Designing the Customer Service Encounter
Karl Brecht and Ron Zeke's Service America! gets to the heart of the issue of managing service operations when they state "every time a customer comes into contact with any aspect of the company it is a moment of truth and it can create either a positive or a negative impression about the company How well these moments of truth or encounters are managed depends on a carefully designed service delivery process. Service encounters can be structured in a number of different ways. The service-system design matrix in Exhibit identifies six common alternatives. The top of the matrix shows the degree of customer server contact the buffered core which is physically separated from the customer; the permeable system which the customer can penetrate via phone or face-to-face contact; and the reactive system which is both penetrable and reactive to the customer's requirements. The left side of the matrix shows what we believe to be a logical marketing proposition namely that the greater the amount of contact. the greater the opportunity to generate additional sales: the right side shows the impact on production efficiency as the customer exerts more influence on the operation.As one would anticipate, production efficiency decreases as the customer contact time increases. thereby giving the customer more influence on the system To offset this however the face-to-face contact provides greater opportunity to sell additional products. Conversely low contact. such as mail allows the system to work more efficiently because the customer is unable to significantly affect (or disrupt) the system. How every there is relatively little if any sales opportunity for additional product sales at this end of the spectrum. There can be some shifting in the positioning of each entry Consider the face-to-face tight specs entry in Exhibit This refers to those situations where there is little variation in the service process-neither customer nor server has much discretion in cretins the service Fast-food restaurants and Disneyland come to mind. "Face-to-face loose specs refers to situations where the service process is generally understood. but there are options in the way it will be performed or the physical goods that are a part of it. A full-service restaurant and a car sales agency are examples. "Face-to-face total customization' refers to service encounters whose specifications must be developed through one interaction between the customer and server. Legal and medical services are of this rype. and (he degree to which the resources of the system are mustered for the en-ice determines whether the system is reactive or merely permeable. Examples would be the mobilization of an advertising firm's resources in preparation for an office visit by a major client. or an operating team scrambling to prepare for emergency surgery.