Factors Affecting Customer Satisfaction: case study of London Underground and National Rail Services
There are many factors that affect the level of satisfaction of both product and service customers equally, and some of these factors have been discussed in detail earlier. However, there are also some factors that affect the level of satisfaction of service customers alone, and not necessarily customers satisfaction levels of people buying products. The most common factors proposed by authors that effect the customer satisfaction levels of service customers can be summarized into following points:
First, non-verbal behaviour of service provider greatly affects the level of customer satisfaction of service customers (Gabbot, 2000). Due to the fact that most of the services are provided by people, service customers are more sensitive and critical towards behaviour, including nonverbal behaviour of people offering these services.
However, this statement is less relevant to services provided by London Underground and National Rail Services, due to the fact that although they operate in service sector, nevertheless, human aspect of their operations that has a direct contact with customers are less intensive compared to many other types of services like teaching and hairdressing.
Second, in service sector the quality of service and customer satisfaction level may depend on the competency of a single employee (Barnard, 2000) In cases of London Underground and National Rail Services this statement is especially true which can be illustrated by the role of train operators in cases of trains being held between two stations.
London Underground and National Rail Services trains being held between two stations for signal failures and other occasions are not rare occurrences. However, some train operators positively contribute to the level of customer satisfaction by repeatedly apologizing and explaining the reasons of delays, while others damage the customer satisfaction level even more by keeping customers ‘in dark’ in such an unpleasant circumstances.
Third, customers’ own involvement and participation in delivery of service were found to positively contribute to the customer satisfaction level in service sector by such authors as Kelly et al (1982), Skinner et al (1982). For instance, discussing with a hairdresser how a haircut should be done or working with designer when redesigning home may greatly increase customer satisfaction levels of people using the services of hairdressers and home designers. However, this type of customer satisfaction does not relate to London Underground and National Rail Services due to the nature of operations of these businesses.
Lancaster et al (2002) insist that there are two types of factors that influence consumer buyer behaviour: environmental factors, and individual factors. Cultural, social, class, groups/family, situational factors and marketing efforts are considered to be environmental factors, whereas lifestyle, demographics, and economic situation are individual factors.
Zeitheml et al (1993) distinguish eleven factors that affect both, desired and adequate service levels. All these factors can be analysed in relation to London Underground and National Rail Services. The following six factors are desired service influencing factors:
First, enduring service intensifiers that can be in forms of derived expectations and personal service philosophies affect satisfaction of both London Underground customers, as well as the customers of National Rail Services.
Second, personal needs. The personal need of London Underground and National Rail Services customers are to get from one destination to another.
Third, explicit service promise in forms of advertising, personal selling, contracts, and other communications. Due to it’s monopolistic position in the market London Underground does not engage actively in explicit service promises. National Rail Services do have some competition only in some of their routes. However, their explicit service promises are limited to some advertisements within some stations and within their own carriages.
Fourth, implicit service promises. Tangibles and price are considered to be the main components of implicit service promises.
Fifth, word of mouth. This can be in forms of personal, and experts (consultants, consumer reports, publicity). The impact of word of mouth to London Underground and National Rail Services customer satisfaction is huge due to the fact that this matter is often discussed formally and informally. Moreover, even small incidents in any aspect of London Underground and National Rail Services practices usually attracts wide coverage on national media, in this way forming customer perception regarding the level of services offered by these companies.
Sixth, past experience. Accordingly London Underground and National Rail Services customers are going to form their perception of the service according to their past experiences with these companies.
The remaining five factors are considered to be adequate service influencing factors:
Seventh, transitory service intensifiers in forms of emergencies, and service problems. Transitory service intensifiers play important role for London Underground and National Rail Services customer perception and satisfaction because emergencies and service problems are not rare occasions in the experiences of these companies.
Eighth, perceived service alternatives. This specific factor benefits London Underground, because there is no direct competition for the services it presents. Indirect competition comes in the forms of London buses, and taxis, however, these are very weak competitors due to the fact that they are not in the position if providing the same level of service to customers as London Underground does.
National Rail Services operates in an oligopolistic market, where there are only several rail operators, and therefore, perceived service alternatives for its customers are not wide.
Ninth, self-perceived service role. This factors relates to role of services offered by London Underground and National Rail Services as perceived by each individual customer.
Tenth, situational factors such as bad weather, and catastrophe. Situational factors play important role in the level of London Underground and National Rail Services customer satisfaction. The level of services of both, London Underground and National Rail Services are subject to the weather conditions, and in occasions of adverse weather conditions there are often service cancellations.
There are also occasions, where catastrophes disrupt normal flow of services and result in the level of London Underground and National Rail Services customer satisfaction being reduced.
Eleventh, predicted service. Customers of London Underground and National Rail Services predict the services of these companies according to their past experiences, and due to other range of factors, that is going to determine the level of their satisfaction.
- Lancaster, G, Massingham, L & Ashford, R, 2002, “Essentials of Marketing”, fourth edition, McGraw-Hill
- Zeithaml, VA, Berry, LL & Parasuraman, A, 1993, “The Nature and Determinants of Customer Expectations of Service”, Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Issue: 21(1)