Virtually Speaking-Customer to Customer Communication in Blogs

Article excerpt

Executive Summary

Starting from the proposition that "value is always uniquely and phenomenologically (experientially) determined by the beneficiary" (Vargo & Lusch 2008^sub a^, p.7), the purpose of this paper is to examine customers' experiences as revealed through their digital narratives electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM, electronic word of mouth) in blogs and to discuss the resulting implications for service innovation. A narrative analysis using critical incident technique of digital narratives revealed in blogs focusing on customers' experiences of the Nokia Navigator mobile phone is presented. The discussion and conclusions contribute to the service innovation and service marketing literatures by revealing customer participation in individually and socially constructed service innovation as an ongoing experiential phenomenon which involves service customers who adopt different roles depending on their experiences.

Introduction

Despite the heterogeneous nature of customer to customer communication online, the ever increasing passive and active customer participation in online conversations has afforded service marketing researchers and companies access to a rich reservoir of customer experiences which provide useful insights for service innovation and development (Ouwersloot & Odekerken-Schroder, 2008). Prahalad (2004) indicated that customers communicating online are an integral part of the value-creation process and concluded that what is co-created is customer experience. However, there is a paucity of research on the impact of electronic word of mouth (eWOM) shared in online customer communities such as blogs on the choice of service and subsequent customer experience (Pitta & Fowler, 2005^sub a^; Pitta & Fowler, 2005^sub b^).

Starting from the perspective of service-dominant (S-D) logic's tenth foundational premise, namely that "value is always uniquely and phenomenologically" (i.e. experientially) "determined by the beneficiary" Vargo & Lusch (2008^sub a^, p. 7), the purpose of this paper is to examine customers' experiences as revealed through electronic word of mouth, eWOM, in blogs and to discuss the resulting implications for service innovation.

We commence by outlining how individually and socially constructed experiences (Vargo & Lusch, 2008^sub b^; Vargo, 2008) revealed through eWOM might be more holistically understood by both researchers and practitioners as potential insights for service innovation. Then, a narrative analysis using critical incident technique of blogs is presented of the experiences of Nokia Navigator mobile phone service customers in the social context of the online customer communities within which they participate.

The research findings revealed rich documented archives of customers' experiences of the digital narratives of Nokia Navigator mobile phone customers. The discussion and conclusions contribute to service innovation research by revealing customer participation in individually and socially constructed service innovation as an ongoing phenomenon, where customers adopt different roles depending on their experiences. Traditionally, service providers have performed the dominant role in deciding and determining what constitutes a service innovation (cf. Toivonen, Tuominen & Brax, 2007). In contrast to this prevailing perspective, the research findings revealed that some customers preferred to adopt advisory expert roles when blogging whilst others tended to adopt the roles of novice and sought advice and assistance from other customers who blog. An important implication of these findings is that, as service innovation is individually and socially constructed and phenomenologically determined by individual customer experiences, it is customers alone who determine what is or is not a service innovation. Service providers can merely propose what may result service innovations through their value propositions.

Customer experience of service innovation

Individual and social experience can be related to different phenomena, such as service and innovation. …