Consumer Involvement in Service Processes Questions and Answers

Q: What is the practical value of classifying and categorizing service processes?

Service processes differ in many respects: not only in their nature and in what is offered but also in their respective degree of intangibility, in who or what is being serviced. In what is involved in the service encounter and experience, and in the type and sense of risk or apprehension felt by customers.

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.

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.

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.

Q: What are ‘critical incidents’, and why are they important to identify and manage?

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

(c) because they present and highlight opportunities to exceed customer expectations and to delight customers.

Q: Explain and discuss key implications arising from customer involvement in service provision?

Answer: 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
  • 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
  • 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?

Answer: Examples include:

*People + Possession: Household and While-you-wait services like washes, tire 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);

(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.

Q: Describe how you would go about explaining to the owner of a physiotherapy clinic the importance of the service encounter to the success of their practice.

 Answer: Students should be asked to consider and discuss important implications arising from this.  Key points to be explored here include:

  • The highly personal nature of the service encounter
  • The need to make the patient feel at ease, comfortable and confident in the practitioner
  • The need to personalize and customize the encounter
  • The duration of each encounter, and the need to ensure that the patient does not feel rushed
  • The importance of the servicescape, the physical evidence, cleanliness and apparent hygiene
  • The patient’s need for privacy and security

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