This is the sixth article that explores customer-centricity in today’s context. It expounds on my fifth article on customer thought processes in a buying journey, “Significance of adequate service-product performance levels under disruptive conditions.”
Customer expectations reside within a zone of tolerance that is related to desired and adequate service and product performance levels. The zone of tolerance which expands and contracts is influenced by controllable and incontrollable factors. These factors are grouped into context, individual characteristics and the impact of external stimuli on customers eg. customers education, values, experience with other companies and their advertising to a customer’s psychological state at the time of service and product delivery.
Antecedents of desired and adequate performance levels of service/ product performance explain how expectations are formed, and allude to how predictions and perceptions are established.
Antecedents of desired service
The level of desired service in itself depends on six antecedents (1) enduring service intensifiers (2) personal needs (3) transitory service intensifiers (4) perceived service alternatives (5) self-perceived service role (6) situational factors.
Enduring service intensifiers are individual, stable factors that lead the customer to a heightened sensitivity for service and performance levels. One of these factors is derived service expectations, where a customer’s expectations are driven by another party. For eg. a distributor requires to deliver PPV items to front liners where there is another cluster outbreak. The distributor who is dependent on manufacturers for supply will demand a priority of these items. Hence, expectation increase for prompt services.
Personal service philosophy is another enduring service intensifier, that relates to a customer’s underlying attitude about the meaning of service and the proper conduct of service providers. This is especially true when the customer is or has been involved in the service industry and develop personal baselines for service delivery. Based on this, their own expectations increases for a desired service when they become service recipients.
Personal needs, states or conditions essential to the physical or psychological well-being of the customer also affects desired service. Personal needs includes aspects of physical, social, and psychological dimensions. Eg. a customer who has high social and dependency needs, may have high expectations of a Michelin starred restaurant and may demand services provided to a tee eg. an attentive personal waiter on stand by.
Antecedents of adequate service
Antecedents of adequate service include (1) customer prediction (2) transitory service intensifiers (3) perceived service alternatives (4) customer self-perceived service roles (5) situational factors.
Predicted service plays an indirect but key role in satisfaction assessment by influencing adequate service particularly in fluctuating conditions. This was discussed in my previous post “Significance of adequate service-product performance levels under disruptive conditions”.
Transitory service intensifiers are temporary and usually short-term, that lead the customer to a heightened sensitivity of service. In such situations, the level of adequate service will increase and the zone of tolerance will narrow.
Problems with the initial service can also lead to heightened expectations. Eg. I get irate when the line cuts off while trying to make an appointment with my doctor even during peak hour. This situation to remain connected, represents an increase for adequate levels and narrows my zone of tolerance. It becomes intolerable when my line gets cut off a second time around.
Perceived service alternatives are customers’ perceptions of obtaining better service through providers other than the focal company. Their levels of adequate service may be higher than those of customers who believe it is not possible to get sufficiently better service elsewhere eg. wide variety of fast food restaurants offering burgers, pizzas, fried chicken. If the taste of a standard burger at McDonald’s is compromised and I am craving for beef, then I can opt for Ramli’s burger at the stall round the corner.
Self-perceived service role is the customers’ perceptions of the degree to which they themselves influence the level of service they receive. This is especially true when the provision of the service depends critically on customers’ participation. In this case their expectations are partly shaped by how well they believe they are performing their own roles eg. how well represented my website relies as much on input and feedback from me as its development by a web designer. Iterations of input and feedback are required from both me and the designer.
Situational factors are service and product performance contingencies that customers perceive are beyond the control of the provider. Customers appear to recognize that these contingencies are not the fault of the provider and accept lower levels of adequate service given the context eg. flooding affecting the supply of basic necessities.
Situational factors temporarily lower the level of adequate service, widening the zone of tolerance.
Summarily, antecedents to desired, adequate service and product performance levels provide the context and framework that influence customer expectations. Hence, it is circumstantial as much as it has to do with customer prediction, perception, personal value, experience and knowledge that shape customer expectations.
- Zeithaml, V. A., Berry, L. L. & Parasuraman, A. (1993). The nature and determinants of customer expectations of service. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 21, 1, 1-12.