Consistency, brand experiences and cross-channel services: results from a master thesis
A challenging factor in today’s service environment is the proliferation of service channels. In addition to traditional service outlets, such as physical locations and call centers, numerous virtual channels are popping up largely due to the outburst of social media. In this environment, it is increasingly imperative for companies to learn how to perform their services effectively across multiple channels.
Given that customers are more active, knowledgeable, demanding, channel-hopping, and experience-seeking than ever before, it should come as no surprise that the provision of service needs to evolve with this changing environment.
Throughout the marketing literature, a common theme is the demand for consistency in marketing efforts. In fact, one of the reasons that Integrated Marketing Communications grew in popularity was due to the need to integrate promotional elements across channels. Lately, practitioners have been calling for consistency of services as well. However, to the best of my knowledge, there are very few empirical studies investigating consistency in general and no empirical studies investigating consistency between service channels.
My thesis explored what the different dimensions of service channel consistency are and whether consistency is always preferred in the context of the banking industry. Since brand experiences are such a hot topic, and evidence shows that experience drives satisfaction and loyalty, I also investigated the role of brand experience dimensions on the different dimensions of cross-channel consistency.
I utilized the multichannel integration quality framework by Sousa and Voss (2006) to define the dimensions of cross-channel consistency: process consistency and content consistency. I then reviewed literature for two service channels (call centers and Facebook) in order to identify comparable attributes that could be consistent between the channels. A pretest confirmed successful manipulations of these dimensions, whereby a service agent’s degree of empathy and customer focus represented process consistency and the mention or referral to a customer’s prior transactions in another channel represented content consistency.
My main experiment provided empirical evidence that both types of consistency together improve perceived service quality, brand attitudes, and satisfaction more so than only one type of consistency or neither. More interestingly, process consistency was found to lead to higher perceived service quality, brand attitudes, and satisfaction than content consistency.
The brand experience dimensions investigated by Brakus et al (2009) and Nysveen et al (2013) were incorporated in my study as well. Of the 5 dimensions, service consistency was shown to only impact relational brand experiences. Mediation analysis revealed that process consistency improved perceived service quality, brand attitudes, and satisfaction because it strengthened relational brand experiences. Evidently, service providers need to ensure that they demonstrate empathy and remain focused on customer issues in order to improve relational brand experiences and thereby improve service evaluations.
Brakus, J. J., Schmitt, B., & Zarantonello, L. (2009). Brand Experience: What Is It? How is it Measured? Does it Affect Loyalty? Journal of Marketing, 73(3), 52-68.
Nysveen, H., Pedersen, P. E., & Skard, S. (2013). Brand experiences in service organizations: Exploring the individual effects of brand experience dimensions. Journal of Brand Management, 20(5), 404-423.
Sousa, R., & Voss, C. (2006). Service quality in multi-channel services employing virtual channels. Journal of Service Research, 8, 356-371