Service and relationship marketing are interrelated with each other. For the service to be effective in fulfilling the purpose of the customers, building a strong relationship is extremely essential. Relationship building is a process which organizations invest time on, as they feel that the only way to increase their revenue by attracting more customers, is through delivering quality service on a consistent basis, thus create a brand image on the minds of the customers.
TransLink, the organization considered for the report, is under the Department of Transport and Main Roads, which puts a conscious effort to make lives convenient for the people of Queensland, through the introduction of ticketing system in an integrated manner and go card smartcard system. Through the service provider, different elements of service marketing, where front stage and back stage functions of the organization will be discussed (Achroll and Kotler 2014). Then, the moments of truth would be highlighted along with discussions related to the determinants of the satisfaction/dissatisfaction, through relevant theories, followed by service quality measurement and quality gaps associated with the concerned organization. Finally, a service-recovery strategy plan would be devised to cope up with various critical incidents(Amponsah and Adams 2016).
Thus, the report would conclude that service and relationship marketing has a big role to play in the world of business. Customers form the basis of business, upon whom the image and success of an organization lies. Maintaining the quality in terms of services delivered by businesses is of utmost importance, for an organization to survive in an competitive work environment.
2.1 Service Organization’s Front Stage And Back Stage Functions
A service organization can become successful only if the services are rendered in an integrated manner. This will surely create an image on the minds of the customers. These organizations are divided into two parts, front stage and back stage and the functions are carried out accordingly. Front Stage is utilized to carry out communications with the customers. Generally, people working in front stage, may not be totally aware of the ways in which the organization carries out their business, the minute details of the services but they remain well conversant with the types of services(Christopher, Payne and Ballantyne 2013). These people play pivotal roles for the successful delivery of services. In case of TransLink, the front stage functions would be, the communications carried out by the concerned authorities responsible for handling the ticket counters and enquiry rooms, by providing accurate information regarding train and bus timings and all other relevant details. A good front stage function will help people to create a fair perception in their minds, about TransLink that they focus on maintaining clarity by providing customers with accurate details (Gordon 2013).
There are many activities which take place prior to the front stage functions for the successful completion of service delivery. These activities, which are carried out, without the customers noticing them, refer to the Back Stage functions. People involved in carrying out these functions, don’t deal with the customers directly. In recent times, usage of technologies has increased to a great extent while carrying out back stage activities.The main reason behind the usage of technology is to increase operational efficiencies of people working in those departments, by avoiding manual errors and also maintain the standard. For TransLink, Back Stage functions would be to take care of the maintenance of trains, with respect to the quality of seats, see that the air conditioners are working properly to avoid any inconvenience to the passengers(Gummesson and Grönroos 2012). Then, most importantly look into the aspects of hygiene, by monitoring that the train compartments are clean, seats of the buses are maintained appropriately, so that the passengers can have pleasant trips on a consistent basis.
2.2 “Moments of Truth” For TransLink
Moments of truth refer to the different instances when customers come in direct contact with the employees of an organization, which ultimately helps the customers in creating a different impression about the company or develop a completely new understanding of the organizations. This helps to make or break an organization, based on the interactions which the representatives of the organizations create, on the minds of the customers(Hall, Timothy and Duval 2012).Different instances could contribute to the moment of truth, from greeting customers, tackling customers queries or resolving their issues, promotion of special offers, providing discounts or the interactions while closing a sale.
In case of TransLink, the moments of truth would be the impressions which the transport authorities create on the minds of the passengers, through delivering quality and authentic services(Hollensen 2015).TransLink can create moments of truth through providing accurate information about the timings of trains, buses and ferries. Putting up timetables at bus stands, stations, also on travel magazines would help the passengers to get information on the go. Any service, which aims at minimizing customer’s troubles and delivering quality at all costs, is sure to excel and grow as time goes on. Communicating in a polite and courteous manner would help create lasting impression on the minds of the customers (Lee, Lee and Li 2012). The general rule is, behavioral conduct of organization’s employees play a major role in the upliftment of any organization, more so in case of service organization. TransLink’s success would depend on how frequently passengers avail their services to travel. Another crucial aspect which plays a significant role in moment of truth is the safety features adopted by the authorities to take care of their passengers in case of any problem or eventuality (Mok, Sparks and Kadampully 2013).
Provision of alarms and helpline numbers in trains, buses would be effective ways to give passengers, the assurance that they are in safe hands. Similarly, keeping first aid boxes in different vehicles would be extremely helpful to let people travel in a safe and secured manner. Thus these proactive steps would not only make sure that the image of the service organization is upheld in front of the passengers, who had spoken well of the organization but also help people to change perceptions(Nelson and Mulley 2013).
2.3 a) Determinants of Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction For TransLink
Satisfaction or Dissatisfaction of the customers in case of any organization is dependent on how well the employees of an organization, discharge their duties to deliver quality service at reasonable cost to the right person and at right time. Each and every customer, carry certain level of expectations as and when they approach an organization for getting some of their problems solved or to get some work done. First impression is the last impression. So, the way customers get greeted, when they get into an organization has a direct link with the image that gets created on the customers’ minds (Peck et al. 2013). If the services for which people visit a particular company are delivered as per the expectations of the customers, that would be the perfect way to get a satisfied and loyal customer. The opposite would happen, if the employees are not efficient enough to solve the problems or in providing the services required by the customers (Rubalcaba et al. 2012).
For TransLink, the main determinants of Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction would be the timely arrivals of trains and buses, as per the schedule. Maintaining cleanliness in the modes of transport plays a major role in creating an excellent image of the organization on the minds of the customers (Setó-Pamies 2012). Striving for improvement on all aspects of travel would give enough impetus to the passengers and make them avail TransLink’s transport services and thus provide ultimate satisfaction through excellent service. Putting proper security measures in place and keeping the interests of the passengers ahead of any other self-interest would be ideal way for attracting more people into the system and thus create unique experiences for them (Tsiotsou and Goldsmith 2012).
Similarly, if the processes carried out while delivering the services are not upto the mark and they lead to confusion and chaos, they would heavily contribute towards damaging TransLink’s image to a great extent. Hygiene, quality of foods are also responsible for creating satisfaction or dissatisfaction on the minds of the customers.
b) Theories To Discuss Service Quality Measurement (and Gaps) In TransLink
Service Quality Measurement is the process of managing the quality of services delivered to a customer as per his expectations. This primarily helps to assess how well a service has been provided, look into the possible ways of bringing in improvements, identify loopholes and take measures to rectify them for increasing customer satisfaction.
To understand the concept better, some relevant theories have been discussed :
- i) Grönroos Model for Service Quality
Gronroos Model, better known as the Nordic Model of service quality, states that total perceived service quality is the result of an evaluation process where the customer compares specific expectations of quality with the experienced quality from an organization (Gronroos and Gummerus 2014). The expectations of quality are context specific to the firm under consideration and not based on the total class of service providers, as is the case in the Anglo-Saxon model (van Lierop and El-Geneidy 2016). In this scenario, customers would solely judge the services provided by TransLink and not look into the overall service provided by the transport agencies in their region. Gronroos Model recognizes the fact that the result of the service provided and service delivery process, both form a part of the quality experienced by customer
- ii) SERVQUAL–
SERVQUAL is a research instrument designed to get hold of the consumer expectations and perceptions framed by them, for a particular service along five parameters, which are supposed to represent service quality. Service quality is understood as the extent to which consumers' pre-consumption expectations of quality are met or not met by how customer receive the service and the way they perceive the experience. When the SERVQUAL questionnaire was first published in 1988 by the team of academic researchers, A. Parasurman, Valarie Zeithamal and Leonard L. Berry to measure quality in the service sector, the questionnaire represented a breakthrough in the methods adopted to measure service quality research. Their study involved twelve focus groups and the results obtained from those groups confirmed that the users get influenced by the dimensions of the process and not just through the results of the service quality evaluation (van Lierop and El-Geneidy 2017).
The pattern of responses, through this study revealed ten evaluative criteria, with the help of which the users can evaluate, irrespective of the service investigated, namely:
- a) tangibility: the physical appearance of people, their conduct, the service equipments used,
- b) reliability : the services are delivered by keeping up with the promise and maintenance of the expected standards,
- c) responsiveness : the abilities of the employees to act swiftly upon any need of the customers and thereby give them no reason to complain,
- d) competence : employees possess sound knowledge and quality to deliver the services in the best possible manner,
- e) cordiality : the way employees conduct themselves in front of the customers by maintaining politeness, giving the desired respect, consider the customers’ queries and respond in a friendly manner,
- f) credibility : services discharged by conforming to the rules and regulations in an honest manner, so that the customers are not duped,
- g)safety :the delivery of services, should be made in a safe and secured manner, so that there is no risk involved for the customers,
- h) accessibility : the employees of the organization should be easily accessible to the customers, so that in times of need the customers can approach them for solving any issue,
- i) communication – the customers should receive the necessary details regarding the services rendered by the organization in a clear manner, so that they help in the decision making activities of the customers,
- j) comprehension : the organization must make a conscious attempt to understand the customers and their needs. For TransLink, all these aspects form the basis of their endeavour to provide effective service to the customers in a seamless manner (White 2016).
Understanding the gaps between the service expectations and service delivery and taking necessary steps to to get rid of the problems arising out of them, are a necessity for any organization to survive in this competitive business environment. The secret to retain and attract more customers, is through maintaining the standard and seek for the constant improvement while delivering the services.
3) Service Recovery Strategy Plan:
Service recovery strategies deal with identification of customers’ issues and then address those issues to satisfy the customers and thereby lead the way towards customer retention. Recoveries of services require a systematic approach, which must be designed effectively and implemented, as and when the need arises to put the organization in good stead for the customers to rely upon (Wilson et al. 2012). Central theme for the service recovery strategy, the customers’ needs and demands, should be given the due importance by all the employees of an organization (Wirtz 2012).Research has proved that the customers, who have had problems while experiencing different services, got resolved by the organizations’ service delivery people go on to become loyal customers for that organization. Another recovery strategy that service organizations like TransLink could come up with, to understand customer’s needs and wants in a much better manner, is by putting up on their website, feedback forms and option to give suggestions for improvements. These inputs from the customers, will surely help the agency to customize their services as per the passengers’ expectations.
Every organization has to keep certain strategies in place to cope up with the unforeseen circumstances, so that they have options in place to serve customers in the desired manner by maintaining the requisite quality and standard. This is even more applicable for service agencies, where businesses are based upon satisfying the customers’ needs and wants in the best possible manner. Nothing works better, to keep up the image of an organization, than by delivering quality service on all possible levels. TransLink would do well to provide the best of services by maintaining cordial and healthy relationships with their passengers.
The services delivered by an organization to their customers will only be effective when relationship between the two parties is based on trust, confidence and clear communication. The company, delivering the services, in this case, TransLink will be able to deliver quality service consistently, only if they are aware of the customers’ needs and desires. Creating a good image on the minds of the customers, is imperative for any service organization to excel in a highly competitive business environment. For a transport agency, looking at ways to improve on their services and maintaining cordial relationship with the customers are integral for maintaining the success and image of the organization. To meet up with the constant needs and demands of the customers, TransLink is required to think out of the box and come up with every possible facility, which would make people avail their services on a regular basis by providing quality foods in the pantry and maintaining hygiene.
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