Customer satisfaction and loyalty in after sales service : modes of care in telecommunications systems delivery
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Doctoral thesis (monograph)
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Report / Helsinki University of Technology, Industrial Management and Work and Organizational Psychology, 21
AbstractThe study was to gain improved understanding of the forces and factors present in after-sales activities, and the role of these in enhancing or endangering business. The objective was to gain a better understanding of how a supplier could successfully manage its "customer care" activities in the dynamic mobile telecommunications market. After sales business activities in this industry have received little systematic research attention. The study described herein focuses on after sales aspects of business-to-business activities in the mobile telecommunications industry, with the emphasis on sectors that provide service. The method of study primarily relied on the case study approach. Some aspects of qualitative and action research methods were integrated into the formal study process. The study consisted of study and analysis of five in-depth cases. Qualitative and quantitative information and data were collected from each of the persons interviewed in the supplier and customer organisations. The term, "care" is used extensively in the study as a doorway into the world of after sales activities as well as an organising construct for interpreting what was found. The concept of care includes activities related to maintenance and preventive maintenance. It additionally includes services that can link back to help enhance pre-existing capabilities for delivery of products or systems. Processes and measures of customer satisfaction and loyalty provide two critical aspects of the study. The importance of the concept of care and the actions that define it were found to be critically important for a customer's total satisfaction. The importance of the care phase in the total customer process was found to increase as the customer relationship matures. Different services offer different characteristics and challenges, while for many customers, their satisfaction-loyalty relationship with a provider tends to be non-linear. The relation between customer needs, satisfaction, and loyalty, and how these ultimately relate to a providing firm's profitability, were seen to be linked in complex ways. The complexity can be studied in many ways but herein the customer satisfaction-loyalty of each service event was first evaluated separately. Customer satisfaction and loyalty were then related to each other in order to compare the separate and combined characteristics. This provided the reference basis for analysing and forecasting how a customer's behaviour might change relative to their level of satisfaction. While the determinants from these evaluations present evident limitations, they were additionally found to provide a basis for better mapping the more systemic interactions between the many possible kinds of behaviours and levels of satisfaction. The study presents information as to how communication between the supplier and its customers was organised. Based on this, it was hypothesised that, as the relationship between the supplier and customer matures, the interactions become more specialised around specific activities. Managers, on the other hand, were seen to give ever-greater emphasis, in terms of their perceptions, to their arena of activities. For example, the service manager and project manager emphasised certain specific parts of a total project while an account manager would tend to emphasise those aspects most closely related to contact-based relationships. This was seen to allow emphasis on service to be given in terms of modern functional management systems instead of the dynamic reality of the situation. This was seen to present significant challenges to an integration of different perceptions of different yet related functions. This was identified as an area of focus for providing more complete and consistent customer care. This led to the creation of a new conception of the nature of the service manager, which could be extended to the entire supplier company. This work, carried out to implement this idea, illustrates that there is a great, unrealised potential, particularly in the creation of a viable model of after sales customer care able to accommodate the complexity of contemporary business development.
customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, after sales marketing, telecommunications, services, customer relationship, business-to-business