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In the world of increased marketing competition among many companies that offer similar services and products, customer experience and customer satisfaction become what makes or breaks a business on its road to success. It is especially true for service industries, such as transportation, hospitality, and other areas that cannot radically innovate their product range, thus being forced to compete in oversaturated Red Sea markets. Nowadays, many companies utilize various means of gouging customer satisfaction and experience, including surveys, scoreboards, interviews, and other methods commonly described as “touchpoints,” signifying the moments of direct interaction between the customer and the company. At the same time, many notice a significant discrepancy between scores received in touchpoint surveys versus actual customer satisfaction. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate an article by Rawson, Duncan, and Jones (2013), titled “The Truth about Customer Experience,” through the lens of the SERVQUAL customer satisfaction framework.
The article by Rawson et al. (2013) covers a plethora of examples from real life, covering companies from TV cable service to tourism, retail, and manufacturing, about customer service. At the same time, the entire article is based on several key points that frame the entire discussion. The first key point made by Rawson et al. (2013) is that most companies had learned to deliver good customer service when it came to direct company-to-person contact. The majority of employees tend to be courteous, polite, and genuinely interested in helping customers out. Nevertheless, even the best of these companies often have trouble with “churn,” which stands for customers leaving due to competition, disillusion, or moving out of the service area, among many other reasons (Rawson et al., 2013). In many cases, the growing market losses do not correspond with touchpoint service results. Rawson et al. (2013) make an argument that the touchpoint approach is inaccurate because the experience received during direct contact with the company differs from the experience during the customer’s journey.
Rawson et al. (2013) describe the phenomenon of the customer’s journey as the set of experiences with the product or service outside of the company’s direct reach. These include every inconvenience, failure, subpar performance, and delay that customer experiences but do not bother to contact the company about, seeing it as a waste of their own time. These minor nuisances tend to accumulate, contributing to the eventual decline of the customer base in companies, as they fluctuate towards companies that offer better solutions or a fresher experience.
Then, the article addresses the key issues that companies might experience. The first observation Rawson et al. (2013) make is that having numerous touchpoints is an indication of service problems rather than the high quality of provided services. If everything is fine or at least tolerable, customers do not go out of their way to contact the company providing the service more than they have to. The second point is that companies should be capable of evaluating their performance from a customer’s perspective, to understand the issues appearing on their journey. Finally, Rawson et al. (2013) suggest that a new system of appraisal is required to alter the existing ways of service delivery to address the unspoken customer complaints during the journey.
The findings presented by Rawson et al. (2013) resemble the SERVQUAL framework, which is an advanced type of evaluation tool utilized to surpass the shortcomings of the touchpoint system. SERVQUAL identifies four types of gaps in evaluation and performance, which are as follows (Ceylan & Ozcelik, 2016):
- First gap. Management does not know what to expect from its customers. This type of miscommunication usually occurs in companies that have enjoyed a dominant position in the market for an extended period, enough to induce market myopia. One example of such would include United Airlines, which is notorious for numerous scandals associated with its name due to substantially subpar service when compared to its competitors.
- Second gap. Management is unwilling or unable to devise systems that exceed customer expectations. The article mentions this type of gap by presenting the example of a cable TV company, which operated using the same model for many years, which led to their gradual popularity decline.
- Third gap. The service-performance gap. Many companies are incapable of performing service at the levels desired by their customers, which creates discrepancies between expectations and results. As the article mentioned, customers often grade call centers and employees highly for their immediate assistance but are frustrated with the overall performance of the product or service.
- Fourth gap. A mismatch of delivery and performance. When a company does not deliver on its promises, it reflects badly on customer expectations and reduces their favor for the company for the duration of their journey.
It must be noticed how the majority of these gaps have very little to do with actual direct customer-company interaction and more with how the good or service compare to other competitors, to the announced levels of performance, and the customer’s expectations. The implications for the marketers require the company to make sure its vision of its services adheres to all three criteria to be effective. One of the ways of gouging performance from the other side of the spectrum is to be a user of one’s services and products.
When I first read the article, I felt somewhat overwhelmed with the amount of anecdotal evidence provided to make the reading seem more interesting and attached to reality. I found that the evidence presented seemed very circumstantial and not supported by quantitative research. My first recommendation to the article would be to reduce the number of stories of individual companies, instead of showing the scope of the issue by presenting information from academic journals addressing the root of the problem. The second issue with the article is the lack of a theoretical framework to support the overall message.
While the arguments and the findings are inferred from SERVQUAL, there are no direct citations or correlations between them. It is recommended to frame the argument of the article utilizing one or several theories of customer satisfaction. Lastly, the article does not seem to recognize the strengths of touchpoint reviews, which contributed to their popularity throughout various sectors. Direct customer-company experience may not be as important as initially thought, but it makes an important part of the journey and should be treated as such.
Touchpoints have been a popular tool for customer satisfaction assessment for a long period. Modern research has realized that the customer journey provides a more accurate picture, whereas the increasing number of touchpoints may indicate a larger problem. SERVQUAL can be a useful framework to implement to identify the gaps and create potential solutions to service delivery problems.
Ceylan, C., & Ozcelik, A. B. (2016). A Circular Approach to SERVQUAL and HOLSAT: An Implementation Suggestion. Journal of Hotel Business Management, 5(1), 1-10.
Rawson, A., Duncan, E., & Jones, C. (2013). The truth about customer experience. Harvard Business Review. Web.