Service is Service is Service, Right?

Wrong. Let’s talk grocery shopping. I love to grocery shop. I am a loyal customer at my chosen grocery store, the staff is always friendly (although I rarely encounter the same person twice), and I have a rewards card which helps inform the coupons I generate upon check-out. It is pleasant, but it is a one-off interaction. Every grocery store trip is a new experience, and does not build on the time before or the time before that. And, for me, I think that is ok because it is a B2C (business-to-customer) organization that thrives on transactions. By creating a pleasant experience during the time that you are at the store, offering customers opportunities to save money, and training sales staff to be courteous and helpful, my grocery store has chosen a transactional service model. And they’ve kept my business.

The waters get a little murkier when you start talking about B2B (business-to-business) organizations or B2C organizations that are selling services, as opposed to products. Their target audience is the client (as opposed to the customer).Training a sales staff in this environment to be helpful and courteous simply isn’t enough. The service strategy for these organizations must be relational (as opposed to transactional) and must build upon successive interactions toward a mutually beneficial goal. Once there is a historical component to your service strategy, it automatically becomes more effective—in concept, delivery, and recovery. When a service issue arises within this relational service model, the organization is better prepared to reference the history of the service experience, correct the problem, and emerge with an even stronger client relationship. In an organization practicing a transactional service model, the only restitution for a poor service experience is some sort of financial compensation. There is no service history because all customer experiences have been treated as individual encounters; because all service goals have been geared towards completing the transaction, reversing the transaction is the organization’s only service recovery option.

So, the question becomes: would it benefit B2C organizations to move toward a relational service model? We see this happening with affinity marketing programs, advanced customer data capture, and more.  And, although I clearly prefer the relational service model in which I am treated as a client and not a customer, there are some instances where I am just a customer and benefit from the transactional service model.

What do you think? Although there need to be clear distinctions in service strategy based on product, service, and target audiences, would it benefit B2C organizations to adopt a service strategy that more closely resembles the relational model?

Post your response and check back for a reply!

Topics: business, communication, customer service, service