Key To Engaging Customers? Their Networks

Editor’s note: We are pleased to welcome Katrien Verleye, Paul Gemmel, and Deva Rangarajan, all of Ghent University, whose paper “Managing Engagement Behaviors in a Network of Customers and Stakeholders: Evidence From the Nursing Home Sector” is forthcoming in the Journal of Service Research and now available in the journal’s OnlineFirst section.

pullquoteIn recent years, firms have increasingly introduced practices to engage customers with the firm: referral rewards (e.g., Bank of America paying customers for referrals), new product and service development platforms (e.g., “My Starbucks Idea” where customers can post new product and service ideas), and customer communities (e.g., Weight Watchers meetings where people give and get advice on losing weight). To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of these practices, we were interested to gain more insight into the processes that underlie successful customer engagement practices.

JSR_72ppiRGB_150pixwOur research demonstrates the importance of socialization (i.e., giving behavioral guidelines to customers who are engaged with the firm) and support (i.e., giving practical and/or emotional help to customers who are engaged with the firm). Additionally, we demonstrate that these processes have the potential to steer and encourage engagement behaviors among not only customers who consume the firm’s products or services but also customers who do not consume products and services of a firm. Family members of nursing home residents, for instance, do not consume nursing home services but they can take their relative in the nursing home for a walk or give suggestions to the nursing home personnel about how to care for the nursing home resident.

By steering and encouraging engagement behaviors embedded in a broader network of customers and stakeholders – such as engagement behaviors of family members of nursing home residents – firms can ease the burden of overworked employees while generating better customer experiences. In other words, this research demonstrates that firms have the potential to better meet consumers’ needs while also reducing the workload for their frontline employees by developing customer engagement practices that reach out to the broader network of customers and other stakeholders.

We believe that the broader network of customers and other stakeholders deserves particular attention, since it becomes increasingly clear that the creation of value extends beyond dyadic interactive experiences between a firm and its customers. In our interconnected world, customers and other stakeholders have a plethora of options to share their opinions about a brand or firm with other people and even affect other people’s attitudes and behaviors towards a brand or firm. In this context, firms need to engage the broader network of customers and other stakeholders with the brand or firm to allow for value co-creation.

Read the paper, “Managing Engagement Behaviors in a Network of Customers and Stakeholders: Evidence From the Nursing Home Sector,” online in the Journal of Service Research.

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