Small details that make big differences: a radical approach to consumption experience as a firm's differentiating strategy

Bolton, Ruth N., Gustafsson, Anders, McColl-Kennedy, Janet, Sirianni, Nancy J. and Tse, David K. (2014) Small details that make big differences: a radical approach to consumption experience as a firm's differentiating strategy. Journal of Service Management, 25 2: 253-274. doi:10.1108/JOSM-01-2014-0034

Author Bolton, Ruth N.
Gustafsson, Anders
McColl-Kennedy, Janet
Sirianni, Nancy J.
Tse, David K.
Title Small details that make big differences: a radical approach to consumption experience as a firm's differentiating strategy
Journal name Journal of Service Management   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1757-5818
Publication date 2014-04-01
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1108/JOSM-01-2014-0034
Volume 25
Issue 2
Start page 253
End page 274
Total pages 22
Place of publication Bingley, W Yorks, United Kingdom
Publisher Emerald Group Publishing
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Purpose – Service organizations and marketers have focussed too much of their energy on their core service's performance and too little emphasis on designing a customer journey that enhances the entire customer experience. There is nothing wrong with firms seeking continuous improvement in service quality and customer satisfaction. These efforts are needed for firms to be competitive in the marketplace. The problem occurs when performance levels and service offerings become too similar within an industry, so that price is the only competitive weapon that remains. The purpose of this paper is to argue that in order to break this deadlock, companies need to focus on the small details that make big differences to customers.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper builds on interviews with executives in successful service organizations. It provides an analysis of differentiation strategies in diverse service organizations across consumption contexts, nations and cultures around the world.

Findings – The paper develops three research propositions and argues for radical approaches to help service organizations truly understand customers and provide service experiences that engage and delight them. The paper argues that the new challenge for marketing is to help companies find and implement these small details to make a large impact on the overall customer experience.

Originality/value – In order to truly understand the customer experience, we need a holistic view of all interactions customers have with a company. We need to understand the customer-firm interactions at all touch points, that is, during search, purchase, consumption and post-consumption. Customer experience involves the customers’ cognitive, affective, emotional, social and sensory responses to the firm. The originality of this research lies in the focus on the small details that make a difference to customers during the service process rather than in the final outcome of the service performance.
Keyword Service innovation
Customer behavior
Customer requirements
Service delivery system
Service encounter
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
UQ Business School Publications
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Citation counts: TR Web of Science Citation Count  Cited 31 times in Thomson Reuters Web of Science Article | Citations
Scopus Citation Count Cited 37 times in Scopus Article | Citations
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Created: Thu, 27 Mar 2014, 22:20:27 EST by Karen Morgan on behalf of UQ Business School