Because engaging customers and developing co-creating customer communities can enhance business performance and customer value there has been a considerable increase in interest in these subjects as of lately. Due to co-creation of firms and consumers the boundary that separates firms from consumers becomes more and more blurry (Grönroos & Voima, 2013). Consumers increasingly participate in content creation, product development, support each other in product use, and promote products, services, or brands to other customers. These actions fall under the concept of customer engagement that aggregates the ways in which customers can influence firms (Doorn et al., 2010). However, academics and practitioners lack understanding on how customer engagement contributes to value co-creation. By using a case study approach on a public transport service system involving consumers, communities, businesses, and governmental organizations, Jaakkola and Alexander (2014) try to improve this understanding. The main strength of this paper is that, Jaakkola and Alexander (2014) are (one of) the first who conceptualize the role of customer engagement behavior (CEB) in value co-creation.
This study shows that CEB affects value co-creation by customers’ diverse resource contributions toward the firm and other stakeholders. More specifically, CEB affects other stakeholders’ perceptions, preferences, expectations, or actions toward the firm. Therefore, CEB affects value processes between the customer and firm, and indirectly value co-creation between the firm and other stakeholders. Resources in this case are not only of informational nature but may also be for example physical labor, skills, and relationships. Besides the aforementioned, the study finds numerous other effects. Firstly, customers’ sense of ownership of the firm’s offering and empowerment in the service system are key drivers of CEB and this is supported by the firm’s provision of access and willingness to cede some control to the community. Secondly, engagement behaviors are motivated by the customers’ need to extend and improve the firms offering, either for personal or collective purposes. Thirdly, other stakeholders may provide engaged customers with recognition, legitimacy, and/or resources which further encourages these behaviors. Fourthly, the drivers, manifestations, and outcomes of CEB are iterative and cyclical, as the positive outcomes for each party further motivate them to engage in or support CEB. Lastly, customer satisfaction, trust, and commitment are drivers and outcomes of CEB, and customers’ motivation to engage relates to their expectation of value outcomes.
Jaakkola and Alexander (2014) suggest that organizations can improve and differentiate their offering by incorporating the broad range of resources that customers and other stakeholders are willing to invest through codeveloping or augmenting behaviors. This means firms should consider how communities of customers can be involved within the firm and explore the potential to engage diverse stakeholders and their networks of relationships around a common cause, enabling greater customization and augmentation of the firm’s offering. More specifically, when customers feel empowered with passion and establish a sense of ownership of the offering, they are more willing to contribute for the benefit of the firm. Furthermore, through influencing and mobilizing behaviors, engaged customers impact other stakeholders’ willingness to engage with the focal firm and thereby offer a valuable channel to new customer and stakeholder relationships. Lastly, firms can encourage CEB by being open, accessible, and adaptive to customers’ resource contributions, but it requires that firms to some extent cede control over the offering to the engaged customers and other stakeholders.
This sound great, but be critical
Because this study focuses on a public service system, i.e. a railway station that has somewhat of a monopoly status, the generalizability of the findings is somewhat limited. Therefore, the findings may be most applicable to other public sector contexts where resources are limited and common causes can be more easily fostered within communities. However, I feel the findings are robust enough to apply to multiple others communities of stakeholders connected by an interest in a certain offering.
Jaakkola, E., & Alexander, M. (2014). The role of customer engagement behavior in value co-creation: a service system perspective. Journal of Service Research, 17(3), 247-261.
Grönroos, C., & Voima, P. (2013). Critical service logic: making sense of value creation and co-creation. Journal of the academy of marketing science, 41(2), 133-150.
Van Doorn, J., Lemon, K. N., Mittal, V., Nass, S., Pick, D., Pirner, P., & Verhoef, P. C. (2010). Customer engagement behavior: Theoretical foundations and research directions. Journal of Service Research, 13(3), 253-266.