May 07, 2010

Study explores service innovation implementation

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- We live in a self-service world and that’s something customers and business employees aren’t necessarily always happy about. A new research article co-authored by Cheryl Burke Jarvis, associate professor of marketing at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, examines self-service implementation and how to make it successful.

“The Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science” published the research article, “Frontline Employee Motivation to Participate in Service Innovation Implementation” in its April edition. Co-authors are: Susan Cadwallader, associate professor of marketing at California State University in Fullerton, Mary Jo Bitner, professor of marketing and PetSmart Chair of Services Leadership at Arizona State University and Amy Ostrom, associate professor of marketing at Arizona State.

The researchers, in cooperation with Ford Motor Co., studied a new system the automobile manufacturer installed in its dealerships allowing customers to schedule service appointments online rather than calling to talk to a service technician. Burke Jarvis said that for the system to be successful, it requires service employees to promote and explain the technology to customers, encouraging them to use it.

“It meant that both customer and employee behaviors had to change, moving away from interpersonal service delivery to a less personal channel and employees weren’t at all sure that this would be a good change,” Jarvis said.

“The research illustrates that the role of frontline service employees cannot be underestimated when a company tries to implement new self-service technologies for customers. A company cannot afford to overlook internal marketing when implementing any strategic innovation that asks both customers and employees to adopt new ways of giving and receiving service. Developing and encouraging employee motivation when implementing any strategic innovation that asks both customers and employees to adopt new ways of giving and receiving service is critical to the success of that innovation. This study’s findings provide managers with specific recommendations for how to influence employee motivation to undertake the tasks necessary to introduce new service delivery channels to customers,” she said.

She said the research addresses not just marketing practice but marketing theory in that it illustrates how management can successfully utilize employee motivation to implement change.

“What we found specifically is that managers can increase employees’ situational motivation to participate in a strategic innovation by giving employees the autonomy to choose how or even whether to participate -- thus influencing their feelings and beliefs about the process -- and by carefully educating employees so that they feel they have the knowledge and ability to easily execute the tasks required. By controlling these drivers of motivation, managers can more effectively encourage frontline service employees to undertake the tasks needed to successfully implement service innovations that then can improve customer experiences and outcomes,” Jarvis concluded.

Jarvis earned her doctorate in business, majoring in marketing with a minor in social and cognitive psychology, at Indiana University in 1999. She also holds a master’s in marketing and a bachelor’s in agricultural journalism, completed in 1995 and 1986, respectively, from Texas A&M University.

She joined the SIUC College of Business faculty in 2009. Previously, she was a research faculty member at the Center for Services Leadership and an assistant professor of marketing at Arizona State University’s College of Business. She also taught at Indiana University.

Jarvis also saw her research work on the importance of “thank you” in marketing published in the September 2009 issue of the “Journal of Marketing.” That article, “The Role of Customer Gratitude in Relationship Marketing,” demonstrated the role of gratitude in relationship marketing in terms of generating outcome.