Few days ago I read blog post “Matkalla asiakaslähtöisyyteen” where Maija Isotalus (2015) from Palmu asked customers of B2B companies providing IT continuous services if they see that there is enough of customer focus in business interactions. The results were very alarming. Only 18% of customers felt that companies having right customer focus. In addition, only 11% of clients felt that companies understand their business and needs. Customer index calculated by author as difference between percentage of respondents who perceive business as truly customer oriented and percentage of respondents who felt that company has low customer orientation was in average on level of -17 (The best index was +50 the lowest -75). That tells a lot about adoption of customer centricity in companies providing IT continuous services. Brian Solis (2015) in his blog “Why Customer Experience is The Catalyst for Digital Transformation” explains that often it is forgotten in companies to ask simple questions “What is really important for customer? ”
Recently, I wrote thesis report about “Factors determining customers’ experience – case Tieto Service Channel” where I analyzed B2B context of providing services through a digital service channel. Getting an understanding over service-dominant logic, value creation aspects, customer driven innovation and IT support service experience aspects helped me to analyze social, behavioral and emotional aspects of company’s interactions with their customers. I relay on Lusch et al. (2007) studies where they explained via Foundation Premises (FP’s) that what defines importance for customer is the value that is co-created with them. They addressed that value is seen as very personal thing and depend on context where attitude, affection, satisfaction and behavioral judgments is taking place. Therefore they pointed out that continuous knowledge gathering and learning from customers creating engaging experience. Klaus and Maklan (2012) explained service experience can be through assessing attributes which helps in interaction with provider of the service and therefore it can point out on customers’ loyalty aspects. Through these aspects, meaning for customers is created about service context and it is shaping preferences toward one or other service (Walter et al. 2010). Johnston and Kong (2011) in their article informed that no matter what is the service, customers will always have experience. What is important to highlight is that they stressed out that companies always say that “we are providing best customer experience” but it does not mean that it is really provided. Brian Solis (2015) argues in his blog that experience is “sum of all touches throughout the customer relationship” and thus it is important that companies are evaluating customer experience factors. Garg et al. (2012) proposed classification of these factors based on criticality in succeeding desired customer experiences and prioritization connected with companies’ importance to understand impact of those factors. He pointed out on 19 of those:
- Customer interaction – interaction with company, its employees, physical environments and other customers.
- Presence of other customers – offering same or different service.
- Employees – those who deliver service to customers.
- Servicescape – physical environment where service is happening.
- Convenience – numerous activities leading to higher confidence degree.
- Customization – specific customer requirements to be taken into consideration.
- Value added – add on services to core service.
- Speed – responsiveness to customers’ requirements.
- Core services – basic service that company is providing.
- Service process – set of activities, interaction between them and resources need.
- Marketing mix – strategies towards customer expectations.
- Online functional elements – website functionality affecting experience of customers.
- Online hedonic elements – functionalities attracting customers to navigate and use website.
- Online aesthetics – elements that attracting and keeping attention of customer.
- Sensory experience – sight, touch, sound, taste and smell connected with aesthetics.
- Affective experience – emotional values influencing on interconnection between customer and company (moods, feelings etc.).
- Cognitive experience – cognitive and mental abilities of customer.
- Behavioral experience – lifestyle, interactions and customer physical experience.
- Relational experience – factor related to self-realization of customers beyond service context.
My thesis report goal was to find out what are the factors determining customer’s experience in B2B context on example of digital service channel. I proved findings from theory about experience being very personal and in addition, I was able to indicate real factors which influence on this experience. Figure below presents those factors categorized based on Garg et al. (2012) framework.
Research was conducted in Finland and Sweden. It is seen that Finnish and Swedish respondents do not look at issues in the same way. For Finnish respondents service process and customer interaction through process ease, cross product comparison and past experiences are the most important to consider. Finnish respondents are evaluating digital service channel through service interaction activities, specific customer requirements, overall service functionalities and functionalities that attracts to use digital service channel. They judge digital service channel based on experiences with other similar services. Result indicates as well that past experiences that those respondents have with other services are influencing on their confidence level over service during this interactions. Lastly, risk perception was indicated where effective recovery from issues connected with service interaction activities and service functionalities affects their emotional experience. When it comes to Swedish respondents they indicated that past experiences which those respondents have with are influencing on their interactions with digital service channel the most. It is based on emotions triggered during interaction, their perceptions over service processes and functional and attractiveness aspects. In addition, they are evaluating digital service channel pretty much through their first interaction with service where emotional aspects, service interaction activities and their confidence level over service during interactions are the biggest influencers on their perception. Lastly, they are judging digital services based on experiences with other similar services where they are expecting that the interaction with it, specific requirements they have, emotional aspects (wow effects), functionalities that attract to use and additional services that digital service channel provides will be at least on the same level as in other, old services.
Summarizing, customer experience is very important aspects in B2B area. It is defined by various different elements. Presented thesis report discuss issue of trust through its determinants like confidence, honesty and reliability. Special attention is put on customer satisfaction that influence on credibility and benevolence which many researchers connects with customers’ loyalty towards product or service, and having direct implication on retention. Because of that, I put stress on explaining the role of company and its interaction with employees in shaping relationship with customers. I pointed out that together with service processes, activities leading to higher confidence in providing services and emotional values influencing on those interaction, it defines factors influencing on customers loyalty in the context of B2B services. In addition, factors like specific customer requirements, elements and functionalities keeping attractiveness of the service and issues related to self-realizations of customers and their taken-for-granted beliefs determining the most customer experience of digital service channel. A lot to do with those issues has expertise which customers’ in using the service have as well as service customization’s made. Through those aspects customers are creating unique emotional bonding towards brand which unfortunately in some cases was broken because of customers’ betrayal feelings they have after using digital service channel some period of time. Some researches suggest that this fact radiates on extending the psychological distance between employees responsible for customers and customers itself. Therefore, the role of service provider should be in creating outstanding service landscape where multi-sensory and interactive relativistic preference aspects of experiences will help to reengage customers in digital service channel. It should happen with elements embracing in them cognitive, emotional and behavioral responses to this service. As experience is a very personal thing, the qualities like possibility of having choice and be able to compare with other services, way of dealing with problems in service, physical and emotional benefits for customers receiving service are those drivers giving approach that should be taken for setting up, implement and popularize digital service channel.
How do you see importance of embracing customer experience in your organization? If you feel that this is something that might interest you, please look at my thesis report here
Solis, B. 2015. Why Customer Experience is The Catalyst for Digital Transformation. Accessed on 25.11.2015 http://www.briansolis.com/2015/09/customer-experience-catalyst-digital-transformation/?utm_content=buffer93c72&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Isotalus, M. 2015. Matkalla asiakaslähtöisyyteen. Accessed on 25.11.2015 http://palmu.fi/asiakkaita/matkalla-asiakaslahtoisyyteen
Lusch, R.F., Vargo, S.L. & O’Brien, M. 2007. Competing through service: Insights from service-dominant logic. Journal of Retailing, 83(1), 5–18.
Klaus, P., Maklan, S. 2012. EXQ: a multiple-item scale for assessing service experience. Journal of Service Management, 23(1), 5 – 33.
Walter, U., Edvardsson, B., Öström, Å. 2010. Drivers of customers’ service experiences: a study in the restaurant industry. Managing Service Quality, 20(3), 236 – 258.
Johnston, R., Kong, X. 2011. The customer experience: a road-map for improvement. Managing Service Quality, 21(1), 5 – 24.
Garg, R., Rahman, Z., Qureshi, M.N., Kumar, I. 2012. Identifying and ranking critical success factors of customer experience in banks: An analytic hierarchy process (AHP) approach. Journal of Modelling in Management, 7(2), 201 – 220.