A model of the consumer decision making process for services as opposed to goods is provided (Fig. 3) and discussed in the article. Consumer decision making for services high in experience and credence properties (as distinct from search properties common to most fast-moving packaged consumer goods) is generally characterized by a higher sense of perceived risk.
This means that prospective consumers will seek and require extensive information, advice and reassurance prior to making the purchase decision. They may also want to “trial” or sample the service or some part of it, where possible.
Furthermore, because the purchase and consumption of services commonly occur simultaneously, consumer decision-making and impressions are strongly influenced by what they see around them and the people whom they encounter.
This question also provides an opportunity to discuss the different kinds of risk sensed by customers, and ways by which these may be ameliorated by service providers.
Role of Customer Needs in Service Settings
Understanding basic human needs assists in understanding how customers react to the service delivery experience. This means that service providers need to be prepared to cater for and satisfy a variety of needs. In most service settings these are most likely to be the need for:
- Security and safety
- Esteem and ego enhancement
- The concept of ‘face’ in Eastern cultures
- Fairness and equity
An interesting example illustrating differing cultural needs is given on pages 75-76, analyzing the game show “The Weakest Link” in Thailand. Students should be able to point out differing requirements of respect, ‘face’, esteem, and fairness from the text.
Impact of customer service experience on their emotional needs
The extent to which a customer feels satisfied or dissatisfied with any service experience hinges on their sense of how well their respective economic, utilitarian and emotional needs have been fulfilled. The challenge for a service provider lies in identifying these in each individual customer and then in catering for them to the satisfaction of that customer.
This may be done in numerous different ways which, for example, may include:
- Responding to a customer’s requests promptly
- Providing detailed information
- Personalizing the service
- Recognizing and acknowledging by name regular customers
- Providing tangible cues of reliability
- Making customers feels comfortable, special and important
- Dealing empathically and constructively with customer complaints
- Treating customers courteously and with respect
- Honoring promises
- Ensuring that customers don’t feel discriminated against