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According to Coulter (2002):Research has documented that service relationships evolve during a specific service encounter as well as over time as customers get to know their service providers” (Coulter, 2002). Customers “getting to know” their service providers simply means having a better understanding of, and experience with, the provider. “Getting to know a service representative implies acquiring information. The more encounters one has with his/her service representative, the more information is accumulated about that service rep, and the more knowledge is gained about a particular service industry” (Coulter, 2002). Similarities between service employees and customers also build relationships. How he/she dresses, acts, and lives their life are all examples of similarities that can occur between each party as identified by Coulter (2002). “We expect that perceived similarity between customer and service representative (i.e. in terms of lifestyle, social class, education level, etc.) will contribute toward this feeling of confidence” (Coulter, 2002). In addition, when consumers identify these similarities, they feel comfort and like the employee can identify and relate to their needs. “…identification reduces interpersonal barriers, raises comfort levels, and contributes toward the establishment of trust. Research confirms that salespeople or service representatives who are perceived as being [comparable] to their customers are more influential in changing attitudes and opinions than dissimilar representatives” (Coulter, 2002). “Once service relationships have been established, the customers need to make inferences regarding a service provider based on cues such as similarity, empathy, or politeness. At this point, it is up to the service provider to deliver in a way that distinguishes him/her from others” (Coulter, 2002). When providers can meet the customer’s needs more efficiently, they are building trust. Delivering services in the most dependable way, while also providing quick service is most important, according to Coulter (2002). “…it is not personal attention, but a demonstration of commitment and resources to the customer’s individual needs that should be stressed in the latter stages of a service relationship” (Coulter, 2002). “The Role of Customers in Marketing” (n.d.) identifies various influences on a consumer’s decisions. Situational factors, personal factors, psychological factors, and social factors all influence customer decision making. As stated from an article by lumen learning: Situational factors pertain to the consumer’s level of involvement in a buying task and the market offerings that are available. Personal Factors are individual characteristics of consumers—traits such as age, life stage, economic situation, lifestyle, and personality. Psychological Factors relate to the consumer’s motivation, learning, socialization, attitudes, and beliefs. Social Factors pertain to the influence of culture/subculture, social class, family, and reference groups. As marketers gain a better understanding of these influencing factors, they can draw more accurate conclusions about consumer behavior.
(“The Role of Customers in Marketing”, n.d.)When businesses try to gain or already have gained trust, consumers can turn to competitors. If customers can perform the service themselves, they may realize that they no longer need the service supplier at all; this is especially true with self-service customers (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 23). “…customers in a sense are competitors of the companies that supply the service. Whether to produce a service for themselves (internal exchange)—for example, child care, home maintenance, or car repair—or have someone else provide the service for them is a common dilemma for consumers” (Zeithaml et al., 2013, p. 356). According to Eisingerich & Bell (2008), when a customer increases knowledge on a service, the chance of stronger customer loyalty in the long run also increases. “Many view customer education as a valuable augmentation to the service process through which firms may increase perceived value and ultimately achieve deeper, more trusting relationships with their customers” (Eisingerich & Bell, 2008). However, in terms of professional services, there are some uncertainties with customers. They begin to doubt the quality and reliability of services. Still, it seems educating customers provides potential for more advantages than disadvantages according to past research stated by Eisingerich & Bell (2008). “A firm’s efforts in providing customers with critical information and explaining important service concepts to them can reduce this uncertainty. Past research acknowledges the potential advantages of customer education for organizations” (Eisingerich & Bell, 2008). Customers play a role in service co-creation and delivery. Consumers really are the ones in charge when it comes down to it. If businesses suddenly lose their customers, it is going to be a big setback. It is arguable that consumers, at times, can have more control than the service providers. According to Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler (2013), customer participation at some level is inevitable in all service situations. “Because they participate, customers are indispensable to the production process of service organizations, and in many situations, they can control or contribute significantly to their own dis/satisfaction” (Zeithaml et al., 2013, p. 23). Trust plays a big part in maintaining customer retention (Hill, 2013, p. 268). It costs way more money to hire a brand-new customer than to keep an existing customer, which is why the consumer/service provider relationship must remain solid. “…researchers and consulting firms have in the past 20 years documented and quantified the financial impact of existing customers. Customer defection is costly to companies because new customers must replace lost customers, and replacement comes at a high cost” (Zeithaml et al., 2013, p. 476). Time is key to developing this trust and is also why the big service companies stated above have consumers locked in for life. Businesses can’t build these personal relationships with their clients overnight. Trust is a process that takes years, if not decades, to build; and when it comes to some of the major corporations, it has taken them centuries. It all comes down to creating a personalized relationship between businesses and consumers. By creating this relationship, businesses gain credibility and credibility creates opportunity. With no real disadvantages, it is an entity’s main marketing concern. When trust is created, consumers are then likely to become a backer of the service. A consumer enjoys a product and then tells their friend who tells their friend. Trust creates this ongoing cycle of demand. It’s the reason big service corporations are so successful. How can we get product to sell? How can we get customers interested in this service? These are questions managers and employees have and it’s the businesses that are observant of consumers interests that will have the answers. The role of trust in the marketing of services is a very big one. Businesses rely on customers and trust is what keeps them coming back. By establishing trust in an early age, identifying what employees could be doing wrong, and understanding consumer perceptions, trust can be gained, which is the goal for every business. A study shown by George & Barksdale (1974) revealed that marketing activity is diffused more in service firms than any other, which further ensures the point that special approaches must be used when dealing with intangible services. The scope is wider, the competition is vicious, and the ultimate decisions always come down to the consumer. In conclusion, businesses must prioritize every aspect of their services to accommodate the consumer if they truly want to be successful in the marketing of services.
ReferencesBecerril-Arreola, R., Zhou, C., Srinivasan, R., & Seldin, D. (2017). Service Satisfaction–Market Share Relationships in Partnered Hybrid Offerings. Journal of Marketing, 81(5), 86–103. Retrieved from https://zeus.tarleton.edu/login?url=https://search-ebscohost-com.zeus.tarleton.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=125210208&site=eds-live Berry, L. L. (2017, April 19). How Service Companies Can Earn Customer Trust and Keep It. Retrieved September 25th, 2018, from https://hbr.org/2017/04/how-service-companies-can-earn-customer-trust-and-keep-it Beverige, J. (2015, July 27). Trust - The Foundation of Your Professional Services Marketing Strategy. Retrieved October 2nd, 2018, from https://www.b2binboundmarketer.com/inbound-marketing-blog/trust-the-foundation-of-your-professional-services-marketing-strategy Coulter, K. S., & Coulter, R. A. (2002). Determinants of trust in a service provider: The moderating role of length of relationship. Journal of Services Marketing, 16 (1), 35-50. doi:10.1108/08876040210419406 Eisingerich, A. B., & Bell, S. J. (2008). Perceived Service Quality and Customer Trust. Journal of Service Research,10(3), 256-268. doi:10.1177/1094670507310769 George, W. R., & Barksdale, H. C. (1974). Marketing Activities in the Service Industries. Journal of Marketing, 38(4), 65–70. Retrieved from https://zeus.tarleton.edu/login?url=https://search-ebscohost-com.zeus.tarleton.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=4996487&site=eds-live Hill, M. E. (2013). Marketing Strategy: The Thinking Involved. Los Angeles: SAGE. Sheridan, M. (2018, January 31). Trust: The Competitive Advantage You May Be Overlooking. Retrieved October 10, 2018, from https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/openforum/articles/trust-competitive-advantage-may-overlooking/ The Role of Customers in Marketing. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wmopen-introbusiness/chapter/the-role-of-customers-in-marketing/ Zeithaml, V. A., Bitner, M. J., & Gremler, D. D. (2013). Services Marketing: Integrating Customer Focus Across the Firm (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education. Zeithaml, V. A., Parasuraman, A., & Berry, L. L. (1985). Problems and Strategies in Services Marketing. Journal of Marketing, 49(2), 33–46. Retrieved from https://zeus.tarleton.edu/login?url=https://search-ebscohost-com.zeus.tarleton.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=5001282&site=eds-live
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