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  1. 1. The Customer’s Role in Service Delivery What service Amtrak is the way to go at the east coast of the United States of America. The slogan of Amtrak is short and simple: “Get together with family and friends”. Before getting where you are going, you will need to purchase a ticket. The ticket, for instance, is a tangible result of the service, where the service is the train trip. You not only buy the trip but the entire experience of Amtrak. From the moment you walk into the station, buy your food in the café-car to the moment you exit the station at your place of destination. The role for the customers in the service delivery There are three types of roles for the customer in the service delivery process. The customer can be a productive resource, a contributor to quality and satisfaction or a competitor in the service delivery process. For the service Amtrak expects the customer to take part as a productive resource in the service delivery process to gain a better. For Amtrak it is clearly most effective for a customer to get the tickets from the QuickTrak machine. There is simply no labor involved other than that of the customer himself. The second best way for Amtrak is if the customer orders his tickets online. This way, few employees are needed to send the tickets to the customers’ address. The last and most ineffective way for Amtrak is if the customer makes his purchase at the ticket booth at the train station. Amtrak needs to employ people to sit behind the counter and help the customer. This brings also the risk of complaints and lowering the customers’ perception of the service delivery. They totally depend on the person behind the ticket booth and blame that person for any mistakes. Although the customer still needs to provide the cashier with the necessary information. This leads to the second customer role. 1
  2. 2. The Customer’s Role in Service Delivery The customer can also have to contribute to the quality and satisfaction. The customer will be more satisfied if they think that they have done their part in the service delivery. Therefore it is advisable to involve the customer. By online and QuickTrak purchases the customer is fully involved. The customer needs to find out when and where he wants to go. What level of comfort he desires. If he wants to eat on the train, what he wants to eat. These are all examples of decisions that the customer is involved in. The third and last is viewing the customer as competitor. By answering the critical factors we can see that there is a way that the customer can be seen as a competitor. The customers’ ultimate goal is to get from point A to point B. There are few different options. The train is one and others might be going by car or taking a airplane. Factor Explanation Expertise capacity Resource capacity Time capacity Economic rewards The expertise capacity of the customer is likely not to be that good that he can produce the service of the train trip himself. Other options to go from point A to B are therefore important. The recourses of duplication are low. People are not known to have an entire train in their backyard. However, they do have a car most likely. A plain is again a good option. If there is no expertise or resource for duplication it is not likely that time will be a critical factor. However the time aspect can be seen in the options again. The train is quicker than the car but not quicker than the plane. Other options such as the car might prove to be cheaper. A 2
  3. 3. The Customer’s Role in Service Delivery Psychic rewards Trust Control plane is generally more expensive. The psychic reward does not play any role here. The degree of confidence or certainty the customer has in the various options. So what confidence does the customer has in options such as the car or the plane. The control level will be higher for the customer if he chooses to go by car. The level of control will be lower if he chooses the plane. We can conclude that there is a certain form of viewing the customer as a competitor. If the critical factors associated with the external or internal exchange are reviewed, the conclusion is that the customer fulfills his role as a competitor by evaluating its options on substitution possibilities. Role-learning There is a question for to ask concerning role-learning. How did the customer learn his role in the service experience? As stated before the customer takes all three roles there are in the service delivery process. It is often learned from others what the customer needs to do as a productive recourse. By asking questions and receiving answers from others the customer becomes aware of what his role is in being a productive resource. The second role that the customer adapts is that of contributor to quality and satisfaction. The customer learns this by asking himself how he contributed to the technical and functional quality. Treating employees, other customers, supplying them with the necessary information. The third and last role 3
  4. 4. The Customer’s Role in Service Delivery the customer has to learn is the role of competitor. This is done by answering and weighing the critical factors. The customer does this in his mind upfront. During the service delivery the customer makes the same decision about various aspects of the service. For instance the purchase of food in the food-car. The customer can also decide to bring his own food. This role is learned by knowing the alternatives and what the outcome of the critical factors are. Customers do not know the critical factors by heart but they go by them all the time. This displays that the customer does not have to learn these but already knows. The importance of the customer to the service delivery process As stated before the satisfaction of the customer goes up if the level of participation is higher. Through appropriate or inappropriate, effective or ineffective, productive or unproductive behaviors the customer contributes to GAP 3. This GAP deals with the problems between the service delivery on the one hand and the customer-driven service designs and standards on the other. The importance of the customer to the service delivery process is huge. The customer is receives the service direct. A mistake in the service can cause the customer to feel negatively towards the service. It is all important for future customers. The customer can decide not to use the service anymore. He also can promote the company negatively. Word of mouth is one of the strongest marketing tools there is. Therefore if the customer feels that the service lived up to his expectations and standards or even exceeded it, he will be greatly important for future revenue. Participation level in the service delivery process 4
  5. 5. The Customer’s Role in Service Delivery There is a low participation level in the service delivery process of a train trip. First of all, the service is standardized (or at least standardized in segments). The service that the next person gets is the same as the customer himself. Second, the service is provided regardless of any individual purchase. The train is going with or without the customer on it. And third the payment is the only required customer input. After deciding where and when the customer wants to go there is only the payment for the ticket involved. After that the customer can not change the service to fit his profile individually. Other customers’ influences on the service experience There are many ways that other customers can influence the service experience. Someone can display disruptive behavior in line for the ticket purchase, in the waiting area or in the train. Other customers are expected to share space, time and other service factors. This may become a problem if segments are not comfortable with sharing or with each other or when the need to share is intensified due to capacity constraints. Customers will more often notice each other because they are in close physical proximity to each other. They are influenced by each others’ behavior. There are many ways of positive and negative influencing the customers’ service experience. How other customers can enhance or diminish the service experience Above is stated how customers can influence the service experience by displaying certain behavior. Enhancing can be done in various ways. The most common way is helping the customer. In this the most frequent way is that the customer gets directions to something. The track number, location of the track number, to the restrooms or just the information desk. Just a friendly conversation with a fellow passenger on the train can enhance the service experience as well. These are ways 5
  6. 6. The Customer’s Role in Service Delivery other customers can enhance the service experience, just by interacting with one another. Interacting can also diminish the service experience. If the outcomes of interaction are negative towards the customer or the customer feels it is negative can contribute to a diminished feeling towards the service experience. Nowadays another thing that other customers can do to diminish the experience is calling on cell phones. Often people are not aware of the fact that apparently they try to conquer the distance by shouting on their phone. This leads to another diminishing fact. The fact that other customers are loud in the train. The customer might want to go to sleep or just quietly read the newspaper. How the customer is able to enhance the service experience. Participation is a key element in how the customer is able to enhance his service experience. This means that the customer should come prepared. If the customer feels he has done his part, he will have a better experience. Your involvement in the ticket purchase can be part of this. Second, the customer maybe asked to seat himself and during the train trip go to the food-car himself. This is all participation. Customers often do not feel that they contribute to the service. This is the positive part of this. Let the customer decide simple things for himself, and the service experience goes up. The customer is also able to enhance the service experience if he knows enough of it. So self-education is also an important part. This may the customer do by asking questions. They know what to do. Also linked to this is helping others. If you have the knowledge you can help others. Most people feel that the service is better if they have helped another person. If it is standing up for an elderly woman or just directing someone to the bathroom on the train. There is another thing the customer can do to enhance the service experience. Often if the customer encounters a bad service delivery there is possibility to complain about it. Amtrak allows the customer to complain. Often when the customer 6
  7. 7. The Customer’s Role in Service Delivery complains, he will enhance his feeling towards the entire experience. Complaining makes a customer feel better so understanding that is a huge part on enhancing the customers’ service experience. 7