Saturday, July 18, 2015

Take care with “customer code of conduct”

Helsingin Sanomat recently wrote about the newest cat-café, opened in Helsinki, Kamppi, to attract people to have a cup of coffee while watching and playing with live kittens. As such, cat cafés in Finland are a miracle due to the strict health policies, but the café in Helsinki is not even the first one in Finland.
Having humorously suggested cat-cafés to Finland 5 years ago, I now have to come back to the service approach this trend is paving way for.
While some cafés may be barely surviving due to big capital investments or hobbies or side-businesses of their owners, cat-cafés have raised a lot of interest and ended in even recommendation to book a time slot beforehand.
What attracts people to these cafés? Apparently something that Starbucks invented already years ago, the cafés can be much more than a place to have a cup of coffee. They are a place to experience, socialize, share, even tell your secrets to a little kitten.
What is important in a service setting is the concept of who else is included in your service experience. Regardless of if you really interact or socialize with somebody, the profile or behaviour of others may influence what services you end up paying for. In a cat-café, it may not even be people´s general love for animals, but possibility to show care or be cared for.
In “Responses to other similar customers in a serviced setting – analyzing the moderating role of perceived performance risk” (Journal of Services Marketing volume 28 issue 2, 2014), the concept of “other customers” is a useful thing to know as it appears that individuals are not only more attracted to others who share similar attitudes, but are also more influenced by them. Previous researchers have suggested that service firms should not be afraid to establish, communicate and enforce codes of conduct for customers (Journal of Services Marketing volume 28 issue 2, 2014).
In the newest cat-café, according to Helsingin Sanomat, “the kittens are not to be lifted nor patted if the kitten is sleeping”. Customers who enter are given rules to obey, which they even pay for since they feel they are getting a return.
The code of conduct is an interesting service concept, which may sound limiting, yet on the other hand it may provide a feeling of security: you know the rules, and you may be happy once they are clearly spelled out, leaving no possibility of guessing nor feeling insecure.
Apparently the cats, reported by Helsingin Sanomat, as well as summer holiday (?), have made me to re-launch the blog on service management.