Dr Sanjit K. Roy and Dr Benita Hube from the UWA Business School explain why businesses need to preserve their customers' dignity.
Dignity represents the essence of customer service and businesses are fundamentally responsible for promoting and preserving their customers’ dignity. It is all about customers feeling valued, cared for, respected, having a sense of autonomy and being comfortable in their relationships with their service providers, and it is becoming increasingly vital to the success of a business.
We have seen that there can be an astounding absence of dignity in the service interactions of some businesses, which have suffered as a result. For example, the current state of erosion of some financial and aged care institutions, as highlighted by the recent Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Superannuation, Banking and Financial Services Industry and Aged Care Quality and Safety in Australia.
These events have created an environment of distrust where customers and communities consider these businesses as simply opportunistic, solely engaging to maximise profit. People who were affected as a result of the misbehaviour by banks and other service firms have a depleted sense of dignity. For these businesses to resurrect their fast-fading reputation, they must treat customers and stakeholders as humans.
"Companies that adopt the 3C strategy – care, compassion and conscience, to treat customers with dignity will have longer and more productive relationships with customers. ”
As part of our research, the UWA Business School has investigated the concept of dignity in business-to-customer service encounters, also referred to as B2C, to provide service organisations with strategies to transform the lives and well-being of customers.
While substantial work has established dimensions for dignity in health, judicial, bioethics and human rights contexts, some businesses still have not considered dignity to be an essential part of customer care, or given it the importance it deserves.
Our research findings highlight the importance of creating a balance between the marketing and sale of products and services and promoting and supporting the goals of customers.
To preserve business-to-customer relationships and improve loyalty, it is important businesses consider both threats and enablers for customers, which can be classified into four groups: conduct, service encounter, service environment, and the customer’s perception of self.
Customer experience hinges on the protection of their dignity through enablers such as being treated with respect and care and social interactions. Customers’ dignity is threatened when service providers are disrespectful, intimidating, insulting and unfair, which can make customers feel humiliated, vulnerable, or embarrassed, affecting their self-confidence and ultimately loyalty to that business.
Companies that adopt the 3C strategy – care, compassion and conscience, to treat customers with dignity will have longer and more productive relationships with customers. The 3C strategy has the potential to create passionately loyal customers who love their service firms.
Treating customers with dignity during service encounter can influence the outcome favourability leading to increased trust, service quality perceptions and satisfaction. It can also result in higher probability to retain loyalty and lower probability of the customer switching their loyalty to another provider.