Customer services are among the most direct forms of interaction between clients and the company. Along with the company’s main product, they shape its image and influence the loyalty and attitude of customers. Numerous customer service standards have evolved during the first two decades of the 21st century due to the development of marketing strategies, the spread of social media, and technological innovations. However, the most general requirements for establishing a customer service policy have remained the same. Cook (2017) argues that the best practice in this regard is to have a general service strategy that includes all aspects of business and guides the improvement of the quality of the services. This paper considers customer service efficiency indicators, discusses possible disruptions and failures, and analyzes customer participation as an innovative form of customer service and a unique opportunity for product development.
Customer Services Efficiency
Customer services are supposed to perform two primary objectives: to satisfy the demands and requirements of clients and to create a positive image of the company. Both of these goals are directly related to the amount and satisfaction of customers, and thus the success of the business as a whole. For this reason, the entrepreneur community is highly concerned about developing a service model that would perform these objectives to the greatest extent possible.
Various researchers and other authors have studied the effectiveness and usability of customer services. The literature suggests that an effective service system unifies and integrates human communication and the interaction between clients and technologies (Goodman, 2019). During the delivery of services, the client should have the impression of a harmonious combination of live human communication with representatives of the company and the convenient use of technological applications. This is particularly important now, at a time when modern customer-provider interaction processes are becoming unimaginable beyond digital information and communication technologies. It bears mentioning that clients anticipate easier access to information and more flexible services. At the same time, Goodman (2019) notes that the essential features of customer and business behavior remained the same without being influenced by the contemporary innovations, “except for higher expectations for speed and convenience” (p. 14). Thus, the success of business in terms of providing relevant client services, although partly dependent on the implementation of innovative technological solutions, is largely determined by taking into account client demands that remain unchanged.
It is rather evident that customer satisfaction is mostly conditioned by the quality of services provided by company representatives. In the course of the research, Oud and Genzinger (2016) identified seven basic quality standards for the services provided, consisting of particular behaviors that the staff is expected to perform. These include “being approachable and showing interest in user needs, listening carefully and communicating clearly, problem-solving to find solutions to user needs, determining user satisfaction,” and “being flexible in solving user problems” (Oud & Genzinger, 2016, p. 120). These standards give information about the image of the service provider that customers wish to see. Nevertheless, this research was conducted in a specific business area, and it is inappropriate to claim that such behaviors will be expected by all customers and in all spheres. This emphasizes the significance of corporate research for the satisfaction of clients and their attitudes.
In recent years, business representatives have become increasingly aware of the benefits of usability research on customer feedback in their field. Cook (2017) provides data that approximately 65 percent of the information collected through the customer feedback forms is left unattended and not adequately responded to (p. 15). In this way, valuable insights do not translate into practical solutions to improve the delivery of client services. Researchers note that in order to successfully implement the relevant data, a company should determine in advance how it “will subsequently use the findings” (Cook, 2017, p. 15). Organizations that create separate departments that are engaged in such studies demonstrate significant concern about the quality of the services provided. Thus, a considerable part of the company’s resources is allocated to research and development in the field of customer service provision, which is a significant contribution to the subsequent success of the business.
Disruptions and Failures in Customer Services
Preventive measures against possible failures and inaccuracies in the activities of customer service providers allow preventing possible deterioration of the company’s reputation or clients’ attitude to it. In order to implement such measures, it is necessary to identify mishaps and disruptions that may occur. Researchers note that one of the prominent factors in this regard is staff turnover in the organization (Holtom & Burch, 2016). Primarily, the change of staff causes disruptions both in employee-customer relationships and in “intra-organizational processes necessary to providing high levels of service to the customer” (Holtom & Burch, 2016, p. 26). Customers establish stable contacts with certain representatives of the company, which have a positive impact on the customer’s assessment of the relevant services. Equally, the coherence and productivity of working relationships among company employees affect the professionalism of service delivery. Holtom and Burch (2016) state that the company can reduce such disruptions by creating a network of mutual relations between several workers and a client, as well as improving and diversifying intra-organizational communication channels. Thus, the organization should take into account the staff turnover factor when designing its general service strategy.
Researchers attempt to classify commonly occurring failures in service provision. For instance, Chen (2017), in the corresponding study, provides the classification which divides such failures into active and latent. Active failures, in turn, are divided into four groups of failures regarding the services corresponding to the four stages of the product acquisition: “Access, Facility, Merchandise, and Payment” (Chen, 2017, p. 231). Latent failures include the human factor, equipment problems, service environment, procedure, and supply features (Chen, 2017, p. 232). This classification allows for more precise consideration of potential risks when developing a general service strategy. The prevention of disruptions and failures in customer service delivery has a positive impact on the overall efficiency of business processes and the interaction of customers with the company representatives within this framework.
Customer Participation as a Form of Customer Services
Customer participation is an innovative and widely discussed form of customer involvement in business processes. The opportunity to attribute participation features to the client services is of particular interest in this paper. Moreover, researchers note that companies can “improve their innovation performance” and obtain “solution-related knowledge” through customer participation (Chang & Taylor, 2016, p. 48). Modern types of services may allow the customer to influence the characteristics of the product distributed by the company. Thus, the business will be able to take into account the opinion of the client, improve his or her satisfaction with the services and product, as well as receive valuable feedback.
A rather perspective trend of client participation is an opportunity to customize the services provided. Customers should be able to choose the information they would like to receive from the company’s representatives, as well as the possibility to select a remote or direct way of familiarising with the product. Chang and Taylor (2016) state that “a more intimate interaction between a customer and a service provider suggests that greater opportunities exist for customizing services to customers’ specific needs and contexts” (p. 56). These policies are currently being implemented by both multinational corporations and small and medium businesses.
It should be emphasized that the trend of client involvement ultimately leads to a radical change and the gradual disappearance of client services. Dong and Sivakumar (2017) provide data that “self-served frozen yogurt shops have made their mark in major U.S. cities,” and “US Airways has succeeded in shifting 50% of its routine check-in transactions to self-service kiosks” (p. 944). Accordingly, the need to provide customer services will decrease if the self-service trend becomes more prevalent where it is possible. In business areas where the nature of the services and products provided allows for more self-service policies, it can equally raise the company’s image and reduce the cost of providing unnecessary customer services.
Over the past two decades, companies have introduced many innovative solutions to customer service delivery, including the use of digital information technologies. However, the basic expectations and interests of clients regarding the behavior of service providers have not changed significantly. The warning of typical failures and disruptions in service processes allows companies to carry out prevention of the subsequent reputation costs. The literature particularly points out the trend of the client’s participation in the provision of services and customization of products, which can fundamentally change the approach of business to provide client services. Thus, developing a general service strategy that takes into account all the aspects mentioned above is one of the critical factors for business success.
Chang, W., & Taylor, S. A. (2016). The effectiveness of customer participation in new product development: A meta-analysis. Journal of Marketing, 80(1), 47-64.
Chen, A. C. (2017). Active and latent failures in customer services and opportunities for quality innovation for convenience stores. International Journal of Innovation Education and Research, 5(12), 228-236.
Cook, S. (2017). Measuring customer service effectiveness. New York, NY: Routledge.
Dong, B., & Sivakumar, K. (2017). Customer participation in services: Domain, scope, and boundaries. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 45(6), 944-965.
Goodman, J. (2019). Strategic customer service: Managing the customer experience to increase positive word of mouth, build loyalty, and maximize profits. New York, NY: Amacom.
Holtom, B. C., & Burch, T. C. (2016). A model of turnover-based disruption in customer services. Human Resource Management Review, 26(1), 25-36.
Oud, J., & Genzinger, P. (2016). Aiming for service excellence: Implementing a plan for customer service quality at a blended service desk. Journal of Access Services, 13(2), 112-130.