Q: What are the implications of having a customer involved in the service process and ‘factory’?
A: Having a customer involved in the service process means that the interpersonal and communication skills of customer contact personnel must be well developed. Furthermore, their personal appearance, manner and demeanor must be such that the customer is in no way put off or offended, even unintentionally. Rather, the customer needs to feel comfortable with, and confident in the service provider. Understanding the implications of the inseparability and variability/heterogeneity characteristics of services is particularly germane here.
Having a customer involved in the service ‘factory’ raises significant considerations relating to place, systems, physical evidence, resources and facilities. Whatever can be seen, heard and generally sensed or experienced by a customer creates impressions and perceptions which reflect on the service organization as a whole, which serve to influence a customer’s sense of (dis)satisfaction and service quality, and which have a bearing on word-of-mouth and repeat patronage. Nothing can be left to chance or assumed to be unimportant. The totality of what a customer is likely to observe and experience must be thoroughly considered and orchestrated to the end for ensuring that the perceptual ‘take-out’ is entirely consistent with, and complementary to the service organization’s desired image, positioning, stated mission, goals and objectives.
What is the practical value of classifying and categorizing services?
A: Classification schemes, generally, provide useful insights that serve to inform management and marketing practice. For example, distinguishing between high and low customer contact services serves to highlight the respective nature and importance of different interpersonal skills; and distinguishing between where and how a service is delivered (in the customer’s home or office, or in the service provider’s place of business) draws attention to the respective place, role and significance of physical evidence and the place of service delivery. Services differ in many respects: not only in their nature and in what is offered but, also, in their respective degree of (in)tangibility, in who or what is being serviced, in what is involved in the service encounter and experience, in the extent to which the service is standardized or customized, and in the type and sense of risk or apprehension felt by customers. Consequently, classifying and analyzing services with due regard for their distinguishing characteristics serves to highlight what is important to achieving competitive differentiation, effective service delivery, and customer satisfaction.
In terms of how services may be classified, which classification scheme seems most useful to a practicing service manager who is attempting to establish a business and attract new, first-time customers?
A: Ultimately the classification schemes most important to a new business will be dictated by the nature of the business, its setting and business circumstances. Classification schemes that students might most likely nominate and argue a case for here include:
- The Nature of the Service Act
- Method of Service Delivery
- Attributes of the Service Experience
- The Types of Customer Relationship
- The Extent of Customization in Service Delivery
What, however, is important, is that students are able to justify their choice with reference to the particular nature of the business they select as an example?
What are ‘critical incidents’, and why are they important to identify and manage?
A: Critical incidents are points in the service delivery system that are likely to contribute to, or detract from, the customer’s experience in a significant way. In other words, these are ‘make or break’ points where, if something goes wrong, the customer is likely to be highly dissatisfied and annoyed, and possibly defect. They are important to identify and manage
(a) because they represent the line between customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction.
(b) because they serve to focus attention on points in the operations and delivery systems that demand rigorous quality assurance and maintenance; and
(c) because they present and highlight opportunities to exceed customer expectations and to delight customers.
Explain and discuss key implications arising from customer involvement in service provision.
A: Key topics that can be discussed here include the behavior of service personnel and implications for recruitment and training; the potential importance of employee empowerment; the place of service provision and what this denotes; the extent to which the place of service provision is attractive and appealing to customers yet, correspondingly, serves to facilitate the process of service provision; the behavior of other customers and how this is managed; how customer concerns or apprehensions are identified and allayed, and their questions and special requests adequately accommodated.
Q: Can you think of any instances of joint or combined processing? What might be particular and crucial management and marketing considerations in each case?
A: Examples include:
*People + Possession: Household and While-you-wait services like car washes, tyre change and wheel alignment services
*Mental Stimulus + Information Interactive TV
*People + Mental Stimulus Theme parks and attractions
*People + Mental Stimulus + Information Particular training seminars and workshops
Crucial management and marketing considerations in each case arise from the nature and implications of multiple processing. For instance, an operator of a while-you-wait service is faced with a dual set of challenges involving (a) efficient and speedy provision of the object-related service (e.g. shoe repair, key cutting, car wash); and (b) how and where customers are dealt with while they are waiting. A service organization well equipped and prepared for the former may not necessarily have the capability or capacity to satisfy needs and requirements arising from the latter. Students should be able to recognize and discuss implications of increased complexity in what and/or whom is being serviced, with reference to the same kinds of considerations identified above in Question (i).