Customer Expectations of Service

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CHAPTER 03

Customer expectations of service

L EARNING O BJECTIVES
This chapter’s objectives are to: 1 Recognize that customers hold different types of expectations for service performance. 2 Discuss the sources of customer expectations of service, including those that are controllable and uncontrollable by marketers. 3 Acknowledge that the types and sources of expectations are similar for end consumers and business customers, for pure service and product-related service, for experienced customers and inexperienced customers. 4 Delineate the most important current issues surrounding customer expectations.

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Importance of customer expectations

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CASE STUDY: CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS OF VIRGIN TRAINS
irgin Trains is a brand that has had the major challenge of bringing the UK rail industry into the twentieth century. The company is responsible for linking towns and cities across the length and breadth of the country with over 35 million passenger journeys each year. It has therefore undertaken a significant level of marketing research to identify what people expect from train travel. Many passengers have now had the experience of travelling on airlines or on overseas railways and as a result their expectations from long-distance train travel have increased. The research has highlighted the significant and highly diverse expectations that customers have of train travel. No longer is a seat and access to toilets and basic refreshments acceptable; passengers now expect – demand even – a choice of on-board meals, health-conscious snacks, reading material and entertainment. Business, and increasingly leisure, travellers also want access to the Internet and emails through on-board wireless Internet and the opportunity to use and charge their laptop and mobile. This clearly demonstrates that customer expectations of service performance do not remain constant. Organizations need to be aware of how these expectations are changing and adapt their service offering accordingly. Source: adapted from Knight, T. and Deas, S., ‘Across the tracks’, Research (February 2006)

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Importance of customer expectations

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ustomer expectations are beliefs about service delivery that serve as standards or reference points against which performance is judged. Because customers compare their perceptions of performance with these reference points when evaluating service quality, thorough knowledge about customer expectations is critical to services marketers. Knowing what the customer expects is the first and possibly most critical step in delivering good quality service. Being wrong about what customers want can mean losing a customer’s business when another company hits the target exactly. Being wrong can also mean expending money, time and other resources on things that do not count to the customer. Being wrong can even mean not surviving in a fiercely competitive market. Among the aspects of expectations that need to be explored and understood for successful services marketing are the following: what types of expectation standards do customers hold about services? What factors most influence the formation of these expectations? What role do these factors play in changing expectations? How can a service company meet or exceed customer expectations? In this chapter we provide a framework for thinking about customer expectations.1 The chapter is divided into three main sections: (1) the meaning and types of expected service, (2) factors that influence customer expectations of service, and (3) current issues involving customer service expectations.

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Chapter 3 Customer expectations of service

Meaning and types of service expectations

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o say that expectations are reference points against which service delivery is compared is only a beginning. The level of expectation can vary widely depending on the reference point the customer holds. Although most everyone has an intuitive sense of what expectations are, service...
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