Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Service Quality - What is it?

There is some interesting work being done by Phil Klaus (terminal degree and title unknown) at the Cranfield School of Management in England. He is working on a scale that represents not only the attributes of the customer experience (the reasons why customers choose (or not) to purchase and then weighting them. He defines the customer experience as the sum of the attributes leading to customer purchasing and repurchasing behavior. His research is focused on the financial services industry.

Mr. Klaus believes the whole story of customer purchasing behavior is multi-faceted and complicated. He states that research shows that customer decision cannot be reduced anymore into a simple "functionality versus price" formula. He asserts that purchasing behavior is driven more by the emotional and subconscious elements and less by the functional attributes of products and services.

From this assertion he believes that offering high-quality goods and services alone is not sufficient. He is suggesting that organizations must compete on a more complex level by creating a satisfactory customer experience through all stages of the buying process, managing the customer's expectations and assessments, before, during and after the buying process. The customer experience is a broad, holistic concept that managers find difficult to measure and manage.

At this point I would like to interject that I agree with much of what he is stating. My wife, a psychotherapist, has pointed out to me that most decisions are rationalizations of the underlying emotions. the four basic emotions are happy, sad, mad and afraid. It makes sense that people generally do not make a purchase when they are sad or mad. People more often make a purchase when they are either happy or afraid.

For example, people buy a tv when they are happy. I never see shoppers who are mad or sad looking at tvs. (I must admit there are some personality disorders that buy under other conditions - some are called shopaholics and some are a step beyond where the urge to shop is psychotic). Customers may also make purchases because of some fear. People will purchase excessive amounts of food if they think there will be a food shortage.

Of course, the problem presented by Mr. Klaus is what personality factors that contribute to happy or afraid does one examine. Since each consumer purchase decision is based on an individual, any survey developed must be able to accommodate all personality profiles for the market and how they react when happy or afraid. When the purchase experience is in the B2B market, the emotional and subconscious elements are dramatically less and more emphasis is placed on the functional attributes of products and services. The research that Mr. Klaus is doing appears to be limited to the consumer market.

Since the development of a scale that measures the customer experience becomes an overwhelming task, I believe Mr. Klaus is taking his measures from the customer corridor. By that I mean the questions that he proposes will pertain to the different ways a customer can experience the company by walking through the corridors (people and processes) of the company.

From this research Mr. Klaus has developed a scale that provides measures and weighting of each of the attributes of the customer experience. The bottom line is that his results may end up being no different that many scales that we see today. However, he has a great concept and only tying his research hypothesis to the real world with real data will tell the story.

The last bottom line is that the industry needs a consistent quality measure of the customer experience. There are many quality measures in use and proposed in the marketplace but none have risen to the top and become the standard.

3 comments:

John I, Todor, Ph.D. said...

Dr. B.

You and your reader might be interested in a related paper I recently published call Customer Pyscho-economics in a Down Economy." It is part of an 18 author publication on "The Importance of the Customer Experience in a Down Economy."

The publication is being made available from Ogilvy's Customer Futures Group at:

www.customerfutures.com/downeconomypublication.

John

Dr. B said...

John,
Thanks for the info. I will check it out.

Anonymous said...

Dr. B.

Thank you so very much for your insightful comments and words of encouragement on my recent article for BRAND STRATEGY. You did raise some valuable points, which I would like to address as follows:

My article is based on the research agenda laid out by my colleague Dr. Stan Maklan and myself in our 2007 Journal of Brand Management article 'The Role of Brands in a Service Dominated World' establishing the need for a new measure of service quality connecting customer experiences with purchasing behavior.

The latter is of particular interest due to the fact that existing measures of service quality are normally connecting attributes of quality with customer outcomes of more intentional nature, such as overall quality, customer satisfaction, and purchase intentions. In addition we did address the criticism on existing service quality scales in terms of methodology, conceptualization, and research design.

As you pointed out so correctly, the customer experience is by definition, context-specific. To test the general application of our scale we are engaged in other studies in different contexts and service settings.

However, based on the some preliminary studies conducted with customers of airlines, telecommunications, and luxury goods, it appears that the dimensions of my scale EXQ are equal to the one validated in the financial services context. While the attributes appear to be the same, their individual weighting of this attributes does differ, confirming the context-specific nature of customer experiences.

In addition my research indicates that there is a significant difference between first-time and repeat buyers. The attributes of the customer experience are
rated differently at the time of initial purchase versus a repeat purchase as a result of increased consumption experience. This is coherent with the well-established economic theory of search, experience, and credence qualities.

In our humble opinion, the measure of Customer Experience Quality EXQ will, by addressing the needs of academia and manager alike, have an exceptional opportunity to become 'the measure' of customer experience.

Perhaps you will allow me to forward you the results of our studies as soon as our submission has been accepted for publication.

Your consideration is highly appreciated and I am very much looking forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Phil Klaus
Doctoral Researcher
Cranfield University
Centre for Strategic Marketing and Sales

philipp.klaus@cranfield.ac.uk

 

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