Sigala, M. (2008), "Service quality and customer relationship management: interrelationships and implications", Managing Service Quality: An International Journal, Vol. 18 No. 5. https://doi.org/10.1108/msq.2008.10818eaa.001Download as .RIS
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Service quality and customer relationship management: interrelationships and implications
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Managing Service Quality, Volume 18, Issue 5
About the Guest EditorMarianna Sigala is a Lecturer of Operations and Production Management at the University of the Aegean, Greece. Before joining the University of the Aegean, she had been lecturing at the Universities of Strathclyde and Westminster in the UK. Her interests include service operations management, information and communication technologies in tourism and hospitality, CRM and e-learning. She has professional experience from the hospitality industry in Greece, while she has also contributed to several international research and consultancy projects. She has published three books, and numerous research papers at academic journals and international conferences. She had served as President of Euro-CHRIE (2004-2005) and she currently serves at the Board of Directors of IFITT (Director of Marketing), I-CHRIE (Director of Research) and HeAIS.
Increasing global competition and transparency amongst suppliers and prices, make customers more demanding and mobile between firms. As a result, service quality alone is not anymore sufficient to increase customer loyalty and repeat purchases. In this vein, customer relationship management (CRM) has nowadays been widely argued as a strategic necessity for enhancing the competitiveness and performance of a firm. Despite the plethora of CRM definitions, there is a general consensus that CRM is a process of understanding and managing profitable customer relationships by delivering superior customer value, service and satisfaction (Christopher et al., 1991; Webster, 1992). However, although it has been recognised that the delivery of personalised and quality-based services and products is a major prerequisite and purpose of CRM, the interrelationships and the implications between service quality management and CRM practices have not been so far examined. In this vein, it is the aim of this special issue of MSQ to explore the interlinks between these two major concept and business practices in order to provide practical implications into two major directions:
the role of CRM as a tool for designing and delivering quality-based products; and
the impact of service quality issues for developing successful CRM programmes.
To achieve that, this special issue compiles six papers (providing both theoretical underpinning and contextual and professional background) that not only provide further insight into the previous two aspects, but they also refer to different processes of the business and customer value chain namely product design, customer relationship enhancement and retention, after-sales support. The presentation of the six papers of this special issue also follows the previous sequence of business and customers operations. Overall, all studies highlight the need for firms to follow an integrated approach that considers both internal operation-oriented practices and external customer-oriented issues when implementing CRM (Sigala, 2005) as well as providing practical insights on how to achieve this.
Achieving service quality and gaining the initial acceptance of customers to try and use the firm’s service require that firms have first designed a service – product that effectively satisfies and meets customers’ expectations and needs. In this vein, the first paper, titled “Investigating the ‘new product acceptance function’ in Greek enterprises: the quality-accessibility relationship” written by Maria Salamoura, Vasilis Angelis, John Kehagias and Constantine Lymperopoulos investigated the impact of quality and accessibility as important factors in new product acceptance. Data were gathered from the fast moving consumer products sector by conducting a mail survey to executives of Greek enterprises. The results indicated that quality (usage/support) is a more important factor than accessibility (economic/physical) in the formation of a “New Product Acceptance Function”. The findings provide practical implications to marketers for building a new products’ marketing plan focused on the consumer, in a way which reflects the company characteristics, as well as the particular market conditions.
The design of the service concept and delivery involves not only the consideration of hard issues, but it also relates to the expression of staff emotions (e.g. sincerity) and behaviours (e.g. formality and personalisation) towards the customer that are also culturally acceptable and appropriate. In this vein, the second paper, titled “Measuring and applying the PAKSERV service quality construct: evidence from a South African cultural context” written by Stephen Graham Saunders is aimed at examining the validity of the PAKSERV service quality measure in a South African cultural context. The PAKSERV findings confirmed SERVQUAL dimensions of tangibility, reliability and assurance but replaced responsiveness and empathy with three new dimensions:
Sincerity. Consumer’s evaluation of the genuineness of the service personnel.
Formality. Consumer’s evaluation of social distance, form of address and ritual.
Personalisation. Consumer’s evaluation of customisation and individualised attention.
The implications and necessity of these three dimensions of service quality on the development and maintenance of relationships amongst service staff and customers are evident, while the managerial implications of measuring and delivering service quality from a relationship based and culturally sensitive approach are discussed (Sigala, 2006).
The third paper, titled “Effects of e-government on service design as perceived by employees” written by MariaÅkesson and Bo Edvardsson further explored the operational issues and requirements when designing and delivering service quality in an electronic context, namely e-government services. Electronic services provide several opportunities to engage customers in the processes of service design and production which in turn offer more possibilities for developing more in-depth customer relationships. Findings were gathered from the employees of two Swedish public-sector organisations and revealed five dimensions of organisational change in the design of services as a result of the introduction of e-government: service encounter and service process; customers as co-creators and sole producers of services; efficiency; increased complexity; and operations integration.
The fourth paper, titled“Antecedents and consequences of relationship quality in athletic services” written by Pinelopi Athanasopoulou, provides more detailed insight into the marketing and customer-oriented aspects for developing quality-based customer relationships. This paper explores how the development and provision of relationship quality to customers can contribute to the overall enhancement of the service quality of a firm. This study conceptualised and extended the concept of relationship quality by using a case study methodology in a big fitness centre. Findings from 10 personal interviews with various employees and personal observations provided valuable feedback in terms of the antecedents (such as the personality and skills of employees and customers, the servicescape, the quality of the offer) and consequences (including the creation of enduring customers, psychologic benefits for customers, and employee satisfaction) of relationship quality in athletic services. Overall, findings showed that relationship quality is linked to the everyday behaviour of both parties and not to the feelings that they develop such as trust, commitment and satisfaction as it has been showed by previous research. The practical implications of the findings on how to build and benefit from the development of quality-based customer relationships are analysed in depth.
The organisational changes (both operational and marketing as explained in the previous two papers) required to be undertaken for implementing a successful and service quality-oriented CRM are consolidated in an overall gap model presented in the fifth paper, titled “Integrated customer relationship management for service activities: an internal/external GAP model” written by Sergios Dimitriadis and Eric Stevens. Many companies have adopted CRM systems without thinking of customer expectations in terms of relationship building and management. Recognising the importance of customer expectations on CRM practices this paper also emphasises the need to integrate CRM strategies with customers’ feedback and internal operations management practices. The paper clearly illustrates the positive impacts on service quality that derive from the integration of operational (e.g. HRM and systems integration) and marketing (e.g. communication channels) practices. The majority of CRM failures have been attributed to firms’ ignorance of customers’ reactions to CRM practices as well as the inability of firms’ to link CRM to internal operations. To address these gaps, this paper suggests an integrated framework for designing, implementing and evaluating a CRM implementation system by linking these internal operational and external marketing factors using a systemic gap approach. The benefit of making explicit and of linking the company-process related and the customer-expectations related CRM factor resides in identifying the potential sources of problems, inefficiencies or even failure points of a CRM strategy. The proposed gap model provides a valuable tool for identifying the critical points for implementing a successful CRM programme, while its theoretical and practical implications on the design of customers expected quality operations are also discussed.
CRM and service quality management does not stop when the purchase is conducted or the service is consumed, but they should be extended to after-sales support and customer processes. Hence, an understanding of the impact of after-sales services on the satisfaction and the post-behavioural intentions is important to services managers, because it allows them to differentiate their offering substantially in a way that strengths their customer relationships in the short, as well as in the long-run. In this vein, after-sales support management is the focus of the last paper, titled “After-sales service quality as an antecedent of customer satisfaction: the case of electronic appliances” by Irini D. Rigopoulou, Ioannis E. Chaniotakis, Constantine Lymperopoulos and George I. Siomkos. This paper investigated the effect of after-sales services on customers’ satisfaction as well as on their behavioural intentions, namely “repurchase intention” and “Word-of-Mouth”. A quantitative study was conducted targeting customers of a large retail chain marketing electrical appliances in Greece and findings confirmed that after-sales service quality affects satisfaction, which in turn affects behavioural intentions. This study contributed to the body of academic knowledge by shedding more light on the role of after-sales services to the overall service offering and to the building of customer relationships.
Overall, all papers highlight the need to consider both the operational and marketing implications (particularly customers’ perceptions and reactions) when designing and implementing a service quality-based CRM strategy. Service quality-oriented CRM should involve and engage both emotionally and physically customers in services processes (either provided in traditional service settings or in electronic service contexts) and the findings of these papers provide several valuable guidelines on how to achieve that.
I hope you enjoy reading the papers and that they provide you with rich food-for-thought on how to further progress research in this very topical and interesting field.
Christopher, M., Payne, A. and Ballantyne, D. (1991), Relationship Marketing, B.H. Blackwell, Oxford
Sigala, M. (2005), “Integrating customer relationship management in hotel operations: managerial and operational implications”, International Journal of Hospitality Management, Vol. 24 No. 3, pp. 391–413
Sigala, M. (2006), “Culture: the software of CRM”, Journal of Marketing Communications, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 203–23
Webster, F. (1992), “Changing marketing role”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 56 No. 4, pp. 1–17