Sequence-Oriented Problem Identification Within Service Encounters


Sequence-oriented problem identification (SOPI) within service encounters include "blueprinting" the sequence of steps that makeup a service encounter, and asking customers to provide evaluations for each step they may experience in the service encounter process. In part, SOPI is a strategic tool that combines and extends Shostack's (1984; 1987) blueprinting of services with the critical incident technique (CIT) (Flanagan 1954; Bitner, Booms & Tetreault 1990). SOPI is a method for learning customers' perspectives of the little things that go right and wrong, as well as the critical incidents, in each of the locations and sequence of steps customers experience related to a service encounter. Such information may be useful in designing customer-inspired improvements in service offerings and in eliminating both minor and major incidents that annoy customers. Here the SOPI technique is illustrated with comparisons of findings from the research method with findings from the critical incident method in an empirical study of customers' evaluations (n = 190) of the augmented and core services in adult education courses of an Austrian enterprise. The study included personal (face-to-face) interviews with 54 customers and written surveys completed by 136 customers. The SOPI results provide very specific information about problems experienced by customers that were not included in the CIT results. Conclusion: the SOPI research method may be a useful tool for gaining deep insights into customer assessments of service encounters.



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Journal of Euromarketing


Taylor & Francis

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