goal, not much may be expected in terms of change and learning since there is partial usage of technological innovations according to Thorp (1998). The second level would entail the engagement level a firm that is moving from initial stage but there is still partial usage of technology. Maximum benefit would be expected not at the initial but the final reconfiguration stage according to Sheldon, Karl, & Daniel, (2001). Adoption of savvier communication technology in a firm may be influenced by its current level of technology but any firm need identify the associated benefits to come after adoption. Morrison (n.d.) introduces to us another factor that may contribute to adoption of technology such as the eSupport communication technology. He has brought forward a linkage between leading edge users of technology and innovative leaders and views that earlier may bring innovations to organizations by linking with outside innovator-organizations and so be innovative leaders.
The older systems of telephone communication may also be replaced to some by the VoIP or voice enabled computers by the customers being connected to the internet. This may be the case with the future as more people get to adopt the usage of computers as a garget to perform many operations and internet as a major tool in communication, outsourcing, and making transactions easier. Since internet communications are cheaper than the telecommunication and call centre costs. In addition, companies can facilitate other things with the internet communications as compared to the telephone network such as exchange of files and internet meetings and demonstration [Morrison (n.d.)].
As observed by Sheldon, Karl, & Daniel, (2001) e-support for customers is relatively young in business and it is evolving and expanding and gradually replacing traditional methods of conveying information such as the use of letters, telegrams and telephones. This may partly be because telephone and other traditional forms of communications are limited in their scope in what they can accomplish at once as compared with the usage of internet. In addition, the evolution of technology coupled with the increasing usage of computers by companies, organizations and individuals has led to the advancement of usage of supported services and products such as the internet which have in turn brought other related advantages that were never realized before. Computers and Internet comes with other advantages such as the ability to accomplish many diverse operations such a communication and transactions, entertainment and others. Companies are realizing the need for keeping contact with customer through emails and charting because others have adopted similar trends or as a need to gather the associated advantages such as quick sales and feedback information, quicker transactions and clearance in sales, and even advertising. For example, at one time according to Bonocore, Cisco systems was handling 71% of all customer support online and realized about $250 million savings on operating costs.
In addition to allowing flexible and customer-driven problem solving over virtual methods, these systems allow interaction between customer and the provider of services, while the telephone is limited to its usage in conveying message without such enhanced capabilities. The internet is becoming a place where people with problems can not only call an expert for support and assistance as was possible through the telephone but also a place to find software and other hardware gadgets that can easily troubleshoot. An organization may adopt technology for interconnecting its department, product distribution, and cheaper means of doing this that aren’t duplicative and are lesser laborious may need to be used. The adoption of information technology varies amongst the organization. A company that outsource labor for example would need high level of interconnectivity and usage of e-support technology than a local company that sources labor within the locality because it needs a continued virtual contact between them and the employees. In addition, as a result of varying operations, the level of usage of e-support systems is not the same. A company which outsource intellectual labor for example may not compare with the company which would require getting medical staff from other countries. A company that deals with an international business of distributing letters may find no other way of delivering the hard copy unless an actual office is established in the country where it will land. Some companies have continued to use the historic means of communication like the telephone due to the nature of their operations and the fact that e-support and emailing may not offer solutions to all situations (Mann, & Fiona, 2000).
Limitations of Using e-support and other Internet communications in International Business
In addition to lack of security, data may be lost as a result of software crashing, virus effect or damage by an intruder. Personal or non-personal Information contained in the data basis may be hacked and accessed by an intruder. Thus companies must invest in security in order to ensure safety of information and this requires investing in continuous research and development or sourcing for the best developed solutions. There has not yet been established a centralized directory for all emails (Mann, & Fiona, 2000). Because of issues related to complexity of innovations such as e-Support and the required software requirements, customers may develop a Perceived Usefulness-PU perception depending on how they feel the systems are helpful to them, and Perceived ease-of-use-PEOU depending on how they feel the system is easier to use. This again may explain the part customers will play in determining the shape of e-Support and related technologies (Davis, 1989).
References and Bibliography
Benjamin M. Compaine, Shane M. Greenstein (2001). Communications Policy in Transition: The Internet and Beyond. New York, MIT Press.
Bonocore J., (2001). Commanding Communications: Navigating Emerging Trends in Telecommunications. John Wiley and Sons.
David C. Moschella (2003). Customer-driven IT: How Users are Shaping Technology Industry Growth. London, Cambridge University Press.
Davis, F. D., (1989)., Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use, and user acceptance of information technology. MIS Quarterly, 13(3), pp.319-340.
Edison J., (2004)., New Version of FootPrints Live eSupport Solution Helps Organizations Deliver Interractive, On-Demand Customer Service over the Internet. Business Wire. 2009. Web.
Kirk St. Amant, Pavel Zemliansky (2004). Internet-based Workplace Communications: Industry & Academic Applications. New York, Idea Group Inc (IGI).
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Mann C., & Fiona S., (2000). Internet Communication and Qualitative Research: A Handbook for Researching Online. SAGE.
Morrison D Pamela. Opinion Leadership among Leading Edge Users (html). 2008. Web.
Sheldon P., Karl W., & Daniel F. Information and Communication Technology in Tourism 2001: Proceedings of the International Conference in Montreal, Canada, 2001. Springer.
Siow, Y. Chia (2005). Growth and Development of the IT Industry. London, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
Thorp J., (1998). The information Paradox. Canada: McGraw-Hill.