Title

Customer switching intention in the retail energy markets in Western Australia

Author Identifiers

Shahid Hussain

https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8200-7561

Date of Award

2021

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Business and Law

First Advisor

Professor Pi-Shen Seet

Second Advisor

Marie Ryan

Third Advisor

Helen Cripps

Fourth Advisor

Mohammad Iranmanesh

Abstract

This research explores and examines the factors that influence customers’ attitude and intention towards switching in the energy (gas and electricity) markets in Western Australia (WA). It integrates push–pull theory (PPT) and the theory of planned behaviour (TPB) to understand what influences potential customers’ intention to switch electricity suppliers if the WA market were to be deregulated. A two-phase, mixed methods, sequential exploratory approach was adopted. In the first phase, a qualitative study was conducted through focus group sessions using semi-structured interview questions. Five focus group sessions were conducted face-to-face. The data collected through focus group sessions were analysed through thematic analysis. Four major categories of factors were identified: (1) good experiences, which may make customers stay with their current service provider; (2) poor experiences, which may cause customers to switch from their current service providers; (3) factors causing switching (e.g., better options offered by a competitor); and (4) factors that prevent people from switching (e.g., switching costs and consumer inertia). These themes were combined with those themes from the literature review to develop a conceptual framework as a basis for model testing in the quantitative phase of the research.

A self-administered survey instrument was administered, and 405 responses were collected from a Qualtrics panel of WA gas and electricity consumers. The data were tested with partial least squares structural equation modelling. The analysis found that the push and pull factors in the energy markets have positive (except for perceived relative price) and significant effects on attitude towards switching, and on switching intention through attitude towards switching. However, the direct effect of push and pull factors on switching intention was not strong and included non-significant relationships of positive past switching experience and negative customer-based reputation of a service provider on switching intention. The strongest impact on switching intention was from attitude towards switching, which was a mediator. Stronger effects of subjective norms on attitude towards switching were found, while its effect on switching intention was not much stronger, even though it was significant. Finally, the impact of perceived behavioural control on switching intention was not supported by the results.

Overall, the study contributes to existing body of knowledge by revealing a more nuanced picture of relationships that exist between push (perceived relative price, positive past switching experience, negative customer-based reputation of a service provider) and pull (positive electronic word-of-mouth, positive customer-based reputation of a service provider) factors. It also offers implications for managers, energy retailers and regulators in terms of serving customers better if the WA electricity market were to be deregulated in the future.

However, this research has limitations. For instance, as the population for this study consisted of gas and electricity consumers in Western Australia, generalisability of this research is limited. Nevertheless, the research also offers directions for future research. As the research is conducted in a specific geographical context, the framework of this research can be used in other geographical settings to test the relevance and effectiveness of the model. In addition, since the current framework focuses on “mediation”, future research should investigate the impact of “moderators”, which might increase the predictive power of the model.

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Access to this thesis is embargoed until 09 December 2023. At the expiration of the embargo period, access to the thesis will be restricted to current ECU staff and students. Email queries to library@ecu.edu.au

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