Who Are You Serving?

Every once in a while we encounter a discussion that attempts to apply concepts from the consumer environment to the enterprise, without giving much thought to the differences between the two. I wanted, therefore to share an academic paper (pdf) I came across recently, that does just that – analyze the differences between the consumer and enterprise environments. The paper is called “Outsourcing Services to other Firms: A Framework for the Analysis of Consumer Satisfaction” and was written by Roland Böettcher and Marco Gardini.

the paper makes several important distinctions, chief among them is the distinction between the roles different individuals play in bringing an enterprise service transaction to completion:

“…individuals consuming the service and perceiving the quality most likely are not involved in the purchase process, i.e. in decision-making with respect to provider selection and price-quality trade-offs.”

The paper proposes a simple model for understanding the different roles:

This model, in turn, helps us understand the source for discrepancies in service negotiation, design and delivery between B2B and B2C interactions:

and identifies three potential gaps that can impact customer satisfaction:

  1. Definition Gap – Between the customer’s expectation and the negotiated contract
  2. Design Gap – Between the vendor’s contractual commitment and its ability to provide service
  3. Delivery Gap – Between the contractual commitment and delivery performance

Many support managers are intuitively familiar with these gaps and understand how they are created. Formalizing the definitions gives us additional information towards resolving them.