The proliferation of information technology and the sharing economy has opened a new realm of travelling during recent years around the world. In recent years, the sharing economy phenomenon is booming, and it is not a temporary trend, but is a new format that may change the traditional economic mode around the globe [1
]. The sharing economy, which can provide a certain online platform for strangers to integrate idle goods and labor and share with each other based on the existence of communities [2
], gave birth to a lot of corporations with new concepts (e.g., Uber, Airbnb). Based on electronic commerce, online car-hailing is a brand-new business model adaptation on the Internet platform and smart phones. Specifically, in China, the corporate company called ’Didi’ has occupied a huge market share and has become an absolute leader and monopoly in the market of online car-hailing. In 2016, Didi announced a strategic agreement with Uber Global to acquire all Uber business in China. Furthermore, in 2017, the platform provided more than 7.43 billion mobile travel services (excluding bicycle and owner services) to 450 million users in more than 400 cities across the country, whose scale is larger than Uber already. This is equivalent to the average number of people who have used Didi five times in the past year. The prosperity of this company is eye-catching. Despite this, it has also caused a series of problems related to its service. Since 2015, there have been dozens of cases of drivers deliberately killing, sexually assaulting, slandering, robbing, etc., which has caused peoples’ concern about its security. Since Didi is a typical company in the context of sharing economy that offers unprofessional practitioners a platform to provide services, the study of its management is of great significance for the whole industry under this new mode.
There is a growing body of literature that studies online car-hailing. Previous research mainly focuses on the differences on the mode of operation between and influence of traditional car-hailing services [3
]; the affecting factors of the adoption of shared-cars [5
]; its enhancement on urban mobility [6
]; and exploring its regulations [7
]. There are also some researchers who have studied service quality or loyalty from a traditional perspective. Wenming Zuo et al. applied the process chain network (PCN) to describe the process of online car-hailing services in order to upgrade its service quality [8
]; and Xusen Cheng et al. has done some research on customer satisfaction from online and offline perspectives [9
However, there is still a lack of investigation that regard its service as a process of value cocreation and look into its influence on customer satisfaction and user loyalty. The concept of value cocreation has been widely applied in the field of tourism [10
]. Gebauer et al. studied the case of a Swiss Federal Railway operator and found that the company is not only a value facilitator, but also a value cocreator [11
]. As a new form of service in e-commerce and sharing economy, the service of online car-hailing has not been studied from a special perspective that differs from a traditional business mode. How value cocreation behavior by the platform and by drivers impacts customer satisfaction and loyalty is unexplored. Meanwhile, since the frequent accidents and the crisis of Didi’s reputation, the service offered by drivers may be especially cared about by the passengers, and thus impact their intention to use this platform.
Aiming at the short-comings of the existing literature, we will study customers’ satisfaction and loyalty towards Didi’s service on the basis of online-to-offline commerce mode, as well as pay special attention to value cocreation by drivers that may play an essential role in the whole process. Didi constructs a platform to connect the drivers’ supplies and passengers’ demands and thus complete transactions, which can involve both the platform’s and driver’s services during the whole process. Online platforms and drivers need to work together in order to create and demise value for the passengers.
This study contributes to the literature by looking into the satisfaction and loyalty of online car-hailing from the perspective of value cocreation using Didi as an example. Our study sheds light on value cocreation by both the online platform and drivers and how they can cooperate to create value for customers. This form enriches value cocreation theory and provides a new point of view. Meanwhile, our paper innovatively explores the influencing factors of customer satisfaction and loyalty in the service industry in the respect of value cocreation, thereby expanding the theory of service quality and customer satisfaction. The results of the research can have some practical implications for corporates like Didi and solve their current problems.
The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: In the next section, we provide results of our literature review, followed by the study’s hypotheses. After that we propose the methodology and the results. Finally, the conclusion and implications of this study are provided together with the limitations of our study and directions for future research.
5.1. Main Findings
As a new business mode related to sharing economy, online car-hailing requires satisfying services in order to improve its user loyalty, including efforts from the platform and the driver, especially from the driver according to our study. On the basis of the results above, below we will talk about the findings of the research.
First, for both online and offline value cocreation, the factors we proposed turn out to have significant influence on customer satisfaction. For value cocreation of the platform, system availability and privacy protection are decisive indicators that can affect satisfaction. Further, perceived usability, consistence and competence are indicators of value cocreation by drivers that can further determine customer satisfaction. Then, customer satisfaction has a direct relation with user loyalty.
Second, the result shows that the service from drivers is more important than that from the platform for the company in order to enhance its customer satisfaction and loyalty. The customers care more about the services they receive during the ride, which can let them experience value during the interaction process. The higher the perceived quality is, the more satisfied the customers are. Moreover, the indicator of competence is essential for drivers, which means a nice attitude, short wait time, less time expenditure to get to the destination, etc.
5.2. Theoretical Implications
This study has the following theoretical implications. Firstly, it contributes to the theory of value cocreation by constructing a model of value cocreation which has a multiparty participation under the context of O2O commerce. It expands the application of value cocreation and finds out that joint efforts of online and offline service providers are effective in enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty. Secondly, this article improves the comprehension of the theory of user loyalty in the context of O2O services. Besides the factors related with the platform, proposed by Parasuraman as system availability and privacy, the customers tend to care more about the consistency of online information and offline services they receive, as well as the usability they really perceive.
5.3. Practical Implications
Our study applied value cocreation in the context of online car-hailing services. For companies in the service industry, service quality should always be the core goal of their pursuit. Especially, according to our study, the online platform and offline servant (the driver) should make concerted efforts to create value for passengers. This can help the corporations understand the way to improve their customer satisfaction and user loyalty. In addition, the data we collected and showed are of assistance for online car-hailing service providers and can tell them what method they can offer to better the services for passengers.
As the former results show, companies (like Didi) should pay attention to its construction of the platform as well as the service of drivers. Didi is currently in a monopoly position in China’s online car-hailing industry, but many new companies are entering this market to compete with it. As time goes by, they are bound to have an impact on the current status of Didi. Thus, improving security and reducing drivers’ bad behavior is an urgent problem to be solved to obtain this goal, they need to adjust their admission mechanism of shared-car drivers and provide uniform training of drivers in order to ensure the service quality that passengers feel during the ride, which counts in building their satisfaction and loyalty. Additionally, they ought to upgrade their platforms and handle the complaints at an opportune time. Corporate reputation has not been attached enough importance to, and actions are still lacking to rebuild their trust after those accidents.
5.4. Research Limitations
One limitation of this research is that most samples are from first-tier and second-tier cities, where the transportation system is more developed, and may have neglected the situation in less-developed cities or other areas. Additionally, most of the objects of this study are young people such as college students and white-collar workers. Though they are the main users of online car-hailing services, it may reduce the universality of the results. On the other hand, the sample size is relatively small regarding the large audience of the service. The sample size may need to be enlarged to enhance the accuracy of the outcome. Another limitation is that we only looked into the case of Didi and because of the existence of other car-sharing companies such as ‘Shouqi’ in China, who has adapted a mode that is totally different from that of Didi. It is an automobile manufacturer, and thus can use the cars it produces to provide car-sharing services. Meanwhile, it hires drivers and trains them in order that they obtain the ability and qualification to serve passengers. We didn’t compare their service and figure out their differences, which can affect the result. This may reduce the universality of our model. Further, we did not investigate people’s past travel habits and their ideas about new technology and their acceptance for new travel modes, which may influence their use of online car-hailing services. Meanwhile, our model does not involve value cocreation of the passengers, which can also impact their satisfaction. Finally, the government has introduced relevant policies to constrain the behavior of those companies, especially Didi, which may have urged them to strengthen their supervision and adjust the service mechanism. This can cause consumers to change their perceptions towards Didi, and such changes cannot be reflected by our data.
This study aimed to investigate the impact of value cocreation behaviors on customer satisfaction and user loyalty under the context of online car-hailing services. We built a model with four dimensions: value cocreation by online platform, value cocreation by drivers, satisfaction and loyalty. All of the dimensions consisted of several indicators. The questionnaire was designed and distributed in some major cities in China. The results showed that value cocreation behaviors of both online platform and offline service providers (drivers) had a significant impact on passengers’ satisfaction, and further influenced their loyalty. What’s more, value cocreation by drivers had a greater impact. Further, we can generalize the findings to the context of O2O commerce. The study established a value cocreation mechanism of multiparty participation under an O2O context, in which online and offline service providers can work together to create (or to transfer) value to customers so as to enhance their satisfaction and promote their adhesiveness. During this process, the efforts of offline service providers are more effective. It indicates that service-oriented O2O companies should pay attention to the training of their employees who serve the customers face to face, as well as to improving the performance of their platform.