Archive for the Older Content Category

Blog 4

Posted in Older Content on March 9, 2013 by Stewart

Service provider: Coast Capital Savings

Type of service: Banking

Date: Various

Price: The services I use come with no monthly free

Overall Satisfaction: 7/7

Chapters covered: 4-11

Topics covered (page numbers in textbook): Reliability (89); Management listening to customers (139); Relationship Marketing (147); Relationship Value of Customers (156-157); Switching Costs (162); Make the Service Fail Safe (201); Servicescape as Facilitator (287); Service Culture (312-313)

Likelihood of Return: 7/7

I have been using Coast Capital ever since I first had a bank account and as you are about to hear, I have found very little room for improvement in their overall service offerings and I feel that they would compare quite favourably to any bank in Canada.

Encounter(s)

Reliability in a service sense means that a company “delivers on its promises… about delivery, service provision, problem resolution and pricing” (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 89) on a consistent basis.  Coast Capital has been – in my experience – the picture of reliability in the interactions that I have had with them.  They are consistently willing to take the extra step to ensure complete customer satisfaction.  These efforts all stem from an excellently cultivated culture across all of their branches which has landed them on the list of “Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures” on multiple occasions (Engel, 2012).

Where it Starts

This culture of excellent customer service starts at the top of the branch with management, Coast Capital management is always available to help the front line employees which enrich their “understanding of customer expectations and needs” (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 139).  By interacting on the front lines management is more in touch with how to reach out to customers in the most successful ways.  Coast Capital relies heavily on the relationships that they form with customers to ensure that they continue to bring them back for a lifetime of services from their bank.  Relationship marketing is a “strategic orientation, that focuses on keeping and improving relationships with current customers rather than acquiring new customers” (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 147).  Given the challenge of switching between banks for most customers, it is wise for Coast Capital to focus on retaining the customers that they have already got (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 162).

Banks must look at the long-term relationship value of customers because while customers may produce little revenue when they are first acquired they may need much more lucrative services down the road such as mortgages or loans.  In order to identify ideal customers Coast Capital likely uses the formula to look at the lifetime profitability of customers which refers to the lifetime value of a customer after costs are considered (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 156).

This mix of building relationships with customers combined with an excellently built culture has been highly successful for Coast Capital as it “had its best year yet in 2012, with net income up nearly 17 per cent to $72.4 million from $62 million last year” (Sherlock, 2013).  Coast Capital has now become “Canada’s second-largest credit union [which] now has 504,000 members, who opened more than 28,000 new Free Chequing, Free Debit and More accounts in 2012. President and CEO Tracy Redies said these accounts saved customers about $38 million in banking fees last year” (Sherlock, 2013).

Complaints?

Coast Capital is always willing to hear from customers if they have a complaint about the service experience.  Just the other day, I walked into the bank because I had lost my debit card only to see a massive line, despite the fact that most of the tellers were open.  Apparently the look on my face when I saw the line must have been rather disappointed because the receptionist at the front desk asked right away if there was anything that she could do to help me.  I told her that all I needed was a new debit card so that I could use the ATM, as I said this, another employee walked by and offered right away to take me to the investment area and get a new card made for me right away, no waiting in line at all.  By making this extra effort Coast Capital had followed the simplest rule of service quality, they had done it right the first time (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 201).  I walked out of the bank in less than five minutes and left a very satisfied customer.

SERVQUAL in Canadian Banking

SERVQUAL studies the “perceptions of service quality of a particular company” (Ladhari, 2009) and can be applied to the banking industry in Canada as well, below are the dimensions that are measured for the SERVQUAL index.

  1. Tangibles (measured by 4 items): the appearance of physical facilities, equipment and personnel;
  2. Reliability (5 items): the ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately;
  3. Responsiveness (4 items): the willingness to help customers and provide prompt service;
  4. Assurance (5 items): the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to inspire trust and confidence; and
  5. Empathy (4 items): the level of caring and individualized attention the firm provides to its customers.

(Ladhari, 2009)

Based on my experiences, Coast Capital has been highly successful, especially when compared to competitors in their industry when measured against the SERVQUAL index.  This brings us back to the discussion of culture; Coast Capital has done an exceptional job in building a culture “where an appreciation for good service exists, and where giving good service to internal as well as… external customers is considered a natural way of life and one of the most important norms by everyone” (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 313) within the organization.  By aligning this culture to demands within the industry they have set their employees up for success in serving the needs of their customers

Servicescape

Coast Capital has undergone multiple re-brandings and branch redesigns to get to their current Servicescape.  They use the Servicescape as a facilitator to “aid… in the performances of persons in the environment…the setting design [enhances] the efficient flow of activities in the service setting” (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 287).  An example of the effectiveness of the servicescape is found in the open design allows you to see all of the services that the bank offers from the center, conveniently the same place that the reception is located which allows them to direct you to any area where you may need help.

Conclusion

Through consistently strong efforts to meet and exceed industry standards in several aspects of service Coast Capital has proved itself as one of the most successful banks in British Columbia.  They will need to effectively expand their culture as they continue to expand with people becoming more demanding of what their bank can offer them, Coast Capital will continue to deliver on these expectations.

 

Works Cited

Engel, A. (2012, February 25). Strong cultures provide results; ‘Great people that fit create great cultures’. National Post, p. FP 19. Retrieved from https://libsecure.camosun.bc.ca:2443/login?url=http://libsecure.camosun.bc.ca:2068/docview/923670584?accountid=26530

Ladhari, R. (2009, June). Assessment of the psychometric properties of SERVQUAL in the Canadian banking industry. Journal of Financial Services Marketing, 14(1), 70-82. Retrieved from https://libsecure.camosun.bc.ca:2443/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=40308462&site=ehost-live

Sherlock, T. (2013, March 6). Coast Capital income climbs 17 per cent for best year yet. The Vancouver Sun, p. C 4. Retrieved from https://libsecure.camosun.bc.ca:2443/login?url=http://libsecure.camosun.bc.ca:2068/docview/1315065715?accountid=26530

Zeithaml, V., Bitner, M., & Gremler, D. (2013). Services Marketing. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Blog 3

Posted in Older Content on February 9, 2013 by Stewart

Service provider:  Save on Foods

Type of service: Grocery

Date: Over the course of several years up until present day

Price: Approximately $500 per month

Overall Satisfaction: 6.5/7

Chapters covered: 4 – 6

Topics covered (page numbers in textbook): Reliability (89); Recovery (99); Management listening to customers (139); Relationship Marketing (147); Customers as Friends (148); Special Treatment Benefits (154); Human Resources Management Benefits of Customer Relationships (156); Switching Costs (162); Level 3 – Customization Bonds (164-165)

Likelihood of Return: 7/7

As you will see from reading this article, Save On Foods has built a strong relationship that will definitely result in several purchases down the road; as of yet they have never given a reason to stop regularly purchasing from their store.

Encounter(s)

My family has been shopping at Save-on-Foods for our weekly groceries as long as I can remember.  Over the time that we have spent there the entire staff has made outstanding efforts to cultivate a relationship that will go on for many years to come.  Unlike some other grocery stores in town Save On has realized the value in retaining current customers over the long term rather than constantly seeking new customers (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 147).

Briefing

As sales at grocery stores decline over time the industry becomes more and more competitive, with sales dropping 4-6% year over year as people find other ways to source their food the grocery store environment had become more competitive as stores struggle to differentiate themselves (C. Barnes & Co., 2013).  It is becoming increasingly challenging to get customers to purchase more products as they are much more likely to be budgeting and cutting back in these tough times.  As customers are bombarded by promotions from the public grocery stores must find new ways to separate themselves from the competition as they compete for a larger piece of an ever-shrinking pie (van Ittersum, Pennings, & Wansink, 2010, pp. 90-91).

Actions of Management

Save On values direct relationships between management and customers, to realize a maximum benefit from these relationships they often have their management team down on the floor interacting and helping customers, it adds “clarity and depth to managers’ understanding of customer expectations and needs” (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 139) and also allows customers to give direct feedback to management so that any adjustments that might be necessary are relayed directly to the people with the power to make the decision.

Management is also forward-thinking enough to see past single customer interactions and instead see the bigger picture of the customer relationship.  For example, when a customer complains that the fruit they purchased on their visit to the store last week went moldy prematurely some stores might question this or put up resistance to giving a refund.  Instead, Save On management simply refunds the money without even asking to see the rotten fruit, creating a much more pleasant experience for everyone involved.  This is an excellent example of a strong service recovery that gives customers added confidence when they are purchasing from the store (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 99).

Employees

Having worked for Thrifty Foods for some time I have some insight as to the differences between how the two companies are operated (much of which has changed since Thrifty Foods was bought out.)  The part that I find the most interesting is the differences in “reliability which has been consistently shown to be the most important determinant of perceptions of service quality” (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 89) between the two companies.  This translates to customers being able to trust a firm to provide a consistent experience across several customer interactions.

Interestingly, the source of this consistency has to do heavily with the customer relationships that Save On has cultivated over time.  As a result of these customer relationships employees have built customers help to make their job easier; otherwise known as coproduction of the service (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 156).  For example, when I am in the store I know exactly what to ask the employees for when I am looking for something specific which in turn makes it easier for the employee to provide a higher level of service.  The most noticeable effect of these positive relationships is employee retention; over the time that I have been going to Save On I have only interacted with a reasonably small group of employees which again results in a smoother experience for employees and customers alike (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 156).  Other stores see front line employees as transient and move quickly between them over time which in the long run has a very negative effect on employee-customer interactions.

Customer Focus

As our family has continued to patronize Save On over the years we have developed close friendships with some of the employees and they have gained intimate knowledge of our family and our needs from their store (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 148).  From these relationships we have received special promotions that would not be available to other customers, this serves to continually strengthen these ties to the firm.  Since Save On began their sponsorship of the local arena we have been given early access to some events and concerts; by leveraging this core differentiator (arena sponsorship) to provide special treatment benefits they have been able to further strengthen bonds between Save On and their customers (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 154)

This customer intimacy and the resulting customization bonds make it very challenging to switch to another grocery store because these relationships would have to be re-created which would result in a loss of the one-to-one solutions that Save On already provides (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, pp. 164-165).

Conclusion

As a result of all of these efforts Save On Foods has successfully prevented our family from considering other grocery stores in an industry where switching costs are exceptionally low (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 162).  This willingness to provide an extra level of service has made Save On our first choice by far when shopping for groceries of any kind.


 

Works Cited 

C. Barnes & Co. (2013). Barnes Reports: Grocery Stores Industry Capital & Expenses Report. United States: C. Barnes & Co. Retrieved from https://libsecure.camosun.bc.ca:2443/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=84382841&site=ehost-live

van Ittersum, K., Pennings, J., & Wansink, B. (2010). Trying Harder and Doing Worse: How Grocery Shoppers Track In-Store Spending. Journal of Marketing, 74(2), 90-104. Retrieved from https://libsecure.camosun.bc.ca:2443/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=47927918&site=ehost-live

Zeithaml, V., Bitner, M., & Gremler, D. (2013). Services Marketing. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Blog 2

Posted in Older Content on January 25, 2013 by Stewart

Service provider:  Shaw Cable

Type of service: Cable

Date: Initial interaction was September of 2011, has continued until present.

Price: Approximately $85/month

Overall Satisfaction: 2/7

Chapters covered: 2 – 4

Topics covered (page numbers in textbook): Services Gap 1 (37); Services Gap 4 (44); Zones of Tolerance (54-56); Explicit Service Promises (63); Word of Mouth Communication (64); Escalating Service Expectations (71); Reliability (89)

Likelihood of Return: 6/7

Since we have already purchased the Shaw Cable boxes for our house (approximately $250 each) we are somewhat tied to Shaw because the switching cost to switch to Telus would be prohibitive.  If it were not for this high switching cost then the likelihood of return would be much lower; in fact, it is likely that we would have already switched to the other service.

Encounter

This encounter began with the purchase of two Shaw 500GB PVR’s in September of 2011.  Since there was a widely publicized switch to digital cable going on we knew that it would be necessary to switch to the new system at some point.  This initial purchase at London Drugs was smooth; however, the activations took much longer than expected once we got home.  As we would soon find out, this was just the beginning of a long process with Shaw

Briefing

Given the length of time that these issues have been going on it is hard to fit all of the problems that have occurred in so I will attempt to give a basic understanding of some of the service failures that have taken place in our time dealing with Shaw Customer Support.  These problems began with the initial setup of the PVR and have continued until the present day.

Service Gaps

There have been more than a few service gaps that we have experienced in our time with Shaw.  The first service gap that we experienced was with overpromising (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 44), they have promised that you “Won’t miss a thing” in fact, it is currently their top ad in Google when searching for their PVR products.  We have missed several recorded shows because the software on their systems has multiple failures within it.  It has deleted shows; failed to record shows; often can’t play back the shows it does record and occasionally it will not even display live TV.  I have to say that in my eyes, this is very far from “Not missing a thing” as we have missed several things.

Another service gap has been that of inadequate service recovery.  We have been dealing with this problem in some form or another for almost two years and so far Shaw has offered us:

  • A single HD Shaw on Demand movie rental (Maximum value: $7)
  • When that wasn’t enough, they raised the bar to two movie rentals (Maximum value: $14)
  • Various refunds, none of which have even come remotely close to matching the level of inconvenience we have faced, but more on that later.

They have completely failed to make any amends and many of their frontline service employees do not have the authority to use the appropriate recovery mechanisms to solve the situation (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 37).  It is this lack of authority that makes dealing with their company a constant exercise in frustration.  Frontline employees are not authorized to give anything above a free movie rental; I cannot imagine that this satiates very many customers’ needs.

Shaw has failed to live up to their own explicit service promises.  When a customer pays a monthly bill it is expected that they will be able to have access to the services that they are paying for.  When the system that is designed to provide the customer with that service continually fails then there needs to be more attention paid to resolving that problem in a timely manner; the excuse “we don’t know what could be causing these problems” wears thin very quickly.  Many of these explicit promises to resolve this problem have fallen by the wayside over the time that we have been dealing with the company (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 63).

Tolerance for Failure

Initially our zone of tolerance for this failure was quite small, we had dealt with Shaw before and usually the problem was resolved to our satisfaction so we expected this to carry over to this problem as well (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, pp. 54-55).  The zone of tolerance also varies depending on which member of the household is dealing with Shaw at any given time.  For example, my zone of tolerance is extremely small when dealing with problems involving technology because I have a strong working knowledge of the systems so I know when they are trying to pass something off as acceptable when it clearly isn’t.  However, when other people who have less technological expertise deal with Shaw they have a much greater zone of tolerance because they do not know what standard this company should be held to.

As these failures continue to build over time so do customer’s expectations of the service (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 71).  As there has been more and more failure in this interaction the expectations for resolution have continued to escalate.  If the problem had had adequate attention from the beginning then these expectations may not have been raised so high.  Meeting these continually rising expectations is very challenging and at this point it is highly unlikely that Shaw will ever be able to meet these expectations.  If we were to switch cable providers at some point down the line then these expectations would also be likely to normalize with the switch of service providers as it would be seen as a fresh start in the eyes of the consumer.

Standardized Expectations

There have been long standing customer service standards that were established in the cable industry more than 15 years ago, they are as follows:

  • System Reliability Measures: These are calculated as actual system working time expressed as a percentage of total operational system time possible. Currently, the standards require that the systems be 99.9 percent reliable.
  • Standards of Operation: The standards require 8 hours of continuous office operation per day, 24-hour repair service turnaround, 20-second telephone response times, and that telephone system busy statistics show that the system is working to capacity only 3 percent of the time.
  • Customer Service Standards: These require that 90 percent of installations requested be completed within 7 days; 99.9 percent reliability; 90 percent of outages are repaired within 4 hours; and that no more than 3 percent of customers require service per month.

(McKie, 1992)

It is clear that Shaw has contravened many of these standards as they are not 99.9% reliable; in fact, 70% would probably be generous.  Their telephone response times have varied from 30 minutes to multiple days and sometimes it is the completely wrong department that returns the calls, resulting in even longer response times.  I also somehow doubt that they are working to capacity only 3% of the time given the standard response is that they are experiencing higher than normal call volumes.  Finally, they are expected to have 90% of outages repaired within 4 hours; it seems that we have fallen into the other 10% more often than not.

All of this information brings into question the reliability of their service.  “Of the five dimensions, reliability has been consistently shown to be the most important determinant of perceptions of service quality” (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 89); unfortunately reliability is not one of Shaw’s strengths as their cable, hardware and service have all proven time and time again that they are completely inconsistent in their service and are unwilling to accept blame for their service failures.

Costs to Shaw

This bad experience has cost Shaw much more than would be readily apparent to management’s eyes; this is because of word of mouth communication.  When people continually experience poor service they become increasingly likely to tell their friends, co-workers and other people that they interact with about these poor experiences.  This communication carries particular weight with these audiences because it is coming from a first-hand account of dealings with this company.  Since cable is an industry that is “difficult for customers to evaluate before purchase and before having direct experience” (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2013, p. 64) with the product these word of mouth experiences carry a particularly heavy weight in this industry, something that Shaw seems to have little concern for.

Conclusion

In 2000 only 9% of consumers used digital television; in 2005 25% of consumers had made the switch and by 2010 46% had made the switch to digital cable (Washington & Miller, 2009).  These statistics show us that digital television adoption is growing significantly over time and Shaw must develop their service systems in order to meet the increasing demands of consumers for this service if they want to remain one of the top competitors in this market.


Works Cited

McKie, D. A. (1992). Quality Issues In Customer Satisfaction Studies Of Cable Television. Journal of Advertising Research, 6-8. Retrieved from https://libsecure.camosun.bc.ca:2443/login?url=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ebscohost.com%2flogin.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26db%3dbth%26AN%3d9207133419%26site%3dehost-live

Washington, K., & Miller, R. (2009). Consumer Use of Media. Entertainment, Media & Advertising Market Research Handbook, 22. Retrieved from https://libsecure.camosun.bc.ca:2443/login?url=http%3a%2f%2fsearch.ebscohost.com%2flogin.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26db%3dbth%26AN%3d34617861%26site%3dehost-live

Zeithaml, V., Bitner, M., & Gremler, D. (2013). Services Marketing. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Professional Portfolio

Posted in Older Content on December 9, 2012 by Stewart

Hey Bloggers!

I am working on a professional portfolio to showcase my work from my Advanced Communications class this semester.

This portfolio is available here

 

Stewart

My Fave 5!

Posted in Older Content on April 9, 2011 by Stewart

So, here it goes, my favorite five things that I learned in PR this semester!

1. I learned what PR is NOT, this may have been the most important lesson.  I believe I entered this class with a lot of misconceptions about what PR was and what it wasn’t.  Needless to say, I have had a lot of those cleared up.

2. I learned just how busy the profession can really be; when i conducted my interview with my PR professional waaaaay back at the beginning of the term I learned, a LOT.  Maria Lironi (of UVic’s communications team) taught me a lot about what her day looks like and what I could expect if I was looking at PR as a career path.

3.  I found out about a lot of the tools of the PR trade, whether it be press releases or Q&A documents there are many tools which PR teams put into place in order to help their organization.

4.  I was surprised to find out how much PR does internally at a company to keep employees sharp and ready for any interaction with the public.  I had always seen PR as dealing with the outside world exclusively but they deal with a lot of internal matters as well.

5.  Finally, I was surprised to find out that PR is an interesting career path that I will definitely consider down the road, after I have completed my degree.

NFL Players Union Concerned About PR?

Posted in Older Content on April 3, 2011 by Stewart

During the ongoing negotiations between the NFL and the players union there have been many sticking points; one of them is that the players want to see the balance sheets for the teams in the league before agreeing to any revenue splitting.  The owners have consistently refused to provide this information.  Until about 3 weeks ago, when the players were offered “limited financial information” by the owners.  However, they declined to accept this information, they said that they thought it was a bad PR move.  Their reason for this was that they didn’t want to give outsiders the impression that they had “gotten what they needed” and should now be ready to make decisions regarding revenue splitting.

I think this raises an interesting question, was it worth possibly holding up the negotiations in order to give outsiders what they believed to be a “better” impressions of how they are handling the negotiations.  I think that it gives a worse impression to refuse possibly helpful information in favour of giving a better impression; I feel that if the players accepted the information and simply made it clear that they were awaiting further information before making an informed decision about how they would want to split revenues.

See the source link here.

GoDaddy CEO Takes a Questionable Vacation…

Posted in Older Content on April 1, 2011 by Stewart

This last week GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons uploaded his “vacation video” from his trip to Africa where he went hunting for a “problem” elephant.  Here is a link to the original video (WARNING: it is somewhat graphic) and here is a link to Parsons’ twitter feed where he has been responding to criticism of his actions.  PETA has cancelled their GoDaddy account and Parsons’ responded by posting some information about PETA and some of their indiscretions.

I think that this is an interesting PR situation because Parsons has decided to give the villagers that are carving the elephant GoDaddy hats and clearly has no problems with the actions that he has taken.  This is an interesting cultural examination as people from North America are disgusted by the thought of killing the elephant (see ABC News’ take on it here) whereas people of Africa are thankful that the elephant is gone as they will not have to deal with it destroying their crops again.

I think it will depend where the court of public opinion rests on this one; if people decide that what he was doing was justified and continue to use GoDaddy then it will be a problem that will pass over quite quickly; however, if people decide that what he was doing was morally wrong then GoDaddy could have a much bigger problem on their hands in dealing with the fallout of such a situation.