Service Encounters

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Service Encounters

Service Encounters


There are fundamental differences between an organization marketing to other organizations - often referred to as industrial or B2B marketing - and an organization marketing to consumers, that is, business to consumer (B2C) marketing (Yanamandram & White, 2006).The literature in general has mainly focused on consumer services rather than business services (Parasuraman, 1998), but driven by changes in the economy, marketing and purchasing of business services have been receiving growing attention both in research and practice (Boshoff and Allen, 2000). Furthermore, the growth in business related services is the main driver behind the increased share of the service sector in total value added. In 2001, finance, insurance and business services such as legal and consultancy services accounted for 20-30% of value added in the overall economy — having doubled their share since 1980 (Wölfl, 2005).

The study of concepts like quality, satisfaction and, more recently, perceived value, with roots in early works by Carlzon (1987), Grönroos (1982), Lehtinen and Lehtinen (1982), Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry (1988), and Oliver (1980), provides new opportunities in organizational management. In particular, it becomes critical to identify and measure the elements which contribute most to explaining satisfaction, thus providing companies with a better understanding on how the customer's point of view is built in an environment where building more unique relationships with customers is vital (Lindgreen, Palmer, Vanhamme, & Wouters, 2006). Moreover, service marketing literature has argued that the service process, or service encounter, may be the most important antecedent in customer evaluation of service performance ([Brown and Swartz, 1989] and [Lehtinen and Lehtinen, 1982]). These service encounters are considered as the basis for building customer satisfaction.

Theoretical framework

Service encounters

From the customer point of view, “the most vivid service impression occurs during the service encounter or moment of truth, i.e. when customers interact with the service company” (Zeithaml & Bitner, 2002:107). During these encounters, also known as interactions which take place in a relation episode (Ravald & Grönroos, 1996), the customer receives “a sort of snapshot” of the organization's level of service provision. Thus, the result of interactions between organizations, related processes and services, employees who provide the service and customers define the service experience (Bitner, Faranda, Hubbert, & Zeithaml, 1997) and from the customer's point of view, the service encounter is the origin of the whole chain of evaluations on the service result (Lehtinen & Lehtinen, 1982).

The service encounter has traditionally been described as the dyadic interaction between service providers and customers (Cronin and Taylor, 1992). There are different types of service encounters, the most frequently studied being personal interactions. Armstrong (1992) proposes defining this process of service delivery as a system which can be broken down into a number of different stages. Customer perception of service characteristics in each of these stages is therefore the antecedent and origin of any process of service evaluation, and “each encounter contributes the same to the customer's general satisfaction and to his/her willingness to do business with the company again” (Zeithaml & Bitner, ...
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