A service encounter is simply defined as a customer’s actual interaction with a service company. Shostack (1985) defined service encounter as the period of time that a customer interacts with a service. Merritt (1977:198), a linguistic scholar, views a service encounter as an instance of face to face interaction between a server who is ‘officially posted’ in some service area, that interaction being oriented to the satisfaction of the customer’s presumed desire for some service and the server’s obligation to provide that service. The service encounter is also known as the ‘moment of truth’ in which the customer often develops a perception about the business and often creates a differentiation from other competitors. Solomon et al (1985) points out that service encounters are role performances. A service encounter includes a customer’s interaction with other customers, employees, machines, automated systems, physical facilities, and any other service provider visible elements. Researchers such as Czepiel et al 1990 believe that the quality of the interaction between customers and service providers during the service encounter is important because it is at this level where customers judge the services provided to them.
It can therefore be argued that to a greater extent the service encounter determines the quality of the service on offer both positively and negatively when analysing the interaction between service employees and service customers, interaction between service customers themselves, interaction of a customer with technology, service setting, service script and blueprinted service encounters. However there are other factors that determine the quality of the service on offer such as the intermediaries and the processes.
To a greater extent the service encounter determines the quality of the service on offer by analyzing the interactions involved in the encounter. Service employees involved in the service encounter can determine the quality of the service on offer as thet interact with the customer during the core production and consumption of the service. The service employees are responsible for the actual delivery of the service to the customer and are divided into the front line and back office service employees. Front line service employees need to be well dressed and should poses good communication skills so as to assist the customer to experience a quality service hence failure to do so can lead to a poor service being offered. For example when a customers goes into a bank to withdraw money and fail to correctly fill in the withdrawal slip. The front line service employee should be able to assist the customer without making them feel like they are illiterate hence a quality service can be offered. Also if the service employee is not smartly dressed the customer tends to perceive the service being offered as that of poor quality.
The back office service employees also have an indirect effect on the service being offered in the service encounter. The front line depends on the back office as the back office offers support services to ensure that the transaction taking place in the service encounter moves smoothly. For example in a hotel the service employees in the kitchen ensure that a good meal is cooked which will then be delivered by the waiters who are the front line service employees and if the food tastes bad, the service offered in that encounter is deemed to be of poor quality. It can then be argued that the service employees in the service encounter determines the quality of the service on offer as a they are the ones responsible for closing Gap 4 (service quality gap model) which entails to the void that is between the standard of quality promised and the actual service delivered hence there action can determine a positive or negative service offer.
Service customer interaction in the service encounter determines the quality of the service on offer. In the encounter there are a lot of...
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