Role of Employees in Service Marketing
The advent of the 21st century has brought about new innovations in the field of technology; all for the purpose of not only providing for a better standard of living for people in general but also to facilitate large scale companies in their quest to emerge as the most efficient and competent business in their industry – not to mention, one which has a sustainable competitive edge. These aspects of doing business the ‘right’ way and getting to the top of the corporate ladder notwithstanding, many companies are now beginning to realize the importance of the role of employees in the organization in terms of customer-contact. The term ‘personal touch’, all of a sudden, holds much more meaning and scope – it is not just about greeting a customer with a warm smile anymore; it is about understanding their latent needs and catering to them in such a way that the customers themselves could not have ever imagined, thus, also sealing their loyalty to the brand as well as to the company (Berry & Parasuraman, 1991).
Service Marketing Managers often say:
“The employees cannot be separated from the production of the service; they are the service.”
No doubt the ultimate goal of the creation of a particular service is to satisfy the customer but often the attributes and features of a product or a service are not enough as these will not sell by themselves – their benefits and advantages need to be communicated in an effective manner so that it resonates with the customer. These are especially true of commodities which are tangible; mostly consumers are just concerned with the functional benefits of a product and whether it does what it promises to do. However, things are not so simple when it comes to services. Firstly, these are intangible products; things which one cannot see nor touch but which are evidently there as they offer a variety of incentives to the customer. Secondly, due to the nature of such services, in order to allow oneself to fully take advantage of the benefits provided by the service, one would have to depend mostly, if not entirely, on interaction between himself/herself and the employee who is normally the Customer Relationship Manager (CRM). Here is where the treatment meted out to the customer by the employee can either make or break the sale of the service which could eventually translate into a prosperous business relationship between customer and company. Customers generally give their psychological experiences more weight than what the product has to offer in terms of physical attributes (Schneider, Bowen, 1995, p. 19).
Personal Experience as a Customer:
It was only when I, as a customer, had a positive experience at the hands of a particular employee at one of our local cinemas that I began to fully understand the power such interaction has and the role it plays in cementing the loyalty of the customer towards the organization. My family and I went to watch a movie recently. Once we got there, however, we found that some people were already sitting in our seats and that there were no other seats available in the entire hall. Obviously disgruntled, my parents then asked for a refund of their tickets. The manager not only gave them their money back but also asked one of the staff members present to set up chairs for us in the first row so that we could watch our movie comfortably. Since that day, that particular cinema house is the only cinema we visit whenever there is a new movie in town.
The scenario highlighted above is a perfect example of employees going the ‘extra mile’ to satisfy customers. Normally, a refund would have been enough; it was what was expected of the staff and the manager. Yet, they decided to go beyond our expectations and do something that left a positive impact such that, for the future, we would always consider that cinema as our first choice for the benefit of a movie experience.
The sole functional benefit provided by cinema houses is for customers to watch their favorite movie in a comfortable environment. However, there are many other elements which become a part of the customer’s overall experience. The manner in which staff deals with the customer at many touch-points; which mainly include the ticket counter, refreshments stand, and the entrance, play an integral role in creating a positive experience for the customer. The key is to not just meet the expectations of the customer – as in that case the customer would not hesitate to switch loyalty to another brand provided that he/she has a better chance of getting a better experience – but to go beyond the expectations by targeting their needs in a positive manner.
Berry, L. L., & Parasuraman, A. (1991). Marketing services: Competing through quality. New York: Free Press.
Lovelock, C. H. (1991). Services marketing. The Prentice-Hall series in marketing. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall.
Schneider, B. & Bowen, E.D.(1995), Winning the Service Game, Library of Congress Cataloguing-in-Publishing Data.