Customer Contributions and Roles in Service Delivery
Considerable research in marketing and management has examined customer satisfaction with service experiences (e. g. Arnold and Price, 1993; Bitner, Booms and Mohr, 1994; Bitner, Booms and Tetreault, 1990; Keaveney, 1995; Ostrom and Iacobucci, 1995; Surprenant and Solomon, 1987; Zeithaml, Parasuraman and Berry, 1990). Predominantly, the research has focused on the roles of service processes, employees and tangibles in creating quality service experiences for customers.
However, in many services customers themselves have vital roles to play in creating service outcomes and ultimately enhancing or detracting from their own satisfaction and the value received. This is true whether the customer is an end consumer (for example, consumers of health care, education, personal care, or legal services) or a business (for example, organizations purchasing maintenance, insurance, computer consulting or training services).
In all of these examples, customers themselves participate at some level in creating the service and ensuring their own satisfaction. This manuscript focuses specifically on the roles of customers in creating quality and productivity in service experiences. Drawing on previous (primarily conceptual) research, two frameworks are first presented to aid managerial decision making and guide potential research related to customer participation in service.
The first framework examines different levels of participation required of customers across a variety of service contexts while the second framework presents three major roles played by customers in service delivery. This paper is adapted from “Quality and productivity in service experiences: customers’ roles”, presented at the QUIS 5 conference in June 1996 and is reproduced by permission of The McGrawHill Companies.
International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 8 No. 3, 1997, pp. 193-205. © MCB University Press, 0956-4233 IJSIM 8,3 The paper then summarizes the results of two empirical studies that illustrate the role of customer participation and the effects on satisfaction with the service (Faranda, 1994; Hubbert, 1995). Levels of customer participation The level of customer participation required in a service experience varies across services as shown in Table I.
In some cases, all that is required is the customer’s physical presence (low level of participation), with the employees of the firm doing all of the service production work, as in the case of a symphony concert. Symphony-goers must be present to receive the entertainment service, but little else is required once they are seated. In a business-to-business context, examples of services that require little participation are less common. One example shown in Table I is that of providing plant and flower interior landscaping services.
Once the service has been ordered, little is required from the organization other than to open its doors or provide access to the service provider to move plants in and out. 194 Low: Customer presence required during service delivery Products are standardized Moderate: Customer inputs required for service creation High: Customer co-creates the service product Active client participation guides the customized service Service cannot be created apart from the customer’s purchase active participation Customer inputs are mandatory and co-create the outcome
Client inputs customize a standard service Service is provided Provision of service requires regardless of any individual customer purchase purchase Payment may be the only Customer inputs (information, required customer input materials) are necessary for an adequate outcome, but the service firm provides the service Examples: End consumer Airline travel Hair cut Motel stay Annual physical exam Fast-food restaurant Full service restaurant Business-to-business customer Uniform cleaning service Pest control Interior greenery maintenance service
Marriage counselling Personal training Weight-reduction programme Table I. Levels of customer participation across different services Agency-created advertising campaign Payroll service Independent freight transportation Management consulting Executive management seminar Install wide area network (WAN) Source: Adapted from Hubbert (1995) In other cases, consumer inputs are required to aid the service organization in creating the service (moderate level of participation).