Cognitive Style and Trust in the Context of a Mandated Information System Solution in Contact Centers


This explanatory research study represents an attempt to support empirically the relationship between cognitive style and trust with the post-acceptance of information systems (IS) technology. The significance of this research is the multidimensional outcome to aid managers on the use of IS technology in corporate operations. A theoretical research model illustrates the research design for this study (see in Figure 1).

Research Ouestions
• RQI – What factors contribute to contact center employee satisfaction with respect to technology acceptance?
• RQ2 – Is there a difference in the employees’ trust of a new, mandated technology based on their cognitive styles?
• RQ3 – Does contact center employees’ trust of instant messaging technology affect their task performance?

Figure 1. Theoretical Grounding of the Research Model

The pilot study methodological protocol included the administration of both the electronic and paper versions of the KAI inventory. A request for pilot participation was requested from two cohort groups of doctoral students at Robert Morris University, Moon Township, Pennsylvania. The first sample, Cohort 9 of 12 students from a potential population of 17, was given the paper version first and then later given the electronic version. For Cohort 9, the paper version was administered in October 2007 while the online version was administered in August 2009. The second sample, Cohort 11 of 2I students from a potential population of 23, was given the electronic version first and later the paper version. For Cohort 11, the online version was administered in September 2009 while the paper version was administered in October 2009.

Table 1 shows the relationship of the mean, sample size, standard deviation, and minimum and maximum values for each cohort.

Table 2 shows the relationship of the mean, sample size standard deviation and minimum and maximum values for female and male genders.

This research consisted of five distinct components (see Figure 2):
1. a pilot study to determine the reliability of the electronic form in relationship to the paper form of the KAI inventory to be used as a survey instrument
2. a cross-sectional cognitive style study across two contact center teams using the KAI instrument
3. individual interviews to provide cognitive style feedback and determine post-acceptance perceived usefulness and confirmation beliefs,
4. case study, group interviews (focus groups) composed of individuals with homogeneous cognitive styles conducted to discover common themes and patterns pertaining to trust and post-acceptance constructs of perceived usefulness and satisfaction, and
5. a review of the quantitative results from the cognitive style inventory the qualitative results from the individual interviews and group interviews, and the user performance data to develop discussion topics and models.

Figure 2. Methodology Approach

Table 1 KAI Pilot Means and Standard Deviation By Cohort.

Table 2 KAI Pilot Means and Standard Deviation By Gender.

To assess the sampling distribution the cognitive style total score frequency of the total pilot sample was plotted using a histogram for both the online version shown in Figure 3, and the paper version shown in Figure 4. Both comparable histograms conform to the expected normal distribution for cognitive styles over the general population and also shows that the online version is an acceptable alternative to the paper version.

Figure 3. Online KAI Pilot Total Score Histogram

Figure 4. Paper KAI Pilot Total Score Histogram

The pilot data was also analyzed for equivalency reliability to determine the coefficient of the total score and each of the sub-scores (SO, E, and R) as shown in Table 3. The analysis was conducted using the paired, two-tail t-test function within IBM SPSS Predictive Analytics Software© version 17.

Table 3 Pilot Data Paired T-Test Results.

Group Interviews – Focus Groups
Participants come from two primary contact center operations including (a) an internal technical help desk (HELP) and (b) a customer facing healthcare support center that specializes in using Internet technology, Internet Response Team (IRT).Participants were employees currently serving as customer service representatives working in contact centers located in the United States. The participant sample was 93 percent inclusive of the total population of customer service representative population currently employed at this firm assigned to the use online chat solution. These voluntary participants were initially contacted after receiving orientation and system training on the new enterprise online chat solution provided by the firm.

Participants for this study were grouped homogeneously, based on their KAI scores, into four cognitive style categories (see Figure 5 and Table 4).

Figure 5. KAI Sample Total Score Histogram

Table 4 Cognitive Style Category Mapping to Focus Groups.

Table 5 highlights the cognitive style total score and sub-scores for the research study sample.

Table 5 KAI Means by Group and Gender

I facilitated the semi-structured focus group and presented three, sequential, open-ended questions to the participants:

1. Elaborate on your level of confidence and trust in using the online chat solution to effectively communicate.
2. Which of the software characteristics and functionality do they feel is reliable, trustworthy and adds value?
3. Elaborate on the level of comfort and job satisfaction they have to perform their role using the software to the best of their ability while being monitored by supervisors and system logs.

Additionally, an opportunity for additional comments from the participants was offered after the conclusion of the third question. Since the research is based on a case study of using the online chat software (see Appendix), participants were asked to provide narratives and working examples with their responses to help elaborate contextual information. These questions were created based on research by Kipnis (1996) who links the nature of trust to the workplace and technology within the context of a work environment. Key factors of his investigation include what mutual trust exists within a socio-technical system, how systems support or undermined the culture of trust, and where the dependability of a system influences one’s level of trust. “These concerns are not merely technological in focus but also organizational in the sense of being intimately wrapped in the ‘trustability’ and the everyday accomplishment of work” (Clarke, et. al, 2006, p.9). Issues of trust, therefore, do not arise from technology but also from how an individual participates in society and their level of risk acceptance for change.

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