Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Digital service problems: Prevention and user persistence in solving them

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Version 2 2023-06-30, 01:21
Version 1 2022-03-02, 02:28
posted on 2023-06-30, 01:21 authored by Alireza Nili
The service sector is an important and consistently growing sector of the world economy. It is estimated that the sector will make up two thirds of the total world Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Information Technology (IT) has been an important contributor to the fast and high grow of the sector by increasingly digitising the production, delivery and use of services. IT has enabled multiple parties, including user support service staff, employees (internal IT users) and customers (external IT users) of an organisation, to engage in the production, delivery and use of digital services. Consequently, both users and user support service staff of the organisations have an increased responsibility to both prevent IT problems from occurring, and solve them when they do occur. Problems with ITs can occur at different stages of a digital service value chain (i.e. sequential steps/stages required to produce and deliver a digital service), and may lead to a service failure in the user’s mind. Examples include problems with a self-check-out machine at a library, problems with an online registration system that occurs for university students, or a website that does not include an online payment functionality a user expects. Numerous studies in both Information Systems (IS) and service literature have focused on the role of the service staff in both preventing and solving digital service failures, but few have considered the user’s role in these. This thesis includes four original articles. The first article emphasises that prevention from digital service failures must be considered before establishing effective approaches to solving the problems. The article presents a typology of technologies and technological approaches that customers and businesses can use to support prevention from these failures. The rest of the articles consider situations where an IT-related service problem has occurred, and address the user’s behaviour of persistence in solving their own IT problem. From the user’s perspective, their persistence in solving the problem contributes to achieving a satisfactory outcome, and from the organisational perspective, such an outcome is important for maintaining their user satisfaction. User persistence is important both when trying to solve an IT problem alone, and when using support services. Studying user persistence can help organisations to design their user support services in a way that encourages user persistence, resolves the problems more efficiently and cheaply; and maintains their user satisfaction. The study of user persistence included the use of focus groups for data collection purposes. Surprisingly, qualitative methodology literature has little to say on analytical approaches to focus group data – particularly interactive participant data. Therefore, a focus group analysis framework was designed (presented in the second article) and was used in the analysis phase of the user persistence study. The third article uses the framework in its analysis phase, and (a) presents a conceptual clarification of user persistence in IT problem solving, (b) identifies the factors that contribute to user persistence, (c) develops a theory to explain that why a user decides to persist with a method of solving IT problems, and (d) develops a theory to explain that why the user decides to persist with the overall process (collective methods) of solving the problem. The fourth article presents the results of evaluating the robustness of the two theories and shows that the two theories are confirmed. The thesis concludes with the ‘contributions and conclusion’ chapter where it presents a summary of the contributions of the four articles to IS theory, methodology and practice.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains All Rights

Degree Discipline

Information Systems

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Information Management


Tate, Mary; Johnstone, David; Gable, Guy