How Customer Involvement Affects Design of the Service Factory - Principles of service marketing management

Every service has customers (or hopes to find some), but not every service interacts with them in the same way. Customer involvement in the core activity may vary sharply for each of the four categories of service process. Nothing can alter the fact that people-processing services require the customer to be physically present in the service factory.

If you're currently in New York and want to be in London tomorrow, you simply can't avoid boarding an international flight and spending time in a jet high above the Atlantic. If you want your hair cut, you can't delegate this activity to somebody else's head you have to sit in the haircutter's chair yourself. If you have the misfortune to break your leg, you will personally have to submit to the unpleasantness of having the bone X-rayed, reset by an orthopedic surgeon, and then encased in a protective cast for several weeks.

When customers visit a service factory, their satisfaction will be influenced by such factors as:

  1. encounters with service personnel,
  2. appearance and features of service facilities both exterior and interior,
  3. interactions with self-service equipment, and
  4. Characteristics and behavior of other customers.

If customers are required to be physically present throughout service delivery, the process must be designed around them from the moment they arrive at what we call the "service factory." The longer they remain at that site, the more likely they are to need other services, including hospitality basics like food, beverages, and toilets. Service delivery sites that customers visit must be located and designed with their convenience in mind.

Furthermore, the nature of the facilities offers important physical evidence of the service itself. If the service factory is ugly, noisy, smelly, confusingly laid out, and in an inconvenient location, customers are likely to have negative impressions. Marketing managers need to work closely with their counterparts in operations to design facilities that are both pleasing to customers and efficient to operate.

At Susan's college, the redesigned food court at the Student Union replaced a cafeteria that provided a less attractive experience (as well as worse food). The exterior of a building creates important first impressions, whereas the interior can be thought of as the "stage" on which the service performance is delivered. The interior of Susan's hair salon appeals to her but that of the dry cleaner does not.

Marketers need to work with human resource managers, too. Here the task is to ensure that those employees who are in contact with customers present an acceptable appearance and have both the personal and technical skills needed to perform well.

The workers at the dry-cleaning store Susan uses appear to lack such skills. If service delivery requires customers to interact with employees, both parties may need some basic training or guidance on how to work together cooperatively to achieve the best results. If customers are expected to do some of the work themselves as in self-service facilities and equipment must be user-friendly.

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