Dubai Emirate’s Community: The Effect of TQM

Subject: E-Commerce
Pages: 12
Words: 3351
Reading time:
13 min
Study level: PhD

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).

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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).

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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.

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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

Research Questions

  • 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 customers, thus making Dubai a suitable case study for analyzing 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 focus for HH Sheikh Mohammed, as evidenced by the 2015 law making Smart Dubai an establishment and the 2016 rebranding (“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.

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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

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.

E-service

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.

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