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Service Encounter Journal Essay

At the clinic, the nurse greeted me and attended to my registeration promptly. She informed me of the estimated waiting time and suggested to me that I could go for my breakfast nearby while waiting for my turn. Since I had my breakfast already, I chose to wait. I was warmly greeted by the doctor when I entered the consultation room. His room is simple and neat, there is also a large professonal certificate plaque hanging on the wall behind him. Unlike other doctors who would start by asking for my sickness, he started a friendly conversation to understand my basic background such as my school and my specialisation.

It felt genuine because of his tone, eye contact and the fact that he recorded the details down on my medical record card as I spoke. When talking about my sickness, he made it a point to address my concerns by explaining to me the mechanism of diagnosis in a comprehensible manner. Though hesitant, I told him that I was taking chinese medicine as I thought it would be better than english medicine in some cases. He did not dismiss the validity of chinese medicine as I imagined. Instead, he discussed with me objectively and concluded that it is about personal preference and belief. He even suggested to me a simple chinese accupuncture massage remedy for me to try out.

Response:

I was very impressed with the entire service process. Relating to past experiences, I feel that doctors usually adopt the no-frills approach whereby only relevant issues are entertained. However, in this case, the doctor created a friendly environment that encouraged me to raise my all my concerns. As a result, I felt more assured as my doubts were sufficiently addressed. Also, I felt that I was treated with respect and importance during the service process.

Detailed Analysis, & Recommendations

To analyse my service encounter, the service quality, customer value, customer satisfaction and customer loyalty relationship model is used. As service quality is the key factor driving customer satisfaction, it will be further analysed using the five service quality dimensions. In addition, the Service Theatre Framework is also applied to supplement my analysis. Finally, recommendations are made to help Ban Kok clinic stay competitive in the long run.

My satisfaction for the service encounter is attributable to the high customer value and personal factors like my past experiences. Firstly, I feel that my past mediocre experiences with clinics lowered my desired service expectation. Secondly, I feel that the customer value created by Ban Kok clinic was high. This is because my desired results— the promised medical attention, assurance and accurate diagnosis—were achieved through high service quality. In addition, the access cost is also low as the clinic’s location is near my house. This is further exemplified through my evaluation of the five dimensions relative to zone of tolerance (Figure 3).

My desired service level for assurance and reliability are high as they are the most important dimensions to me. This is because healthcare services are generally high in credence, rendering dimensions such as empathy and tangibles far less important in comparison to reliability and assurance. Also, I feel that my past experiences with clinics also played a role in shaping my perception. As such, this service encounter easily suppassed my expectations in all five dimensions: Reliabilty: The estimated waiting was quite accurate and the doctor was able to grasp my concerns accurately to provide the right diagnosis.

Assurance: the doctor displayed professionalism and courtesy in his service delivery. He explained the mechanism of his diagnosis and remedies in a confident and assuring manner. In addition, his openness to alternative remedies, which could otherwise be viewed as a potential threat to his business, further illustrated his scope of knowledge and confidence in his practice. I also felt respected and important as the doctor was willing to strike a levelled conversation despite the fact that I am young and lacked expertise in this area.

Tangibles: the facilities in the clinic are well-maintained and clean. The lighting was also sufficiently bright to inject a positive mood. The plague certificate in the consultation room enhanced the credibility of service. And most importantly, the doctor’s smart appearance and genuine smile inspired confidence and trust.

Empathy: the doctor displayed care towards his customers as he put in the effort to know everyone personally. Also, I felt that I was given individualised attention during the service process as he tailored his reponse to my needs. For instance, he explained the logic flow of this diagnosis when he knew that I did my own research and had qualms about the diagnosis. As a result, I felt really comfortable discussing my concerns with him.

Responsiveness: both the nurse and the doctor displayed this dimension. The nurse voluntarily informed me of the estimated waiting time and took the initiative to suggest a possible way for me to pass time. Her sponteinity and quick response to potential service failures was exemplary of her willingness to help. More importantly, the doctor was exceptionally patient with me and provided unreserved responses to my additional queries.

Supplementing the five dimensions, the Service Theatre Framework is also applicable the analysis in the following areas—impression management, sincere vs cynical and single impression. Firstly, consistency and circumspection aspects of impression management were observed. The service provided was consistent with the physical evidence and servicescape cues. The simple yet well-maintained setting corresponded well with the friendly and professional service delivery. Also, the doctor demonstrated circumspection through the well-considered approach taken to answer my queries.

In addition, the doctor appeared to be sincere in his service delivery. Instead of only recording the medical history of patients, he made an effort to note down the personal details of patients. It made me feel important as whatever I said to him mattered. This is extremely important as I feel that sincerity is hardly felt in the fast-paced service industries.

Most importantly, there was seamless cooperation between the nurse and the doctor to create a single postive impression. The core service was delivered by the doctor but the supporting role played by the nurse was equally important in fashioning my service experience. The prompt registration process and the ownership quality displayed by the nurse coordinated well with the doctor’s professional and empathetic service delivery.

It is pertinent for the clinic to recognise the importance and challenge in preserving customers’ satisfaction in the long-run. As recommendation, I suggest a two-pronged approach. Firstly, a structured way of segmenting customers would make it easier for the doctor to provide differentiated attention to cater to different expectations. Secondly, improvements could be made to the servicescape of the waiting area to help customers alleviate the agony of waiting. For instance, applying the experiential realms, the clinic could tap on technology to provide interactive and educative facilities to replace the outdated magazines and brochures.

Encounter # 2 Dissatisfying Service Encounter Date:15/08/2014 Time: 5:30pm Location: Perspective: Employee Details:

I was working at Café as a part-time waitress. It was nearing dinner time, when a group of five middle-age ladies—slightly plump—came into the Café. My colleague ushered them to the available seats and subsequently they pulled over another empty table beside them without asking us. The discontent began when the customers sitting beside them ordered too many dishes to the extent that their table could not accommodate. As our usual practice is to join their table with the one the elderly ladies took, I went to seek their consent.

Upon hearing my request, they look disgruntled and demanded another table to be pulled over to replace that one. However, due to the limited space (refer to appendix), it was impossible to add another table. After my explanation, they reluctantly allowed me to remove the table. The dissatisfaction escalated when they rudely complaint to me that the Scones served were too hard to be edible. They even put an half-eaten Scone in my hand, signalling me to judge it for myself. At the same time, they were blatantly claiming that the Scones were not fresh because they have had better ones from our outlet.

Response:
I felt both apolegetic and angry but I was not allowed to carry out service recovery without the outlet manager’s consent. Hence, I approached the manager for help. To my dismay, she merely informed the elderly ladies that the Scones were freshly made and then told me not to entertain them.

Detailed Analysis, & Recommendations
I was dissatisfied mainly due to the lack of empowerment and disrespectful treatment from the customers. However, according to the customer-employee satisfaction mirror, satisfaction is reciprocal and mutual between service staff and customers. Therefore, the customers’ dissatisfaction also attributed to this dissatisfying service encounter. The Strategic Value Vision and the Gap Model are used to analyse the situation to provide reasonable recommendations.

Applying the Strategic Value Vision model, a general view of the issues could be illustrated by the employee and customer value equation.

Firstly, the employee value is significantly decreased because the capability and work life quality factors are inadequate. The employee’s need to display capability was restricted by the lack of empowerment. Further, lack of empowerment also signals to the employees that the management does not trust in their ability to perform the task. The work life quality factor was also affected as I felt that I was disrepectfully and unfairly treated by the customers for reasons not directly attributable to me.

Secondly, from the customer perspective, customer value decreased because the expected results and the experience quality were not met. The basic results they expected—comfortable environment and satisfying meal—were not met. This was due to the inappropriate physical evidence and the employee’s lack of circumpsection.

The Gap Model is used to further substantiate the issues and to provide recommendations. The service failtures described above are found to fall under Gaps 1, 2 and 3. Gap 1: Inadequate service recovery

The most obvious issue is that when service faiure occurred, the service recovery process was insincere and scarce. From my observations, no proper service recovery mechanism in place whenever a service failture occurs. Service recovery solely depends on the discretion of the outlet manager. However, in this case, the outlet manager evidently lacked the ownership quality as she was unwilling to go an extra mile to make the customers happy.

Recommendation

I feel that a better service recovery guideline could be in place. From my observation, discounts and compensations were only given to customers in case of a serious service failures such as spilling on customer and delivery of wrong orders. However, I feel that more emphasis could be placed on dissatisfied customers generally.

Gap 2: Absence of customer-driven standards and inappropriate physical evidence There is an absence of customer-driven standards because the physical evidence and treatment received did not meet their expectation. Firstly, the table space was too small for them to feel comfortable. This problem is not unique to this group of customers as there were many complaints relating to the space constraints previously. Secondly, the customers implied that they are repeat customers by referring to their past experiences in our outlet. However, they received neither adequate recognition nor special treatment.

Recommendation

The management should recognise that customers value the comfort of the café and tailor the physical evidence according to their needs. Larger tables and chairs could be used to enhance the comfort. On the other hand, if space constraint could not be addressed readily, soft standards could be improved. The usherer could seek customers’ approval or could simply observe the characteristics of the customers before leading them to their seats. Also, the manager could have practised effective listening to the customers’ complaints. The fact that the customers had past experiences in the outlet implies that their predicted adequate level of expectation is raised. Therefore, a higher level—special or customised treatment—of service recovery should be rendered to satisfy the customers.

Gap 3: Defficiencies in HR policies

The employees (outlet managers and frontline staff) are not suffciently empowered. From my observation, all service recovery actions have to be approved by the outlet manager. Therefore, frontline staff have little control over the customers’ satisfaction. It results in a lack of incentives for them to delight customers. As service recovery often means giving the customers discounts and free dishes, it has a negative impact on the outlet manager’s compensation as well. As such, the outlet manager also has limited incentives to render service recovery.

Recommendation

The management has to recognise the benefits of empowering its employees. This could be observed in the cycle of success as satisfied employees correlates to higher customer satisfaction. Empowerment confers on employees the control and power to make changes at work. Applying the Ritz-Carlton example1, management could give managers monetary incentives to encourage more voluntary service delivery and recovery. Taking into consideration the nature of the café’s business, it is not possible to empower every employee. The onus therefore lies on the managers to ensure that the boundary-spanning staff are sufficiently empowered.


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