Failure in Services Marketing


By

Prof. R.K. Gupta
BE Mech.Hons, MBA, F.I.E
Professor & Director
S.A. Jain Institute of Management & Techology (AIMT)
Ambala City-134 003
E-mail:
cityju@rediffmail.com / rkgupta_india@rediffmail.com
 


As the quality of life (also expressed as Human Development Index and its many variants by different global fora) improves, consumers acquire the knowledge and their ability to discern about services offering is rapidly improving. Their expectations rise and continue to rise as a consumer gets better service. The bar consistently goes up.

This human desire to keep improving is consistent with services quality demand till a period of saturation is attained when person looses interest significantly in materialistic assets, gains and ego satisfaction and depends more on reliability, convenience and empathy (geriatrics products and old age services requirements).

Services being people processes and mostly personalized except for explosive nature of services like telecom have special problem in attaining minimum and heterogeneous requirements of services which are consumer specific based on solution sought from service provider.

This means that the service delivery process and product have to be customized and the delivery process is heavily based on cultural practices, social attitudes, life-style, education background, ethics and past experiences of consumer.

It has been seen by my own field research and 30 years experience in industry working that following factors are important ingredients in service process design:

1. The way service provider deals with consumer enquiry and initial contact

2. The consistency of service provider with cultural and social behavior aspects of consumer as far as norms for inter personal interaction is concerned.

3. Quick and complete response

4. Providing relevant information

5. Social need for consumer to interact at personal level

6. Empathy and openness, listen to consumer experience, complaint and dissatisfaction

7. Customising of product offering to meet individual needs.

8. Highly trained, skilled and informative contact person like call center executive.

9. Basic details so that consumer can assess the Value-Price-Cost triangle.

More than in manufactured goods the service delivery success depends on:

1. Useful product and flexible options for choosing by consumer

2. Convenience

3. Personalized interaction

4. Flexibility and empowerment of front office executives

5. Assurance of quality delivery and reliability of service

6. Quick grievance handling, settlement and post sales service

If we carefully look into these aspects we find that selection of service staff has to be very rigorous and careful to pick those who find service and serving a natural flair.

A bad employee with poor service attitude is bound to fail despite training.

The attitude correction training is lengthy and uncertain process.

However by standardizing systems and processes and having genuine commitment to consumer can take partly care of personal inefficiencies by installing service processes, standardization and making the quality of service measurable. Continuous monitoring at critical control points is must to ensure high quality of service.

Let us take example of a Lawyer and a medical care center.

A client when contacts a lawyer is mostly in state of distress, apprehension, lack of legal knowledge and uncertainty of outcome.

The client also needs regular feedback from law firm on status and progress of case. The strong and weak points of client's case are important ingredients to satisfy client.

But by field observations I have found that not only the lawyers in India are poorly organized, overburdened but curt, unattached and tacit in the approach towards the client. This results in dissatisfaction and agony to client. Mere knowledge and competence of attorney is not enough. Constant communication and empathy are most important 2 factors for satisfaction in legal services.

In a health clinic that caters to tertiary level most clients are already under trauma, fear of miss happening and with unbearable symptoms, which certainly cannot be called normal.

The physician has not only to go deep into individual background, listen empathetically but first put patient to ease. Delay in starting service process is often highly traumatic. Here Operations research techniques and scheduling systems with good forecasting techniques can help reduce waiting period. 

Unfortunately Indian executives and entrepreneurs are overlooking the important aspect of cultural compatibility with the customer. The employees are not adequately empowered to decide.

Though India has adopted automated call centers and manual help lines with toll free numbers, the consumer satisfaction has been found to be low due to negligent attitude, plastic smile approach, lack of information and delay in service delivery (Particularly emergency services in heath care, breakdown of computers and cars and other such matters).

Although MNCs and Indian corporate have set up such centers but the commitment level, availability of information, reliability of technology and continuous monitoring functions are very poor.

The service attitude of most of front office staff/ call center agents is not very friendly and in line with Indian social and interpersonal behavior system.

It is also seen that detailed Business Process Analysis and control of critical points of service are not developed yet thus drastically reducing quality of both product and service delivery process.

We can thus see that problems in marketing of services are many folds and basically suffering due to poor service attitude, uncertain service time, and poor functionality of computerization and lack of trained and skilled service providers.

Since in most services consumer's details and history are required to be organized and transmitted on demand or periodically for open two ways communication, this aspect needs to be focused.

Unfortunately the CRM packages developed rely heavily on data compilation and analysis of consumer buying habits and for aggressive marketing tactics design. These don't pay attention to consumers' needs, background and quantitative measurement of service quality.

For value addition and better realization of profitability and productivity the services component has to go up even in physical goods like packaging, convenience, on time delivery, quality guarantee, highly efficient and courteous after sales service and adding secondary and tertiary features to core product functionality.

Personal touch to consumer, organized information and its accessibility to customer on demand or periodically, service attitude, empathy and use of modern database systems not only from service provider's view but from consumers point of view should be improved for better performance of services sector in India.

Government is biggest service provider but unfortunately no periodical consumer /Industry/Sector wise satisfaction surveys (for example electricity distribution, police and judicial services, public sanitation an primary health care) are got conducted in India and made available through interactive online systems.

Most of Indian and State governments are ill equipped poorly organized with colonial mindset of lording over common consumers be it Railways, Hospitals, Police service or Education. Thanks to Civil services quality and recruitment processes that are taxing, cramming based and through approaches and extraneous factors.

Empowerment of employees, accountability, organized consumer satisfaction surveys and attitude training are must to improve and sustain profitability, growth rate and value addition benefits for Indian services sector.

Otherwise we are bound to loose out to more professional and competitive countries.

It is unfortunate that India despite being known as a hospitable society is fairing so poor in consumer satisfaction in service delivery processes.

What is important to realize in services industry is that involvement of customer with front office employee or provider (Like a surgeon, lawyer or a teacher) and commitment level are most significant.

At the same time continuous product innovation and training of employees is critical to offer best combination of knowledge, skill, attitude and well-analyzed and controlled service delivery process.

MNCs should do well to ensure cultural compatibility in service delivery and communications processes and add value through building highly reliable and convenient service processes and product features. That is key to success in services marketing.

The author strongly believes that accent, language and racial differences really do not matter in human relationship processes like made out by several experts and MNCs regarding poor performance of Indian Call centers.

Know your customer, have excellent information system (two way) and show your commitment. Take care of socio-cultural aspects and communicate in consumer's language.

Our service sector also has to become world class by the yardsticks of:

1. On time delivery 2.Quick response on call  3.Transparent and open accessibility to information 4. Quick settlement of grievances/claims 5. Comprehensive and fast Automization of delivery processes so as to reach at least 80% content (now possible in heart surgery also), and 6. Use of well-analyzed web based marketing and information tools.

This should be mantra for services growth and profitability.

Methodology and background

This article is based on personal research and observation lasting from 2001 to 2005 December, of more than 10 services sectors (Public sector, Public administration and Private) in highly personalized, substitutable and explosive services businesses, besides some professional services like lawyers' and medical health center processes. Total sample size was 198 persons/contact points of various service providers. Hence no bibliography is available. The mode of research has been personal interviews with consumers, service front desk personnel and hands on investigation through use of Internet based services.
 


Prof. R.K. Gupta
BE Mech.Hons, MBA, F.I.E
Professor & Director
S.A. Jain Institute of Management & Techology (AIMT)
Ambala City-134 003
E-mail:
cityju@rediffmail.com / rkgupta_india@rediffmail.com
 

Source: E-mail February 11, 2006

   

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