Monthly Archives: December 2014

See the Experience You Are Giving Customers

By Nancy Stephens

Nancy StephensWhat does it feel like to do business with you?

Customer experience is the new field of competition. In most service industries, all competitors are technically on par. All banks, airlines, universities and other service companies perform the necessary core functions. The quality of the experience they offer is what often drives buyer preference. Thus, it is imperative that managers carefully examine, analyze and understand their services from a customer point of view. A useful tool is service blueprinting.

A service blueprint is a process map that managers draw to visualize each step of the customer’s experience. Unlike most process maps, its primary goal is to:

  • understand the customer experience at each step of the service process, and
  • capture what is needed for the organization to deliver and support this experience.

Everything is linked to and considered from the customer’s point of view. Through this customer-focused lens, it is possible to see things such as:

  • where the customer experiences quality,
  • where the customer experiences difficulty,
  • what parts of the experience may not be necessary, or
  • what things a service provider should add to enhance the experience.

At each customer step, the service blueprint allows you to see the corresponding actions that take place onstage, that customers can see. It also shows actions that are occurring backstage and in support areas, not visible to the customer. Service blueprint maps the entire service and provides a complete view of a service experience.

Service blueprinting is often compared to customer journey mapping. Both methods highlight the touchpoints customers have with an organization. The main difference is that service blueprinting connects each customer touchpoint with the on-stage, back-stage, support and technology actions performed by the service provider to make the touchpoint happen. For example, a service blueprint will show what actions a bank teller, an unseen loan officer and a bank IT specialist have to take for a customer to make an online loan payment.

Service blueprinting can help you answer questions like: Who performs each of the actions that construct the entire service? Are customers overburdened with too many complicated steps? What employee actions have the most impact on delivering positive customer experience? Are any of critical touchpoints are missing or do not take place at the right time?

For example, one training company manager was shocked when she drew a blueprint of her customer’s experience of visiting the company’s website. She had never realized how confusing and complicated the company website was for prospective customers. She explained:

“First, the customer clicks on ‘income tax’ and gets 8 options. She selects ‘advanced courses’ and a list of 37 courses pops up in no obvious order. She backs out and goes back to “income tax’ where she sees the 8 options again. She compares two of them and clicks on the ‘Master Tax’ link, where she can download a 49-page handbook, which is too long to download or read right now. As you can see in the blueprint, it just goes on. The customer must think, if it’s this difficult to get some simple information, what would it be like if I signed up for a course?” 

The manager realized that if she wanted customers to sign up for courses, she had to make the website clearer and easier to navigate.Visiting a training company website service blueprint

Service blueprinting is also effective for analyzing internal services, where customers are company employees. As an example, the manager of a computer-support department learned through a service blueprint that the first interaction with the technician was the most important moment of truth in computer support service. The technician’s ability to immediately resolve the issue and allow the employee to continue working was the key to positive customer experience. “Employees seem to assume that the technician will have the solution right away. This one moment, at the very beginning of the service process, forms a long-lasting impression of our department,” observed the manager. “The blueprint made us realize that we need to have a database with the most common problems and questions so that our technicians can solve problems right away.”Computer Repaire Service Blueprint

Over the years, the Center for Services Leadership has shared service blueprinting techniques with many Fortune 500 companies. It is always great to see how this powerful technique can illuminate the customer’s experience and allow organizations to analyze and improve it. We are convinced that service blueprinting should be in the toolkit of every service manager. If you are interested to learn more about service blueprinting, you can find more information on our website. You can also learn this versatile technique in our online Service Blueprinting course.

Arizona Diamondbacks CEO Creates Fan-Centric Culture

If you attended Compete through Service symposium then you had an opportunity to hear excellent presentations by Bruce Temkin and Derrick Hall about Customer Experience. In this post, Bruce Temkin talks about his interview with Arizona Diamondbacks CEO Derrick Hall and highlights some of the main ideas Derrick Hall shared with the symposium attendees.

Customer Experience Matters®

I recently had the opportunity to hear Derrick Hall, CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks, speak at the Arizona State University, Center for Services Leadership (CSL) Compete Through Service Symposium. Hall was extremely passionate about customer experience. His goal: “Treat our fans, employees, and players better than any team in sports.”

Hall’s perspective as a senior executive was so refreshing that I scheduled a follow-up interview. The call started with some baseball talk (I confessed to being a passionate member of Red Sox Nation) and included a brief interruption by Tony La Russa, the Diamondbacks’ Chief Baseball Officer. Needless to say, I really enjoyed the conversation.

CircleOfSuccessDiamondbacksHall joined the D-backs in May 2005 as Senior Vice President, Communications, was named president in September 2006 and CEO in January 2009. He proudly points to the core operating framework he adopted called the “Circle of Success.” It describes how the Diamondbacks organization needs to focus on five things:

  • Performance (on the field)
  • Community

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Should We Focus on Service Quality or Emotions? How to Build Customer-Brand Relationships to Increase Marketing Performance

Portrait_B.NyffeneggerBy Bettina Nyffenegger

Managers often have to decide whether their marketing activities should focus on improved services and functional features or on more emotional content to develop strong customer-brand relationships. That was a challenge that the Head of Marketing of a large European Airline was facing at the time we conducted a research project on brand relationship quality (BRQ), a customer-based indicator of the strength and depth of the person-brand relationship. Should emotions or quality-related, more functional aspects have more weight in the brand’s marketing campaign? How do they affect marketing performance (such as customer’s willingness to pay, word-of-mouth (WOM), consideration set, share-of-wallet, and revenue)? These were some of his questions that we tried to answer in our new research published in the Journal of Service Research (JSR).

Based on a large-scale survey among the frequent flyers of the Airline and objective performance data from the frequent flyer program, we show that service BRQ involves two components, “Cold” BRQ and “Hot” BRQ. We also find important and relevant distinction between the two in terms of both antecedents and consequences.

–             “Cold” BRQ is based on object-relevant beliefs resulting in satisfaction and trust. It is characterized by a high confidence in and a positive evaluation of the service brand’s performance (i.e., it is tied to the quality of the service).

–             “Hot” BRQ reflects consumers’ feelings and emotional connection to the brand. Longing for the brand, feelings of emotional closeness to the brand, and the intention to stay with the brand through good times and bad are crucial elements of the hot component.

Our results reveal that investments in both hot and cold BRQ have an economic impact by influencing customer behaviors. Thus, service providers should cultivate both the hot and cold BRQ of their customers, but for different reasons.

If the main objective is to grow revenues from the existing customer base (i.e., “internal” growth via a higher willingness to pay and a reduced consideration set size of existing customers), managers may want to focus on building hot BRQ with their customers. On the other hand, if their main objective is to expand the customer base by acquiring new customers (i.e., “external” growth via more intense WOM activities of existing customers), cold BRQ becomes more important.

More specifically, hot BRQ has been shown to have a stronger impact on customers’ willingness to pay. Thus, instead of lowering prices (e.g., when faced with high competition and heavy price cutting), it may pay off for service providers to focus on the emotional value they provide to customers and to build up hot BRQ. As an example, Starbucks customers are willing to pay a relatively high price for their coffee due to the emotional brand experience and connections.

In addition, hot BRQ is also more important for a reduced consideration of competitive brands. Thus, those service providers who can establish strong emotional ties with their customers achieve a sound protection from competitive threats and new competitors.

Cold BRQ better helps to attract new customers through positive WOM. While emotions may play an important role, for example, in viral marketing activities, customers need to be convinced about the quality and reliability of the service in order to recommend the service brand to others.

In addition, our research examined how such hot and cold consumer-service brand relationships can be developed. Our results suggest that to increase hot BRQ in early stages of consumer-brand relationships, managers should focus on enforcing consumer’s perception of the fit between his/her self and the brand’s personality (self-congruence).  To create an emotional connection between new customers and the brand, managers should adopt a customer perspective in defining service brand personality. This means, for example that the design of the service environment, marketing communications, and behavior of frontline personnel have to create brand personality associations that foster similarity of perceptions with the customers.

In later stages of the relationship, managers should gradually develop the brand’s partner quality (i.e., whether the brand/company treats the customer well, shows interest in, and cares for him/her) in order to increase hot BRQ. Partner quality is also crucial for the build-up of cold BRQ – in early and even more in later stages of a consumer service-brand relationship. This illustrates the important role of a brand’s representatives. Caring and empathetic service experiences they create reduce uncertainty and increase confidence in the quality and reliability of the brand.

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Bettina Nyffenegger is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Institute of Marketing and Management at the University of Bern in Switzerland. Her main research fields are branding, relationship marketing, and consumer behavior with articles published in journals such as the Journal of Marketing, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, and Journal of Service Research.

The article Service Brand Relationship Quality: Hot or Cold? featured in the post was co-authored by Bettina NyffeneggerHarley KrohmerLucia Malaer (Institute of Marketing and Management, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland), Wayne D. Hoyer  (McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin). It is available ahead of print at Journal of Service Research website. Journal of Service Research is the world’s leading service research journal that features articles by service experts from both academia and business world.

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