Wednesday 2 November started much like any other Wednesday. The usual routine of getting dressed and then going off to work. For me, off to work means a short walk to the bus stop (Ölmstad) and then on the 101 Habo bus into Jönköping. Work is at Jönköping International Business School as an Associate Professor (Docent) in Business Administration with a focus area of Marketing.
The task for the day was a lecture in a course in Service Management and Marketing, with a topic of customer perceptions and service quality. Little did I realise the irony of this topic for the experience that lay ahead. That Wednesday was the day of the accident when the bus in which I was travelling landed up in a ditch on its side just a short distance from where I had got on. Once the bus had come to a stop, the first thought was getting out of the bus. We did this through the front window, and made our way to safety. Initially we stood in the road, but moved to the side to await assistance. The question in my mind was – what happens next?
To evaluate service quality, ideally it is necessary to know about customer expectations and perceptions. Sitting at the side of the road (990) in Flättinge in the snow, gave me an ideal opportunity to evaluate a different kind of service quality. As I watched the emergency services go about their job, it was clear to me that while I was aware of the technical quality (what is provided) and functional quality (how the service is provided), I wasn’t sure what exactly I expected. Like most drivers (and bus passengers), an accident is not something that is considered and we do not expect to use the emergency services, an example of an undesired service. Many services are undesired, but they are necessary and important. However, should we need them, we expect that they “will work” – whatever that means. I pondered this as I sat and watched my fellow passengers.
What factors would I use to evaluate my expectations in that situation? Theory mentions reliability (doing what is promised), assurance (knowledge and skill of employees), empathy (caring), tangible items (physical items serving as evidence) and responsiveness (speedy reaction to changing customer needs). At that moment, the tangible aspects were probably furthest from my mind. Perhaps the factor I cared about the most was the assurance and empathy of those helping us and that help had seemed to arrive very quickly. Those involved in such experiences are shocked, bewildered and confused by the situation in which they find themselves, and who cannot always able to articulate their needs. Having someone helping you who cares is greatly valued.
For profit-orientated organisations, satisfying customer expectations is important as it affects customer satisfaction and loyalty, and consequently the profit of the organisation. But what about the emergency services? We are grateful is the assistance provided.
Things are back to a new normal, but with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the the importance not only of adequate knowledge of appropriate actions by those giving assistance but also the genuine care and concern shown to shocked and confused people.
Business Administration , Jönköping International Business School