Service encounter is a two-way interaction between the service provider and the customer. The customer attempts to evaluate the service received based on certain constructs like service value, surroundings and the customer’s behaviour.
Communication style is another important determining factor in enforcing a strong sense of bond between customers and employees. The communication style is said to impact the listener’s feelings of confidence, sense of control, self esteem etc. Managers need to know which communication style has a positive impact on customers in the direction of positive service evaluation. Important factors related to the communication style are service specific, situational specific and customer related..
Yan Ma (2010) and others discuss the social interaction model centred on a customer faced with a service encounter with no prior knowledge about the service, in which case s/he may feel a sense of anxiety due to inability of choosing alternative courses of action. In such a situation, the affective component of service employee’s communication comes into picture. The affective component refers to the employee’s mode of communication which is evident from his verbal and non verbal communication. The customer deals the situation in the perspective of a person rather than looking at service as a case. The affective component can be viewed as the time spent with the customer, the explicit concern for the customer and the extent of interest shown by the service employee.
The affective component discussed here belongs to one of the communication styles. A communication style refers to the verbal or a paraverbal expression of the literal meaning of a communicator’s intention conveyed and it determines how it is interpreted, filtered, and absorbed by the listener based on the context. The communication between the individuals may be in any of the friendly, contentious, animated, attentive, dramatic, dominant, open and relaxed manners. These constructs determine the style of communication. The affective component of communication is associated with friendly, attentive and open approach while the dominant style of communication takes the characteristics of animated, contentious dramatic approach.
In general, the affective component of communication is said to have a positive impact on the perception of the service. The dominant style witnessed a less favourable evaluation of the service as it involves lack of clear cut explanation and it involves technical jargon. So, in service contexts, management should aim at developing a affective component of communication in their service employees as it involves features like warmth, empathy, humour and attentiveness.
Although the communication style is said to have direct implications on customer satisfaction levels based on customer’s evaluation of service, it is known from certain studies that some moderators like service criticality and the service nature intervene with the communication style that affects customer satisfaction. Another noticeable variable which is known to have a significant effect in the communication style is the factor of empowerment. The empowered employees exhibit the features of high self efficacy, adaptability and problem solving skills which reflect in the accommodative communication style.
Regarding the aspect of criticality, if the situation is perceived as very critical and crucial by the consumers, their attitude is influenced markedly with the communication style. Service contexts involve critical situations where the customer perceives it to be very crucial in his view. The customers tend to form positive perceptions and disposition when dealt in an accommodative style characterised by empathy, warmth, friendliness. Likewise, the customer forms negative perceptions when the service is dealt in dominant communication style in critical situations.
Another moderator of the communication style in connection with the service evaluation is the service nature. The nature of service may vary according to the product purchased. Moreover, service encounters that require the purchase of innovative products call for a knowledgeable, persuasive style of communication. Less innovative services call for a friendly, gregarious and accommodative style of communication which involves an affective component. The customer attains satisfaction when he receives desired quality in the service provision such as professionalism and guidance. Customer services that occur in retail outlets attempt to reinforce satisfaction levels among consumers while using a compassionate and highly affiliative style of communication.