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  • Höykinpuro, Ritva (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2009-08-18)
    The study concerns service management, and specifically the action service firms take with regard to customer dissatisfaction, customer complaints and complaining customers in high touch services. Customer dissatisfaction, customer complaints and complaining customers are called negative incidents in the study. The study fills a research gap in service management studies by investigating negative incidents as a part of an open service system. In contrast to main stream service management studies defining service quality as how the customer as a consumer defines it, in the present study, the concept of interactive service quality is adopted. The customer is considered as a co-producer of service who thus has a role to play in service quality and productivity. Additionally, the study juxtaposes the often opposed perspectives of the manager and the customer as well as the often forgotten silent voices of service employees and supervisors. The study proposes that the service firm as an entity does not act but it is the actors at the different hierarchical layers who act. Additionally, it is acknowledged in the study that the different actors at the different hierarchical layers have different knowledge of the service system and different objectives for service encounters. Therefore, they interpret the negative incidents from different perspectives and their actions upon negative incidents are subsequently guided by their interpretations. The research question is: how do service firms act upon negative incidents in high touch services? In order to answer to the research question a narrative research approach was chosen. The actors at the different hierarchical layers acted as informants of the study and provided stories about customer dissatisfaction, customer complaining and complaint handling in high touch services. Through storytelling, access to the socially constructed reality of service firms’ action was achieved. Stemming from the literature review, analysis of empirical data and my theoretical thinking, a theory about service firms’ action upon negative incidents in high touch services was developed and the research question was answered. The study contributes to service recovery and complaint management studies as well as to studies on customer orientation and its implementation in service firms. Additionally, the study has a methodological contribution to service management studies since it reflects service firms’ action with narratives from multiple perspectives. The study is positioned in the tradition of the Nordic School of Marketing Thought and presents service firms’ action upon negative incidents in high touch services as a complex human-centered phenomenon in which the actors at the different hierarchical layers have crucial roles to play. Ritva Höykinpuro is associated with CERS, the Centre for Relationship Marketing and Service Management at Hanken School of Economics.
  • Nyman, Henrich (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2013-12-18)
    To twist an old saying into ‘service logic’, one could express the ongoing paradigm shift in service marketing as – ‘service is not as usual, anymore’. This thesis argues for adopting service logic on profitability and, thus, for studying ‘service’ (singular) profitability as a divergent concept from ‘services’ (plural) profitability. For the uninitiated into the recent theoretical development within service marketing, the concepts of service and services might at a first glance appear indistinguishable. However, there is more to the concept of service in contrast to services and, hence, to the rationale for conceptualising service profitability as distinct from services profitability, than just omitting the letter -s from the word ‘service’. An increasingly growing body of the service marketing literature challenges the traditional services paradigm, in which services have been characterised as different from goods by four distinguishing ‘IHIP’ characteristics: ‘intangibility’, ‘heterogeneity’, ‘inseparability’ and ‘perishability’. The definitions of the IHIP characteristics are found to be too narrow and outdated as generic service characteristics. What is more, the ‘IHIP’ characteristics are not universally applicable to all services during all stages of the service process and fail to set apart services from goods in general. Most severely, the ‘IHIP’ characteristics are still based on the same goods- or manufacturing-centred logic that they are claimed to differ from. In contrast to services (plural) as a distinct category of market offerings, the contemporary perspectives on service (singular) represent various ways of thinking and, thus, logics or mental models on value creation from the customer’s point of view, founded on ‘value in use’. However, in emphasising value creation from the customers’ perspective, the contemporary perspectives on service pay considerably less attention, if at all, to the financial value of service from the service provider’s perspective and, as a result, to service profitability. Purposely, this thesis adopts a provider perspective on service by conceptualising service as consisting of two distinct processes: the service sales process and the service provision process. Nevertheless, the customer perspective on these processes is imperative for the financial consequences of the service. From the customers’ perspective, the service sales process deals with value propositions, which indicates that service offerings are not the final result of an economic activity but should add value for customers. Moreover, from the customers’ perspective, the service provision process comprises value facilitation, i.e. the facilitation of the customers’ value-creation activities. Consequently, this thesis argues that the concept of service profitability could be characterised as the financial outcome of service sales and service provision, wherein the service provider’s facilitation and support of the customers’ value creation activities is paramount.
  • Viio, Paul (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2011-11-14)
    Although previous research has recognised adaptation as a central aspect in relationships, the adaptation of the sales process to the buying process has not been studied. Furthermore, the linking of relationship orientation as mindset with adaptation as a strategy and forming the means has not been elaborated upon in previous research. Adaptation in the context of relationships has mostly been studied in relationship marketing. In sales and sales management research, adaptation has been studied with reference to personal selling. This study focuses on adaptation of the sales process to strategically match it to the buyer’s mindset and buying process. The purpose of this study is to develop a framework for strategic adaptation of the seller’s sales process to match the buyer’s buying process in a business-to-business context to make sales processes more relationship oriented. In order to arrive at a holistic view of adaptation of the sales process during relationship initiation, both the seller and buyer are included in an extensive case analysed in the study. However, the selected perspective is primarily that of the seller, and the level focused on is that of the sales process. The epistemological perspective adopted is constructivism. The study is a qualitative one applying a retrospective case study, where the main sources of information are in-depth semi-structured interviews with key informants representing the counterparts at the seller and the buyer in the software development and telecommunications industries. The main theoretical contributions of this research involve targeting a new area in the crossroads of relationship marketing, sales and sales management, and buying and purchasing by studying adaptation in a business-to-business context from a new perspective. Primarily, this study contributes to research in sales and sales management with reference to relationship orientation and strategic sales process adaptation. This research fills three research gaps. Firstly, linking the relationship orientation mindset with adaptation as strategy. Secondly, extending adaptation in sales from adaptation in selling to strategic adaptation of the sales process. Thirdly, extending adaptation to include facilitation of adaptation. The approach applied in the study, systematic combining, is characterised by continuously moving back and forth between theory and empirical data. The framework that emerges, in which linking mindset with strategy with mindset and means forms a central aspect, includes three layers: purchasing portfolio, seller-buyer relationship orientation, and strategic sales process adaptation. Linking the three layers enables an analysis of where sales process adaptation can make a contribution. Furthermore, implications for managerial use are demonstrated, for example how sellers can avoid the ‘trap’ of ad-hoc adaptation. This includes involving the company, embracing the buyer’s purchasing portfolio, understanding the current position that the seller has in this portfolio, and possibly educating the buyer about advantages of adopting a relationship-oriented approach.
  • Hellman, Pia (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2014-06-04)
    The starting point of this research was the increasing popularity of companies introducing e-services because of the expected increase in efficiency. However, the introduction of an e-service does not automatically lead to usage. Research shows that even when consumers say that they prefer to have their transactions handled by digital channels, the adoption rate of e-services is lower than what the company has expected. This study set out to investigate if marketing communication through e-mail could increase e-service adoption rates. There is clearly a lack of understanding of what drives consumers to use e-services. Generally, there are monetary benefits for the company when consumers switch to online services. For the consumers, however, the benefits are not necessarily evident. In order to build positive consumer perceptions of the e-service benefits and increase e-service adoption, the firms need to communicate the benefits to consumers. This thesis investigates if communicating e-service benefits to consumers can increase e-service adoption. Based on a conceptual framework of e-service benefits and e-service communication, the effect of communicating e-service benefits through e-mail in a b-to-c environment was measured. Three studies were conducted, of which the main study was a field experiment. An experimental design was applied to new customers of a telecom service provider. Three benefits were measured: time savings, easy to use, and access to information. The adoption was measured as the web traffic, including e-mail click-through-rates and login rates to the e-service. The effect of each e-service benefit used alone, in pairs or in a combination of all three benefits was measured. The effect of repeat actions was also tested. The findings from the experiment revealed that there were differences between the effects of the treatments on different behaviors in the adoption process. However, this research failed to provide strong evidence supporting a positive effect of e-mail communication on e-service adoption. Nevertheless, the results suggest that companies should carefully investigate which benefits consumers are seeking and how to communicate the benefits during the stages of the consumer adoption process. The study shows that consumers’ interest in and perception of e-service benefits can vary during the different stages of the e-service adoption process.
  • Wendelin, Robert (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2004-09-24)
    A focus on cooperative industrial business relationships has become increasingly important in studies of industrial relationships. If the relationships between companies are strong it is usually a sign that companies will cooperate for a longer time and that may affect companies’ competitive and financial strength positively. As a result the bonds between companies become more important. This is due to the fact that bonds are building blocks of relationships and thus affect the stability in the cooperation between companies. Bond strength affect relationship strength. A framework regarding how bonds develop and change in an industrial business relationship has been developed in the study. Episodes affect the bonds in the relationship strengthening or weakening the bonds in the relationship or preserving status quo. Routine or critical episodes may lead to the strengthening or weakening of bonds as well as the preservation of status quo. The method used for analyzing bond strength trying to grasp the nature and change of bonds was invented by systematically following the elements of the definitions of bonds. A system with tables was drawn up in order to find out if the bond was weak, of medium strength or strong. Bonds are important regulators of industrial business relationships. By influencing the bonds one may have possibilities to strengthen or weaken the business relationship. Strengthen the business relationship in order to increase business and revenue and weaken the relationship in order to terminate business where the revenue is low or where there may be other problems in the relationship. By measuring the strength of different bonds it can be possible to strengthen weak bonds in order to strengthen the relationship. By using bond management it is possible to strategically strengthen or weaken the bonds between the cooperating companies in order to strengthen the cooperation and tie the customer or supplier to the company or weaken the cooperation in order to terminate the relationship. The instrument for the management of bonds is to use the created bond audit in order to know which bonds resources should be focused on in order to increase or decrease their strength.
  • Wägar, Karolina (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2007-08-10)
    The starting point of this thesis is the notion that in order for organisations to understand what customers value and how customers experience service, they need to learn about customers. The first and perhaps most important link in an organisation-wide learning process directed at customers is the frontline contact person. Service- and sales organisations can only learn about customers if the individual frontline contact persons learn about customers. Even though it is commonly recognised that learning about customers is the basis for an organisation’s success, few contributions within marketing investigate the fundamental nature of the phenomenon as it occurs in everyday customer service. Thus, what learning about customers is and how it takes place in a customer-service setting is an issue that is neglected in marketing research. In order to explore these questions, this thesis presents a socio-cultural approach to understanding learning about customers. Hence, instead of considering learning equal to cognitive processes in the mind of the frontline contact person or learning as equal to organisational information processing, the interactive, communication-based, socio-cultural aspect of learning about customers is brought to the fore. Consequently, the theoretical basis of the study can be found both in socio-cultural and practice-oriented lines of reasoning, as well as in the fields of service- and relationship marketing. As it is argued that learning about customers is an integrated part of everyday practices, it is also clear that it should be studied in a naturalistic and holistic way as it occurs in a customer-service setting. This calls for an ethnographic research approach, which involves direct, first-hand experience of the research setting during an extended period of time. Hence, the empirical study employs participant observations, informal discussions and interviews among car salespersons and service advisors at a car retailing company. Finally, as a synthesis of theoretically and empirically gained understanding, a set of concepts are developed and they are integrated into a socio-cultural model of learning about customers.
  • Heinonen, Kristina (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2004-04-29)
    Since the emergence of service marketing, the focus of service research has evolved. Currently the focus of research is shifting towards value co-created by the customer. Consequently, value creation is increasingly less fixed to a specific time or location controlled by the service provider. However, present service management models, although acknowledging customer participation and accessibility, have not considered the role of the empowered customer who may perform the service at various locations and time frames. The present study expands this scope and provides a framework for exploring customer perceived value from a temporal and spatial perspective. The framework is used to understand and analyse customer perceived value and to explore customer value profiles. It is proposed that customer perceived value can be conceptualised as a function of technical, functional, temporal and spatial value dimensions. These dimensions are suggested to have value-increasing and value-decreasing facets. This conceptualisation is empirically explored in an online banking context and it is shown that time and location are more important value dimensions relative to the technical and functional dimensions. The findings demonstrate that time and location are important not only in terms of having the possibility to choose when and where the service is performed. Customers also value an efficient and optimised use of time and a private and customised service location. The study demonstrates that time and location are not external elements that form the service context, but service value dimensions, in addition to the technical and functional dimensions. This thesis contributes to existing service management research through its framework for understanding temporal and spatial dimensions of perceived value. Practical implications of the study are that time and location need to be considered as service design elements in order to differentiate the service from other services and create additional value for customers. Also, because of increased customer control and the importance of time and location, it is increasingly relevant for service providers to provide a facilitating arena for customers to create value, rather than trying to control the value creation process. Kristina Heinonen is associated with CERS, the Center for Relationship Marketing and Service Management at the Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration
  • Nordman, Christina (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2004-04-23)
    Customer loyalty has been a central topic of both marketing theory and practice for several decades. Customer disloyalty, or relationship ending, has received much less attention. Despite the close relation between customer loyalty and disloyalty, they have rarely been addressed in the same study. The thesis bridges this gap by focusing on both loyal and disloyal customers and the factors characterising them. Based on a qualitative study of loyal and disloyal bank customers in the Finnish retail banking market, both factors that are common to the groups and factors that differentiate between them are identified. A conceptual framework of factors that affect customer loyalty or disloyalty is developed and used to analyse the empirical data. According to the framework, customers’ loyalty status (behavioural and attitudinal loyalty) is influenced by positive, loyalty-supporting, and negative, loyalty-repressing factors. Loyalty-supporting factors either promote customer dedication, making the customer want to remain loyal, or act as constraints, hindering the customer from switching. Among the loyalty-repressing factors it is especially important to identify those that act as triggers of disloyal behaviour, making customers switch service providers. The framework further suggests that by identifying the sources of loyalty-supporting and -repressing factors (the environment, the provider, the customer, the provider-customer interaction, or the core service) one can determine which factors are within the control of the service provider. Attitudinal loyalty is approached through a customer’s “feeling of loyalty”, as described by customers both orally and graphically. By combining the graphs with behavioural loyalty, seven customer groups are identified: Stable Loyals, Rescued Loyals, Loyals at Risk, Positive Disloyals, Healing Disloyals, Fading Disloyals, and Abrupt Disloyals. The framework and models of the thesis can be used to analyse factors that affect customer loyalty and disloyalty in different service contexts. Since the empirical study was carried out in a retail bank setting, the thesis has managerial relevance especially for banks. Christina Nordman is associated with CERS, Center for Relationship Marketing and Service Management at the Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration. The doctoral thesis is part of the Göran Collert Research Project in Customer Relationships and Retail Banking and has been funded by The Göran Collert Foundation.
  • von Koskull, Catharina (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2009-08-04)
    Service researchers have repeatedly claimed that firms should acquire customer information in order to develop services that fit customer needs. Despite this, studies that would concentrate on the actual use of customer information in service development are lacking. The present study fulfils this research gap by investigating information use during a service development process. It demonstrates that use is not a straightforward task that automatically follows the acquisition of customer information. In fact, out of the six identified types of use, four represent non usage of customer information. Hence, the study demonstrates that the acquisition of customer information does not guarantee that the information will actually be used in development. The current study used an ethnographic approach. Consequently, the study was conducted in the field in real time over an extensive period of 13 months. Participant observation allowed direct access to the investigated phenomenon, i.e. the different types of use by the observed development project members were captured while they emerged. In addition, interviews, informal discussions and internal documents were used to gather data. A development process of a bank’s website constituted the empirical context of the investigation. This ethnography brings novel insights to both academia and practice. It critically questions the traditional focus on the firm’s acquisition of customer information and suggests that this focus ought to be expanded to the actual use of customer information. What is the point in acquiring costly customer information if it is not used in the development? Based on the findings of this study, a holistic view on customer information, “information in use” is generated. This view extends the traditional view of customer information in three ways: the source, timing and form of data collection. First, the study showed that the customer information can come explicitly from the customer, from speculation among the developers or it can already exist implicitly. Prior research has mainly focused on the customer as the information provider and the explicit source to turn to for information. Second, the study identified that the used and non-used customer information was acquired both previously, and currently within the time frame of the focal development process, as well as potentially in the future. Prior research has primarily focused on the currently acquired customer information, i.e. within the timeframe of the development process. Third, the used and non-used customer information was both formally and informally acquired. In prior research a large number of sophisticated formal methods have been suggested for the acquisition of customer information to be used in development. By focusing on “information in use”, new knowledge on types of customer information that are actually used was generated. For example, the findings show that the formal customer information acquired during the development process is used less than customer information already existent within the firm. With this knowledge at hand, better methods to capture this more usable customer information can be developed. Moreover, the thesis suggests that by focusing stronger on use of customer information, service development processes can be restructured in order to facilitate the information that is actually used.
  • Leino, Mirel (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2004-05-25)
    Many service management studies have suggested that service providers benefit from having long-term relationships with customers, but the argument from a customer perspective has been vague. However, especially in the business-to-business context, an analysis of financial value creation seems appropriate also from a customer perspective. Hence, the aim of this study is to develop a framework for understanding monetary value creation in professional service assignments from a customer perspective. The contribution of this study is an improved insight and framework for understanding financial value creation from a customer perspective in a professional service delivery process. The sources for monetary differences between transactional and long-term service providers are identified and quantified in case settings. This study contributes to the existing literature in service and relationship management by extending the customer’s viewpoint from perceived value to measurable monetary value. The contribution to the professional services lies in the process focus as opposed to the outcome focus, which is often accentuated in the existing professional services literature. The findings from the qualitative data suggest that a customer company may benefit from having an improved understanding of the service delivery (service assignment) process and the factors affecting the monetary value creation during the process. It is suggested that long-term relationships with service providers create financial value in the case settings in the short term. The findings also indicate that by using the improved understanding, a customer company can make more informed decisions when selecting a service provider for a specific assignment. Mirel Leino is associated with CERS, the Center for Relationship Marketing and Service Management at the Swedish School of Economics and Business Administration
  • Rytting, Leif (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2007-01-10)
    I detta arbete accentueras kunden som medverkande aktör vid tillkomsten av tjänster och specifikt då inom den konsumentorienterade sektorn, vilken är en naturlig del av vårt vardagsliv. Såväl kommersiella som icke-kommersiella tjänster beaktas och på denna grund står kundrollen i centrum. Detta är primärt parallellt med valet av perspektiv, vilket genomgående får en fundamental betydelse. Kunders aktiva medverkan framstår som en naturlig och väsentlig ingrediens inom tjänstesektorn, vilket understryks och poängteras i detta arbete inom ramen för en samlad bild av kunden i rollen som medverkande aktör. Därmed markeras betydelsen av att söka förstå fenomenet ”kundmedverkan” utifrån en helhetssyn och med denna utgångspunkt tydliggöra en helhet, en samlad bild, och de delar som bygger och formar denna. Tre ingredienser aktualiseras härvid som tongivande och dessa präglar den bild som i detta arbete framträder av kunden som medverkande part. I ett första steg klarläggs sådana aktiviteter som bygger och formar kundens medverkan. Denne engagerar sig och presterar olika aktiviteter, insatser, vilka framstår som ett fundament i fenomenet. På denna grund skapas och formas kundens input i tjänsteprocessen, dennes processbidrag. Därmed fokuseras kundens processnära funktion, samtidigt som vikten av att parallellt uppmärksamma insatser respektive processbidrag betonas. Vidare klarläggs de effekter som kan uppkomma för såväl kunden själv som tjänsteorganisationen och andra inblandade kunder. Olika typer av effekter lyfts fram och tydliggörs med koppling till bland annat tidsrelaterade inslag. Kunders inflytande på såväl kvalitetsupplevelser som produktivitet är härvid av naturligt intresse. Teoretisk analys och begreppsutveckling har varit tongivande inslag i forskningsstrategin, samtidigt som perspektivfrågan har intagit en avgörande position. Vidare har erfarenhetsbaserade bilder av ”kundens vardag” byggt en väsentlig grund, parallellt med teoretiska erfarenheter. I arbetet utvecklas och presenteras referensramar för kunders medverkan i tjänsteprocessen. Inom ramen för en samlad bild erbjuds härigenom möjligheter till analys av konsumentrelaterade verksamheter av skiftande karaktär. Detta framstår som väsentligt med hänsyn till de variationer som kan framträda inom tjänstesektorn.
  • Liewendahl, Helena (Svenska handelshögskolan, 2014-08-07)
    Motivation is a popular notion in today’s worklife. Employees, in particular those who work in traditional customer service, should be motivated to care for their customers. Service literature assumes that managers are able to order subjectivity towards employees and see to it that employees are motivated. This study deviates from this viewpoint by adopting a humanistic and systemic stance. It sees motivation as an intrinsic process, and employees as active subjects in worklife as well as owners of their motivation. It takes an employee perspective as it sets out to explore their motivation to live up to value promises. Value promises is another topical concept. Currently, companies promise all kinds of things that should enhance customers’ value formation. Often these promises deviate from what actually occurs in service encounters, and psychological contracts such as value, brand and service promises are broken. Currently employees do, despite the increase of e-services, have a substantial role in delivering promises. The more complex and abstract the promise is, such as “the best service”, the more is required of employees to live up to it. The more emotion work embedded in the promise, the more important motivation for living up to it becomes. Taking value practices, i.e., service encounters and firm internal practices underpinning these as its locus, this study explored employees’ experiences by identifying issues that employees found having an impact on their work in customer interface, and thus influencing their motivation. A number of demotivating as well as motivating factors were identified: Too abstract marketing ideas and fuzzy promises, as well as a paternalistic and objectifying stance towards employees do impinge motivation negatively. Truthful authentic promises that reflect value practices as they are, and employees having agency to participate not only in delivering, but also in enabling and giving promises, to name a few, were found to have a positive impact on motivation. By noting these factors, this study strives to widen our understanding of the mechanisms that underpin employee motivation in a service context. The thesis suggests a Human Service Logic (HSL) as a new paradigmatic perspective to service research, parallel to the other current prevailing service logics. As central to employee motivation, the HSL emphasises social- and service competences. Drawing upon the three promises framework a promise integration (PI) model is suggested. The PI model introduces a new perspective on the TPF model; reordering, reorienting, and reframing it from promise management, governed mainly by managerial control, norms, and procedure, to a dynamic promise-living perspective, directed by human principles and co-active managing of value practices. The HSL framework, and its PI model, describes an employee discourse on motivation in a service context.