I’m currently reading Service Design for Business: A Practical Guide to Optimizing the Customer Experience by Ben Reason, Lavrans Løvlie and Melvin Brand Flu of Livework. I’m enjoying the book so far and am convinced that it will make the field of service design much more accessible to a wider business audience.
The authors have extended the traditional three-stage model of service consumption (pre-purchase/pre-encounter, encounter, post-encounter stages) by another stage (begin) yielding these four stages: before, begin, during, after. Their reasoning for adding this stage is sound:
How customers begin their relationship with a service is critical to success…A good beginning helps to avoid dissatisfaction and makes customers more disposed to do more business with you later. –Reason, Løvlie, Brand Flu
In their takeaway messages for this chapter they conclude:
The beginning sets the tone for the relationship. –Reason, Løvlie, Brand Flu
Symmetry suggests we also take a closer look at how service encounters or entire customer relationships end. Thinking about our own experiences as service customers it becomes clear that the end stage of an individual service encounter or a relationship with a service provider can have significant impact on our evaluation of the overall service experience and the service provider.
For example, being rushed out of a restaurant after a nice meal with our partner (or having to wait too long for the bill) may well spoil an otherwise excellent experience on the finishing line. Similarly, if the service provider makes it difficult for me to leave a service after my needs have changed, my overall evaluation of a satisfactory service experience up to that point will be diminished.
In both cases, my readiness to re-purchase the service will be severely reduced as will be my readiness to recommend the service to others. On the contrary, I’ll probably complain about the service failure to anyone who cares to listen.
The authors seem to recognize this without highlighting the end of a service encounter or customer relationship as a distinct stage:
Past customers are also potential future customers–and are therefore always worth attention. –Reason, Løvlie, Brand Flu
In conclusion I suggest extending the discussion by considering referrals & recommendations by current and former customers, and by adding an explicit end stage to the model, thereby yielding these five service stages: before, begin, during, end, after.