The distinction between frontstage and backstage operations in a service organization is best illustrated with reference to what is visible and invisible to the customer. This distinction may or may not be clear-cut.
Example of a Restaurant
For instance, a restaurant may be designed in such a way that the kitchen and its operations are intended to be out of view of the customer. In order to access the toilets, however, a customer may need to pass by the kitchen and, consequently, can now get a glimpse of what was originally intended to be not on show.
Similarly, customers are often inadvertently given an insight into back-stage operations because of open floor planning, doors left open or ajar, or backroom staff mingling and communicating with front-of-house staff.
And of course, there are also cases where what may be back-stage in one service organization is opened to public scrutiny in another.
Some restaurant kitchens, bakeries, repair services, and banking operations provide examples of this; where the ‘engine room’, so to speak, is purposefully put on display.
Implications of these service operations
The implications of this intentional or unintentional access, and the customer insights thereby afforded, lie in how these operations, people and behavior are managed. In both frontstage and back-stage operations management must be concerned with how to organize staff, facilities and activities so that what needs to be done can be undertaken efficiently and most productively.
So that interpersonal relations between employees, as well as between employees and customers, are harmonious. It must also be recognized, however, that whatever a customer observes, frontstage and back-stage, serves to shape their perception of quality and (dis)satisfaction.
Therefore back-stage as well as front-stage resources, personnel and behavior need to be managed in a way mindful of this, yet at the same time with due regard for internal logistic considerations
Importance of differentiating frontstage and backstage operations
The distinction between high and low customer contact, illustrated and contrasted in Figures 2.1, 2.3 and 2.4 of the text, is made with reference to the extent to which a service employee must interact with a customer.
A corollary is that the higher the amount of customer contact, the more developed must be the employee’s interpersonal and communication skills, and their professional ability to satisfy a customer’s particular requirements, needs and demands.
This expertise is developed through training and with experience and maturity but is something that may also be related to innate aptitude. This then raises recruitment and selection implications as well as training and development considerations.