Service Quality and Employee Behavior

Customers’ perceptions of service quality will be impacted by the customer-oriented behaviors of employees. In fact, the five dimensions of service quality—reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy, and tangibles—can be influenced directly by service employees.

Delivering the service as promised—reliability—is often totally within the control of front-line employees. Even in the case of automated services—such as ATMs, automated ticketing machines, or self-serve and pay gasoline pumps—behind the scenes employees are critical for making sure all of the systems are working properly. When services fail or errors are made, employees are essential for setting things right and using their judgment to determine the best course of action for service recovery.

Front-line employees directly influence customer perceptions of responsiveness through their personal willingness to help and their promptness in serving customers. Consider the range of responses you receive from different retail store clerks when you need help finding a particular item of clothing. One employee may ignore your presence, whereas another offers to help you search and calls other stores to locate the item. One may help you immediately and efficiently, whereas another may move slowly in accommodating even the simplest request.

The assurance dimension of service quality is highly dependent on employees’ ability to communicate their credibility and to inspire trust and confidence. The reputation of the organization will help, but in the end, individual employees with whom the customer interacts confirm and build trust in the organization or detract from its reputation and ultimately destroy trust. For startup or relatively unknown organizations, credibility, trust, and confidence will be tied totally to employee actions.

It is difficult to imagine how an organization would deliver “caring, individualized attention” to customers independent of its employees. Empathy implies that employees will pay attention, listen, adapt, and be flexible in delivering what individual customers need. For example, research documents that when employees are customer-oriented, have good rapport with customers, and exhibit perceptive and attentive listening skills, customers will evaluate the service more highly and be more likely to return. Employee appearance and dress are important aspects of the tangibles dimension of quality, along with many other factors that are independent of service employees (the service facility, décor, brochures, signage, and so on).

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit, and my Lectures.

Creating an Integrated Marketing Communications Program (IMC)

a)        Use zero-based budgets. Most companies use incremental approaches in allocating promotional budgets. A preferred approach is the objective and task approach. Start with a zero budget and force all promotional managers managers to justify their investment.

b)        Focus primarily on current customers. Many organizations direct 80% or more of their advertising and selling effort activities to trying to win new business (conquest marketing).  An Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program recognizes the importance of retention marketing and inverts that ratio so that a majority of the promotional activity is earmarked for relationship building with existing customers. This reduces customer defection, upgrades business relationships, and creates advocates for the firm’s services.

c)        Use highly targeted mass promotion. Direct mail, specialized lists, trade publications, and the Internet can be used effectively to reach prospects rather than suspects. A website has become an indispensable marketing technology for 21st century companies. It has evolved into a one-stop, online corporate information source, customer support tool, distribution channel, order taker, product catalog, price list, promotional vehicle, research technique, segmentation source, and a strategic and tactical marketing differentiator.

d)        Build marketing relationships. Strategic partnering is a major part of a good IMC program. In addition to Internet and intranets (protected corporation information resource centers), progressive companies are creating extranets which link an enterprise’s extended family of suppliers, distributors, retailers, and partners. Hence, customer, channel, referral, and stakeholder relationships can all be nurtured through carefully conceived promotional efforts.

e)        Note that everything an organization does send a message. Image and atmospherics are very important in communicating value to customers. The little things, such as stationery, signage, telephone greetings, and website design, etc., should all reflect professionalism and a consistent message to the marketplace.

f)          Two-way dialogue is key. In an over-communicated society, the marketing challenge is to establish a meaningful dialogue with customers as to how the firm’s service mix can provide maximum benefits/value. Interactivity and involvement on the part of the customers is important for sharing information and creating firmer bonds. The Web is an ideal medium to accomplish this objective. Its selectivity and flexibility create a customized business experience for each user.

g)        Use 21st century communication technologies. In today’s changing marketplace, companies must seek new and better ways to stay in touch with their target markets. Appropriate communication options include e-mail, electronic commerce, fax-on-demand, telemarketing, point-of-sale promotion, special events, multimedia, etc.

h)        Measure promotional effectiveness. Traditionally, advertising executives competed with sales managers for their “fair share” of the corporate promotional budget. Today, management requires accountability and demands to know and justify the return on investment of limited resources—they will no longer accept the non-measurable communications methods used by marketers in the past. A marketing information system/database is the key tool for effectively monitoring and measuring the success of an IMC program. As part of this process, job descriptions and reward systems are likely to be redesigned. In a strong IMC-centered environment, in-house competition is replaced with cooperation and teamwork. Joint rewards help the organization do what is best, rather than just project individual turfs.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit, Line of Sight