The service experience is recognized as an intangible service offering. Through the experiential exchange the customer may experience delight, if interest, affect and arousal are triggered. The customer’s created emotion is the output for the intangible service experience. Research has revealed that the interpersonal interaction occurring between customer and service representative is in fact the dominant element which gives rise to the customer’s experience (Arnould & Price, 1993; Hinkin & Tracey, 1998).
It is proposed that the formation of a genuine emotional connection between the two parties is achieved through a highly positive service interaction (Wang, Luo & Tai, 2017). The emotion of delight it is proposed is manifested through the extension of respect to the customer, reinforcement of the customer’s positive self-esteem, strengthen trust, and infuse the interaction with an element that proves to exceed the customer’s service expectation (Berry, Wall & Carbone, 2006).
Given that the quality of the human interaction precedes the creation of delight, researchers have emphasized the importance of rapport-building behaviors (Gremler & Gwinner, 2000; Kahle, 2008), hospitable behaviors (Ariffin & Maghzi, 2012; Lashley, Morrison, & Randall, 2005; Lovelock, Wirtz, & Keh, 2005), service responses to customers’ emotional states (Bitner, Brown, & Meuter, 2000; Menon & Dube, 2000; Wang & Beise-Zee, 2013), and customized services (Bitner, Booms, & Tetreault, 1990; Mattila & Enz, 2002; Oliver et al., 1997) in the creation of the intangible service offering.
Consumer behavior literature echoes similar sentiments finding that the service experience is defined as the subjective and emotional reactions the consumer experiences during the consumption process (Holt, 1995). Johnston and Clark (2001) state that the service experience is a process built upon cognitive, emotional and behavioral responses; the combination of which create an indelible mental mark on the customer. While Padgett and Allen (1997) believe that if the service exchange is experiential it will construct meaning for the customer by way of thought, feeling, and behavior during the consumption process.
When a customer experiences strong emotional feeling during the consumption of the service exchange it leaves a lasting mark in the customers’ mind (Pine & Gilmore, 1998). The importance of creating a delightful and memorable customer experience is not through a focus on the functionality of the service offering, but rather through a focus of creating pleasant, positive, and an enjoyable experience(s) (Wang, Luo & Tai, 2017).
The service skills that employees need to embody in order to deliver emotional experiences for customers, such as delight, have been categorized into three domains:
- mechanic, and
- humanic clues (Berry, Wall & Carbone, 2006).
The functional clue represents the technical performance of the service delivered. The mechanic clue represents the tangibles associated with the service, and humanic clues focus on the behavior and appearance of service employees (Berry, Wall & Carbone, 2006). Although all three clues are a necessary condition to create the emotion of delight in the consumer experience, it was found that the most important attribute of the service exchange is in fact the interpersonal, co-created emotional exchange (Arnould & Price, 1993; Hinkin & Tracey, 1998).
Researchers have articulated the interpersonal, co-created emotional exchange to be characterized by behaviors of: welcoming, comforting, accompanying, inviting, sensing, and conversing (Berry, Wall & Carbone, 2006), attentiveness, going the extra mile (Bitner, 1990), pampering and finding a way to make the customer feel unique (Pullman & Gross, 2004). Yet, despite what research has been able to reveal, the practical application of creating a delightful experience during the service exchange is not well understood.
The literature on the actual components of delight in the service exchanged is fragmented. Currently, there is not a framework for achieving delight in the consumption process (Wang, Wang & Tai, 2014). In order to address the need for understanding the attributes, which create the emotion of delight in the service exchange; the proposed research will attempt to capture the individual functional, mechanic and humanic clues which trigger the antecedents to the creation of the emotion, delight.