Technology is influencing the practice of services marketing. It has resulted in tremendous potential for new service offerings. It is shaping the field of service enabling both customers and employees to get and provide customized services. The technology has been the basic force behind the service innovation. Automated voice mail, interactive voice response systems, fax machines, ATMs etc., are possible only because of new technology.
Role of technology in service marketing
The role of technology and physical aids in service delivery system are summarized below:
1. Easy accessibility of service: Internet based companies find that internet makes offer of new services possible. The Wall Street Journal offers an interactive edition where customers organize the newspaper’s content according to their needs. Internet based bill paying service ensures convenience to the customers while availing services. The “connected car” will allow people to access all kinds of services while on the road. Cars are equipped with map and routing software which direct drivers to specific locations. Accessing the Web via cell phones is possible nowadays. Thus, technology is a vehicle for delivering existing services in more useful ways.
2. New ways to deliver service: In addition to providing new service offerings, technology has introduced new ways of delivering service. It is providing vehicles for delivering existing services in more convenient ways. It is true to say that technology facilitates basic customer service functions like bill paying, checking accounts records, tracking orders, seeking information, etc.
The face of customer service has changed with the influx of technology. Before the development of technology every customer service was provided face-to-face through direct personal interaction between employees and customers. Nowadays, large organizations centralist their customer service functions. It is possible by establishing a few large call centres that could be located anywhere in the world. IBM’s customer service calls are typical example for consolidating call centres by the large organizations.
Introduction of automated voice response system has improved the customer service in telecommunications. Ford Motor company’s technology allows customers to set their own service appointments and monitor the status of their vehicles through online. Also, a good number of websites offer health related information.
3. Close link with customers: Financial service companies achieve a close link with their customers by employing the latest technology. Computers are linked into clients’ information systems. Companies engaged in goods distribution install order terminals, inventory control terminals of other equipment at their customers’ premises.
This provides the client with better service by facilitating an integrated client relationship. Financial companies provide online financial services. They provide various types of services on the basis of online orders which go directly into the information management system without human intervention.
4. Higher level of service: Technology enables both customers and employees to be more effective in receiving and providing service respectively. Self-service technologies enable customers to serve access to their accounts, check balances, apply for a loan, transfer money among various accounts. Computer information system allows banks and insurance companies to furnish data to their customers without delay. By having immediate access to information about their service offerings, the employees are able to serve their customers well. This allows employees to customize their services to fit the customer’s needs. Technology provides tremendous support in making the employees more efficient in delivering service. Customer relationship management and sales support software aid frontline employees in providing better service.
5. Global reach of service: Infusion of technology in service industry offers enormous scope for reaching out to customers around the globe. The internet is just one big service which knows no boundaries. Information, customer service and transactions can move across countries. The service provider can reach any customer who has access to the web. Technology allows employees of international companies to share information. Technology-based service can be extended to the customers living around the globe.
6. Cost rationalization: Customer expectations are high because of the excellent service they receive from some companies. They expect high quality of service at reasonable cost. Just as in the manufacturing sector, technology can be used in the service industries. It can replace less skilled people working in frontline service jobs. This substitution reduces the costs of services. For example, automatic car wash and automatic cash dispenser are desired by the customers for their promptness in work. Websites providing answers to specific disease, drug and treatment details are another standing example for cost rationalization.