Understanding service practices of customers on the internet

Abstract: The significance of consumers in the process of value creation has been shown by researchers that study brand communities, in which consumers perform practices that create value. Some of these consumer practices are service practices, enacted by consumers to offer service to other members of the brand community. By drawing on value creation, service dominant logic and brand community research we, in the present thesis, identify a number of service providing practices that brand community members offer to other consumers. We conduct the research on
an online Volvo fan community using netnographic research method. We have found 8 customer service practices organized in to 3 main themes. This thesis also contributes to previous research by suggesting that; customers consciously integrate resources to offer to online communities; customers propose value for other customers in the course of service provision; and that customer service practices are significant both for brand communities and the brand image. In addition to this we have outlined a model which shows customer value proposition to community members and its rewarding effect both for community members and the brand (firm). The thesis concludes with discussing theoretical contributions and managerial implications.

Key words: Brand community, brand community practices, service dominant logic, value cocreation,
service practices

Introduction

The significance of customers as critical contributors and co-creators in the process of value creation has been emphasized by several service researchers. Customers possess crucial resources (knowledge and skills) that are considered as basic components for value co-creation in service according to service dominant logic (S-D logic, hereafter)(Vargo and Lusch 2004). Service, which represents the interaction of entities that co-create value (Katzan, 2011) is the application of specialized competence for the benefit of another entity (Vargo and Lusch 2004).

In other words, service is the means to co-create value which entails providing offerings that customers find consistently useful by using customer inputs (O’Malley, 1998). Accordingly co-creation (Prahalad and Ramaswamy, 2004b: p. 8) “denotes creating an experience environment in which consumers can have active dialogue and co-construct personalized experiences for joint creation of value”. In this perspective customers are assumed knowledgeable, well-informed and substantial for the effectiveness of co-creation of value. In fact customers are
not limited to interacting with firms only rather they also communicate and interact with other customers and co-create value. Especially the development of information technology has contributed to simplify communication and
interaction between customers1. These communication dialogue and participation between parties involved as suggested by Prahalad and Ramaswamy, (2004a) play important roles in value co-creation.

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