The key characteristic of the service delivery is the combination of simultaneous production and consumption. Customers get involved in the process so they influence the outcome of the quality of service delivery and the satisfaction by it. Before the service transaction can be completed, the customer needs to contribute some information or effort.
The quality, therefore, depend on this information or effort of the customer. Because services are intangible, there is always a risk associated with the service delivery. For this reason, the service operations manager needs to try to increase the level of customer participation.
However, the service provides will always risk in this situation in the control over the encounter cannot be ensured with relying on customers to perform the task of delivering service.
The most important issue of the customer participation are the roles which customers take in the service delivery. It is important for service managers to remember that customer comes to a service encounter with an idea in mind about what their role should be in this cooperation. This idea might have been derived from previous experience with similar services.
Most often customer knows what to do because he has seen it in the advertising, on television or heard through word — of — mouth. It is also important for service manager to know and make necessary adjustments, that not all customers will come with correct and the same understanding of their roles.
Necessary facilities need to clearly explain what should occur. Roles also have important involvement of control issues. Clear communication of the information and mutual understanding of the roles which each party needs to perform will clarify the amount of control each party has.
It is a proven fact that this mutual understanding between parties resulted in higher satisfaction received from service if both parties understood beforehand what their roles should be.
There are a couple of strategies proposed which help service managers to manage customer participation. For example, telling customers in advance what are their expected roles. The customer needs prior training in operational procedures — this will increase the satisfaction level of service delivered.
Although there has been a lot of discussion in the literature about the customer participation in service delivery, the definition and management of the roles needed in the participation are still unexplored. However, it is a fact that if individuals have no necessary information about their roles and roles of service provider, they will get involved in coping others that can result in anxiety and higher dissatisfaction level.
The control that customers feel during their participation in service encounters influences the level of satisfaction they receive from service. Service operations manager needs to know how to increase this satisfaction. One way is to offer alternatives, choices within the servicing setting. For example, remote availability of electronic resources, photocopying of printed materials and self — servicing facilities, reference consultation on — site or by telephone. The problems in service encounter usually appear because of the conflicts: Both customer and provider of service have a need for control.
It is generally accepted that customer participation has positive impact on both providers and customers. Here questions start to appear: Service manager needs to know how to manage customer participation in service encounters to have beneficial outcomes for both sides. Service providers must develop mechanisms and find ways to make sure that customers know what is expected from them and put effort to facilitate the outcome. Customers need to be empowered to co-produce their own experience.
Increasing customer involvement brings cost and convenience benefits for organization and customer himself. Service manager needs to remember that the greater the involvement of the customer in the service delivery, the greater the likelihood that this experience will meet expectations of both company and customer.
If it does not happen, the customer also bears the part of responsibility and the service provider is not the only part to put guilt on. Introducing self — serving methods of service delivery, company will gain loyalty from those customers who think of themselves as part of the organizational family.
Moreover, through communicating with customers, service provider may directly learn defects of service and have immediate feedback about what should be done to improve. It is important to understand that service is a not just a delivery of product, it is a process, a deed, a performance and effort from both provider and customer. It goes beyond the first encounter with a customer; it builds relationship between the company and society represented by this customer.
Service operations manager should be aware that they do not only create the economic value for the firm but also social value for the customers.
Customers have expectations that their rights are respected and the company needs to stick to ethical standards and contribute to the development. It is impossible to quantify the value of service delivered, but the value of quality it adds to the company is obvious.
The managing delivery quality is equally important as increasing customer participation in the process. It has a significant impact on whether this person, this customer will deal with the company again, use its service or not.
It is not a secret for anybody that negative word - of — mouth is the strongest factor that can lead to very high loses of company. It is very hard to recover from negative image, it needs big investment additional expenses and a lot of time of top management time is money. That is why service managers are primary responsible for creating the positive image through higher involvement of customers into service delivery process.
Effective service delivery is not only the process of exchanging values, the performance of other supporting activities is even more important. Among these activities are provision of information and advice, responsiveness to customer needs, handling complaints and common courtesy.
It is understandable, that all these activities are easier to perform when delivery is full — serviced or at least half- serviced. When participation of customer is increased the involvement of trained personnel is limited to minimum.
In this situation customer must have access to information they need, way to express complains and give recommendation if they have one in their mind. Each good service manager should understand how customers derive utility form the service.
These are factors underlying service delivery: Increasing customer involvement into process of service delivery will become number one objective for service managers it the companies that wants to stay competitive on the market when new technologies are developing very quickly. As this paper has shown customer participation has many benefits not only for the company but also for the customer himself. Decreasing labor costs for provider and increasing user satisfaction are the most important factors.
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