“The service encounter: diagnosing favorable and unfavorable incidents” critique

“The service encounter: diagnosing favorable and unfavorable incidents”
By Mary Jo Bitner, Bernard H. Booms & Mary Stanfield Tetreault.

a. introduction
This article, extracted from the Journal of Marketing of January 1990, was written by Mary Jo Bitner, Bernard H. Booms and Mary Stanfield Tetreault. Starting from the fact that the observable service quality seems to be declining, theauthors tried to identify particular events causing customers to distinguish satisfactory from dissatisfactory services encounters. In order to do so, they conducted a study among customers of airlines, restaurants and hotels, asking them to identify the underlying causes of their satisfaction /dissatisfaction. The authors then used the Critical Incident Technique (CIT) to classify and categorize theresults into groups and subgroups. This method, by using content analysis of stories rather than quantitative solutions, was particularly useful in this case where the existing documentation on the subject was rare and usually voluntary general.
b. Method
The CIT method was used to categorize similar incidents into groups. Three major groups were formed and then divided into 12 sub groups. Thefollowing table is summing up these successive divisions:
Group 1
Employee response to service delivery system failures
Group 2
Employee response to customer needs and requests Group 3
Unprompted and unsolicited employees actions

SUBGROUPS Response to unavailable service Response to special needs customers. Attention paid to customer
Response to unreasonably slow serviceResponse to customers preferences
Truly out of the ordinary employee behavior
Response to other core service failures. Response to admitted customer error Employee behaviors in the contact of cultural norms
Response to potentially disruptive others
Gestalt evaluation (everything was good/ terrible…)
Exemplary performance under adverse circumstance.

c. Results analysis.
After havingclassified the results, they deducted that sources of satisfaction in service encounters could be found even when the encounter starts with a failure of the core service. If the failure is handled properly (ex: being upgraded for a better room if the reservation is lost, being offered the meal if the service is too long…) customers will remember the encounter pleasantly.
Another source ofsatisfaction comes from the ability of employees to customize services and respond well to what customers perceived to be “special requests” (which in fact, may not be that special from the employee point of view).
On the other side, a large part of dissatisfactory encounters (42,9%) is link to the inability of employees to well managed a failure in the core service. It is worthwhile noting thatit is not the failure in itself that is causing dissatisfaction (because if correctly handle it can be remembered as a pleasant experience as explained above) but the way employees will deal with the problem. Generally speaking, failures related to the ability of the employee to respond to special customers need are also rare, probably because employees are used to dealing with these requests,which therefore do not appear so special for them. Finally, some verbal and non verbal behavior from the part of the employee can be considered as unpleasant from the customer side.
Finally, they found out that the underlying causes of satisfying and dissatisfying events appear to be the same but the frequency differs. The most important thing to remember here is that employees’ behavior is keyand will distinguish a satisfying from a dissatisfying event. Therefore, from a managerial point of view, the selection and training of employees is crucial. Moreover, it is important to empower and train employees so that they are able to respond to client’s special needs and develop plan B actions in case of a core failure of the service. Companies should therefore pay careful attention to…