Delivering Services: Role of Employees and Customers in Service Delivery

You will recall that, services are produced by employees and consumed by customers simultaneously. Hence, customers must know the role that they would be expected to play at a particular service facility. They must be educated and trained, if necessary, to play appropriate roles at the service outlet, so that they can get the benefit of the service. Most customers learn their roles while growing up in life. However, they may not know the best role that they can play at a new service facility.

Take the case of customers waiting to receive medicines at a hospital pharmacy. Ordinarily, customers would submit their request for medicines and wait anxiously at the deliver counter for their medicines. In case there are many people waiting for their medicines, each person has to stand for a long time to receive their medicines. Few chairs might be placed near the counter for the patients to wait, but they might not consider being seated, rather they would stand anxiously around the counter to check that their request receives due priority, other people do not get their medicines out of turn, and the pharmacy employees do not delay delivering their medicines out of plain laziness. This situation used to take place at a hospital pharmacy and is commonly encountered in most hospital pharmacies.

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Role of customers in service delivery

Service delivery for customers can be seen in a factory. The place the service is produced and is consumed interacting with the employees and other customers.  E.g in a classroom or in a training situation, students (customers) are sitting in the factory interacting with the instructor and other students as they consume the educational services.

Since these customers are present during the service production, customers can contribute to or detract from the successful delivery of the service and to their own satisfaction.

Importance of customers in service delivery

Customer participation at some level is inevitable in service delivery. Services are actions or performances, typically produced and consumed simultaneously. In many situations employees, customers and even others in the service environment interact to produce the ultimate service outcome. As the customers receiving the service participates in the service delivery process. He or she can contribute to the gap through appropriate or inappropriate, effective or ineffective, productive or unproductive behaviors.

Customers who are unprepared in terms of what they want to order can soak up the customer service representative’s time as they seek advice. Similarly, shoppers who are not prepared with their credit cards can “put the representative on hold”. While they search for their credit cards or go to another room or even out of their cars to get them. Meanwhile, other customers and calls are left unattended, causing longer wait times and potential dissatisfaction.

Customer’s Roles

(i) Customers as a productive process

Service customers are referred to as “partial employees” of the organization. They are human resources who contribute to the organization’s productive capacity. In other words, if customers contribute effort, time or other resources to the service production process, they should be considered as part of the organization.

(ii) Customers as quality contributors to service delivery and satisfaction

Another role customers play in service delivery is that of the contributor to their own satisfaction and the ultimate quality of the services they receive. Customers may care little that they have increased the productivity of the organization through their participation. But they likely care a great deal about whether their needs are fulfilled. Effective customer participation can increase the likelihood of service delivery that their needs are met and that benefits the customer seeks are attained. Services such as health care, education, personal fitness, and weight loss, where the service outcome is highly dependent on the customers participation. In such services unless the customers perform their roles effectively, the desired service outcomes cannot be achieved.

(iii) Customers as competitors

A final role played by service customers is that of a potential competitor. If self-service customers can be viewed as resources of the firm, or as “partial employees,” self-service customers in some cases. They can partially perform the service or the entire service for themselves and may not need the provider at all.

Customers thus in that sense are competitors of the companies that supply the service. Whether to produce a service for themselves (internal exchange). E.g. child care, home maintenance i.e. have someone else provide home services for them (external exchange) is a common dilemma for consumers.

Similar internal versus external exchange decisions are made by organizations. Firms frequently choose to outsource service activities such as payroll, data processing, research, accounting, maintenance, and facilities management. They find  that it is advantageous to focus on their core businesses and leave these essential support services to others with greater expertise. Alternatively, a firm may decide to stop purchasing services externally and bring the service production process in-house.

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