Services as a Means to Enhance and Lengthen Brand Experience
Techniques of Managing Customer Relationships Through Services
Customer satisfaction and customer loyalty are two different constructs indeed. As indicated by William Bleuel, Ph.D., survey services expert, satisfaction and loyalty are different concepts. Consider the difference from a real life example of yourself purchasing a fridge. While you may have been satisfied with the use of the fridge for two years, but after the end of that period, suppose that you want to replace it with another fridge. While you are pondering over the question a friend highly recommends that the fridge that he has been using is worth buying. To top it off he says that the after sales service is extremely quick and efficient. This convinces you, and although you are a satisfied customer of brand x you end up buying brand y.
This is how consumer psyche works and this is how important it is to work on brand loyalty instead of merely working at creating satisfied customers. And this is the area where services as an intangible and yet direct experience comes in. There is no way in which a company will be able to take away the memory that is formed with the customer and that is the reason why services are such a critical aspect of establishing brand loyalty.
The way this paper is structured is that initially the difference between loyalty and satisfaction will be further compounded, then the paper will proceed to define services and how interpersonal relationships are further deepened and made more profound in light of the services package and what this service package is all about.
Loyalty vs. Satisfaction
Satisfaction, in simple terms is defined as:
"Customer satisfaction is just that, a customer's sense of satisfaction. Speaking simply, customer satisfaction is a measure of expectations being exceeded, met, or not met. That's it. When thinking of customer satisfaction measurement, we want to know that we are meeting or exceeding customer expectations. We want to believe that we have satisfied customers and that this will lead to their loyalty and improve revenues. Unfortunately, customer satisfaction has little to do with customer loyalty."
The same author goes to define the difference between loyalty and satisfaction on the basis of the emotional involvement a brand has with the customer. He says that when the customer feels actively involved in a brand that is when he truly is loyal to it. To elaborate it further he creates the distinction by saying that brand managers try to use several brand metrics in order to define what the customer wants. While these are necessary the aggregates of these findings merely help in keeping the brand afloat, whereas the nuances within the construct of brand satisfaction enable managers to understand how to have customers emotionally connect to the brand so that they think of it as an extension of themselves, buying it because it conforms to their values and beliefs appealing to their hearts and to their spirit. The new marketing paradigm that revolves around appealing to the spirits can only come about when people are able to connect to the brand on a personal level.
When we elaborate these two constructs we know that in order for the firm to survive it needs to have satisfied customers that can take it through. However loyalty is the factor that distinguishes the good brands from the really great ones. These have a loyal fan base that will even neglect negative word-of-mouth and will recommend it to their offspring and will ensure that the brand becomes a generation brand that is in the family and becomes part of the family.
Writing books and citing theory about these legendary brands is easy while the execution of these plans is tough. No matter what the case maybe, people and more importantly companies need to realize that the next step that takes a product brand forward is service. Service is the intangible aspect of the product experience which enables the customer to see the human face of the firm. It is this service and this human contact with the company that can cause a satisfied customer to be a loyal customer. And how exactly these services need to be maintained and helped via various managerial tools, is what the next section talks about.
Services as a Means to Enhance and Lengthen Brand Experience
Services enhance product experience. This is evident from the fact if a product fails to function in some way the service team is the last resort which can fix it and assure the customer that the company has not forgotten them and that they can continue to avail the benefits of their brand. (Bitner & Brown, The Service Imperative, 2008) Continuing from the example of the fridge above, if your friend tells you that his fridge is great and that they have a great after sales service, if you have had the same experience and in fact are friendly with the technician who have visited to install the fridge at your house and are always available to answer your queries, you will think twice about breaking that bond and venturing into a new domain.
Where good services are desirable and a good customer experience with the customer relationship manager could mean that the customer is hooked to the brand for life, at the same time a bad service experience can be crucial. A single bad service experience could mean the loss of many customers as an angry customer will tell the world what happened, (Kotler & Armstrong, 2009) while a satisfied customer will only tell a few or even keep mum. That is the challenge in services. Its features which are intangible and form the direct experience with customers have no margin for error. Moreover, the production and consumption of service are inseparable which implies that the service is being consumed as it is being rendered. (Schmenner, 1986)
A term known as the service package entails the entire process of the service where there are two dimensions involved. What is called the service package includes two different types of services which are categorized in terms of their visibility to the client. These two dimensions are explicit and implicit with respect to how they appear to a typical customer. To define the two: explicit services are those which are the intrinsic features of a service which include the training of the people providing the service which generally are the customer relationship officers and the people who are in direct contact with the customer providing service to the customer visibly. Other features of the service also include how comprehensive the service is in terms of addressing a customer complaint or need. Then again, it is not a onetime exchange that matters and creates the distinction between satisfaction and loyalty. (Zeithaml, Parasuraman, & Berry, 1990)Other features such as how consistent the service is in terms of maintaining the quality which includes how far a service agent goes to fulfil a client's full needs while consistency means how similar the pleasant experience is from one customer to the next. Another important element here is how available it is in terms of duration of the service, time of service as well as how quickly and when the service is available. Recent trends show that service availability is a case of concern for many businesses and as it has practically seen to lend competitive advantage to firms to be available at all times to customers, it could help companies gain more customers. That is the reason why companies are looking to provide services twenty four hours a day seven days a week. Moreover they have enabled their employees as well as invested or outsourced call centres to be available at all times to their employees so that they never face any difficulty while using the brands. (Hall, 2009)
While it true that these are very difficult metrics to ascertain as it is tough to gauge customer feedback as far as the evaluation of these terms objectively is concerned. This is because services are intangible as are customer perceptions of the service. Feedback from customers cannot be as accurate as the firm like to believe it would be and would also not yield the results that they want. But if feedback is obtained immediately after the experience by a third party then it should be known that it could mean the difference between a successful and a very successful firm. (Publications, 2010)
When we look at the implicit element of the services, as far as these are concerned, they are the vague experiences of consumers that they can sense or feel. Additionally these comprise of the peripheral elements of a service experience which are abstract and difficult to describe. These could be the ambiance of the building or the way a guard or officer is dressed to the way in which the building smells. While defining…