A service encounter is an essential aspect for any organization. This is because, it gives the definition of the direct interaction exhibited between service firms and their clients. A service encounter is the foundation of building trust in customers with regard to service offering of an organization. In addition to this, a service encounter serves as the basis in which customer satisfaction is realized.
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Without service encounters, a business cannot realize its targets. Service encounter links up the business with the clients through interaction. Further, it is through service encounters that a firm can realize its position in the competitive market.
Precisely, it is through service encounters that the extent of market share an organization is associated with will be determined. The desirability as well as the quality of the service encounter are vital elements and as such, a firm should consider sufficiently when making decisions regarding the most viable service encounter that should be undertaken.
Foremost, a service represents the action of executing or performing something for something or even someone. Usually, a service is intangible.
Therefore, a service context has involved the creation of a series of challenges for the manager assigned to the duties of marketing for; he has the responsibility of communicating the benefits of a certain service. He does this by drawing parallels while incorporating imagery as well as the ideas, which not only can they be identified but are also tangible (Hoffman, Kelley & Rotalsky 2005).
Service marketing as a subgroup of marketing can be categorized into two, that is; marketing of fast moving consumer goods and durables better referred to as FMCG and service marketing.
Typically, the service marketing concept pertains to both business to business and business to consumer services. It includes such aspects as telecommunication, hospitality, air travel, financial and professional services among others.
The practice of service encounter
A service encounter is a term commonly used to define the direct interaction exhibited by service firms and its customers (Bitner et al. 1990). According to many scholars, a service encounter can assume three forms, which include; telephone encounters, remote encounters as well as face to face encounters.
With regard to remote encounters, they basically involve interactions, which are technology based and as such; they are usually between as a customer and a machine or self service devices such as vending machines.
In these forms of encounters, there are no human actors from the firm involved. Contrary to this form of service encounter, telephone as well as face to face encounters involves human interactions (Carlzon 2007).
For the purpose of this paper, a remote service encounter will be considered as one that might occur in my organization. My organization is a library where people come and assess the academic materials. In the near future, the organization is contemplating introducing a service inquiry desk where students will get help from qualified librarians.
From this desk, the students will be able to establish the range of books regarding a certain topic and be helped to know where they are situated in the library. In addition to this, from this inquiry desk, the students will be able to borrow books for a specified period of time depending on the level of education being pursued. The rationale for selecting this service encounter is that; value will be created and therefore student’s satisfaction.
Elements of the service encounter
A service enquiry desk is constituted of both the tangible as well as the intangible elements. In order to understand these, a Shostack’s molecular established in the early 1980s will be used. It is a molecular model and as such, it utilizes the aspect of analogy in an effort towards helping in the visualization as well as in the management of the total marketing entity by the marketers.
Usually, the model is applicable to both products as well as services. She made an important and worthwhile observation that, just like in chemical formulations; a change in one element can cause a significant change to the entity (Grönroos 2007).
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Service elements are both tangible (peripheral evidence) and the intangible (essential evidence) elements.
Tangible (peripheral evidence) elements
According to Shostack’s molecular model, tangible or peripheral evidence refers to the elements possessed as part and parcel of the purchase. In addition to this, these elements have insignificant independent value. In our case, the library membership card will serve as the tangible element.
A library membership card is of insignificant value when held outside the library but useful when inquiring at the service enquiry desk in the library.
Intangible (Essential evidence) elements
These elements exist in service inquiry desk in a library but they can never be possessed by the students. Usually, the intangible elements of service inquiry desk encounter are extremely dominant with regard to its impact on the use of the service by the students (Hoffman, Kelley & Rotalsky 2005).
The intangible element will include the sudden desire as well as enthusiasm for our services by the students upon the introduction of this new service.
Critical incidents for the same service encounter
In order to effectively assess the critical incident for the same service encounter, a critical incident technique advanced by Bitner et al (1990) will be used. As such, the technique can be identified as a set of procedures commonly used to collect direct observations pertaining to the way the human beings behave.
The behaviours to be considered in the technique should have a critical significance and in addition to this, they must be able to meet the methodically stipulated criteria. Critical incidents arise whenever producers as well as the consumers of the service produce come together in a service encounter (Zeithaml, Bitner & Gremler 2006).
The inquiry service enquiry desk is classified as a high involvement personal service and as such, it is in the same class with health care services (Halstead, Drogue & Cooper 2003).
Such operations as direct examination of both the clinical staff as well as the researchers serve as good examples of health care service encounters.
To elaborate this further, using the critical incident technique, there is a possibility that a clinician will be able to learn much about his role within the scope of a clinical setting. Further, the technique is beneficial to the clinician as he will be able to realize more on his practice from a wide coverage role.
Taking health care research into consideration, critical incident technique is identified as not only a vital but also a very significant resource. The reason for this is; it assists ideally in the identification of the patient’s experiences in the health care setting. In addition to this, it assists in the exploration of interactions between patients and providers.
Strategies outline and evaluation
In my organization the use of a service enquiry desk by the students is the targeted service encounter and as such, it is not yet operational. Once the service is underway, there are several risks associated. One of the major risks is service failure. Once a service failure surfaces, efforts are made in order for the service to recover from the failure (Palmer 2008).
Generally, whether there is a service failure or not, creation of student’s satisfaction should not be overlooked since it is a vital element. This implies that; student’s satisfaction plays a significant role in the development, performance success and the longevity of the service enquiry desk operations. The underlying thing about the entire subject of failure of a service inquiry desk encounter is intriguing.
While failures in the operations of the service encounter can prove to be disastrous in a considerable number of circumstances, they present themselves as sources of learning, which are uniquely valuable, for the service encounter operations.
With regard to three aspects, it is necessary to establish and evaluate strategies that will make good of the underlying situations.
Strategies to prevent service failure
Detection of possible failures (Risk Management strategy)
In today’s libraries, the need of risk management aspect has been identified. Risk management involves establishing measures to help in detecting potential failures as well as their sources before they surface.
For the service enquiry desk encounter, it will involve the visualization of each and every possible reason as to why there might be a failure of the encounter and what should be the most effective way to deal with this failure if it eventually surfaces.
In effect, the library manager will have to make attempts of simulating what might come to happen to this library service. Usually, detection of potential failures involves a sequence of events that are likely to happen and therefore working through them. However, one must first understand the sequence before commencing the task.
The maintenance strategy is considered as the decision as to whether to attempt the task of failure prevention while making use of preventive maintenance or to leave it all and allow the occurrence of failures and thereby making amendments by repairing the failures.
For an encounter such as service enquiry desk in a library, prevention strategy rather than breakdown maintenance strategy is more viable considering both the extent of financial forego and continuity of internal library services.
Yet most activities pertaining to maintenance in practice are still focused on breakdown maintenance, which is reactive. However, with the rise of knowledge on the aspect of total service encounter maintenance, adherence is being gained (Palmer 2008).
In order to prevent failure of service desk enquiry encounter, the detection strategy will be mainly focused on. The rationale behind this is that, failures, which are likely to hamper the effective operation of the service, will be established and as such, measures will be put in place and therefore, there will be no difficulty or wastage of time in restoring the operational level of the service if failures actually occur.
Recovery from service failure strategies
It is not necessarily that the presence of a a service failure means a disaster for the library and the students. If there are efficient strategies put in place to respond to any failure surfacing, aspects such as student’s satisfaction, loyalty as well as trust can increase.
According to Halstead, Drogue & Cooper (2003), when a company recovers a failed service, commitment as well as trust between an organization and the customer is built and maintained. Students will indeed talk positive things regarding the library and this enhances its image.
Provision of the right type of justice strategy
From the customer’s perspective, a good service recovery tends to focus extensively on justice as well as fairness. This strategy is usually constituted of three dimensions which include;
This is the outcome of the recovery situation. An example of this includes an apology from the person behind the service enquiry desk.
This pertains to the way the processes involved in the recovery process works.
This pertains to the manner in which the students are treated one of the disadvantages of this strategy is that the students will be dissatisfied with the efforts towards recovery. This is because; while the librarians will exceedingly emphasize the distributive justice, the importance of process as well as interactional justice will be overlooked.
Understanding the problem’s scale
The underlying fact put into consideration in this strategy is that; it is only through the establishment of the true scale of dissatisfaction of a student that the library management will see and therefore prepare adequately against the crisis of imminent service enquiry desk failure (Berry, Seiders & Grewal 2002).
This strategy advocates that there is a necessity of the library management establishing a service culture that focuses on engaging with the students while requesting for honest responses irrespective of whether they are painful or friendly in nature.
Further, this strategy advocates for finding out what is being rumoured in blogs, and other websites pertaining the inquiry desk services. By getting a clear idea regarding the range of problems that the students are experiencing, the service desk inquiry management can put efforts in defining and therefore prioritizing the areas that need improvement (Hoffman, Kelley & Rotalsky 2005).
Encouraging complaints from the students
This strategy insists that the students who don’t complain are also valuable to the library. In addition to this, the strategy asserts that these students pose a significant extent of danger to the library. Provision of incentives in order to reduce the extent of customer complaints leads to a false believe among the librarians that few complains means an improvement of services while more complains signifies unqualified services.
Ensuring student satisfaction with the service
Student satisfaction pertains to keeping the students happy with the offerings provided by the service enquiry desk. One of the mistakes that librarians make is that they believe that immediately the service is offered, follow up actions on librarian’s behalf of the students is not necessary. The following are the strategies that ensure that the student is satisfied with the service
Start before selling
Way before the student purchases the library service, it is necessary that the management of the library makes them feel as if they are the most vital elements around. In addition to this, the library must ensure that the service desk is sufficiently staffed for the sake of enquiries from the students, and as such, this guarantees a pleasant experience for the student prior to assessing the service.
Following up on the sale
Making follow ups after the student has purchased the service is very essential as it lead to gaining insight both on the library’s levels of service from the client’s perspective as well as reviews and feedbacks concerning the service purchased by the student.
Even though the student might use the service, there might be instances where he is not wholly satisfied with the service. If follow up actions are put into place by the library, the situation is easily noted and rectified and the needs addressed.
Conclusion and recommendations
From this analysis, it is evidently clear that service encounters are the main operational attributes of an organization. As such, service encounters link the customers to the company.
According to Shostack’s molecular model, a service encounter is constituted of two elements which includes; tangible (peripheral evidence) elements as well as Intangible (Essential evidence) elements. Service encounters are categorized into four with each category constituted with similar levels of service encounters.
An example of these is high involvement personal service category constituted by health services as well as personal services (Bitner et al. 1990). Different service encounters in the same category have similar elements and as such, a critical incident technique can be used to establish incident encounters (Halstead, Drogue & Cooper 2003).
Service encounters are subject to failures and as such, strategies should be put in place to avoid or mitigate these failures. Failure detection as well as maintenance is the most viable strategies used in failure prevention. However, failure detection is the most preferable as it is cost effective.
With reference to recovery, the most ideal strategies include; encouraging complaints from the customers as well as provision of the right type of justice strategy. Blending these strategies is the advisable for any operating company.
In order to ensure that the customer satisfaction with the service is enhanced, strategies such as service recommendations, following up on the sale as well as starting before selling. Just like for failure recovery strategies, it is necessary that a Company blends these strategies to fully realize customer satisfaction (Grönroos 2007).
Berry, L.L, Seiders, K & Grewal, D 2002, ‘Understanding Service Convenience’, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 66, no. 3, pp. 1–17.
Bitner et al. 1990, ‘The predicament of injustice: The management of moral outrage’, Research in Organizational Behaviour, Vol. 9, pp. 289–319.
Carlzon, J 1987, Moments of Truth, Ballinger Books, Cambridge, MA.
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Halstead, D, Drogue, C & Cooper, MB 2003, ‘Product warranties and post purchase service: A model of consumer satisfaction without complaint resolution’, Journal of Services Marketing, Vol.7 no. 1, pp. 33–40.
Hoffman, KD, Kelley, SW & Rotalsky, HM 2005, ‘Tracking service failures and employee recovery efforts’, Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 2, pp. 49–61.
Palmer, A 2008, Principles of services marketing, McGraw Hill, Glasgow.
Zeithaml, VA, Bitner, M.J & Gremler, D.D 2006, Services marketing: Integrating customer focus across the firm, McGraw-Hill Education, Boston, Mass.