Stakeholder involvement in the new service design process: MANAGEMENT UNDERSTANDING OF CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS

A key tenet of quality service delivery is that management should understand customers’ expectations. A considerable amount of academic work has focused on understanding the nature of customer service expectations and how these may be measured. Similarly, the need for customer research data as an input into the NPD process has been highlighted. Interviewees expressed concern about both the cost and the reliability of some customer research data. Currently, product decisions are informed by behavioural, rather than attitudinal data. The marketing information system reflects an NPD strategy based on the product lifecycle. The focus on the ‘financial product’, already discussed, will clearly have an impact on the nature of the customer information that is utilised. Staff and various intermediaries are also regarded as key sources of information because of their direct contact with customers. Competitor information and various secondary data sources are used to supplement commissioned and syndicated research.

Image research was of particular interest to the bank and indeed, together with perceived customer conservatism, revealed a further constraint on new service design.

‘Ultimately before we roll the products out, they have to be checked with customers . . . you’ve got to come back to them and to research fit. We’d have the wacky away day . . . get all the ideas down . . . develop six or 12 that you think you could really go with. You then build them up into potential ideas for products and then you put a case forward to them which involves talking to customers again, finding out if the customers will go for this proposition. . .. It’s very difficult to take creativity to your customer and to get customers to think creatively. .. . We’re here to actually meet a perceived and real need in the marketplace.’

Corporate image generates key product criteria, the parameters for the product leaders to work within.

‘. . . there’s an expectation of how we’ll behave, what we’ll support and the stance we might take. The products have to fit with that.’

CONCLUSION

Examination of the development of new financial services often focuses on NPD processes. Yet financial service providers focus their efforts on the product or technical outcome. Conversely, service quality and design researchers focus on the process or functional outcome. Although some models of service design and service quality emphasise the role of customer needs/expectations as inputs into the service strategy/specification stage, it is argued here that the objectives and expectations of various stakeholder groups should be recognised, and potential conflicts defined, at an earlier stage. In this case, for example, the design process could have been aided by early recognition of the potential for constraints and conflict, from legal and information systems; and even from the conservatism of the customer and the bank’s own corporate image.

More fundamentally, design requires the reconciliation of potentially conflicting cultures. The bank had recognised this issue at a meso level and had tackled it by introducing ‘away days’ where ‘marketing’ and ‘banking’ staff could try to integrate and develop a common view and understanding of design. Moreover, at a strategic (macro) level, the Executive had offered support to a design orientation by creating the department in the first instance and by augmenting its power in the second. What was perhaps not fully appreciated, however, was the fact that design is embedded within the deeper underlying banking/accounting culture at both the organisational (macro) and departmental (meso) levels, thus prevalent attitudes and behaviour may be difficult to change.

Importantly for design researchers, these organisational factors had a bearing on the perceived value of existing NPD models. Interviewees spoke of feeling ‘inadequate’ because they found the NPD process to be

more complex and iterative than the models suggest. Consequently, they made little attempt to draw on the literature available to them. Thus, it is clearly important that service design models should be developed that incorporate an adaptive or incremental dimension rather than the more usual sequential planning approach. These models would present a more comprehensive and accurate representation of the service design process through the inclusion of all relevant stakeholders.

 

Representative APR 391%

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