Handbook of Service Marketing Research
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Handbook of Service Marketing Research

Edited by Roland T. Rust and Ming-Hui Huang

The Handbook of Service Marketing Research brings together an all-star team of leading researchers in service marketing to explore many of the hottest topics in service marketing today.
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Chapter 19: It's the social, stupid! Leveraging the 4C markers of social in online service delivery

Ko de Ruyter and Tom van Laer


In an attempt to capitalize on the benefits of social media, Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) launched Club China, a social network aimed at business travelers and entrepreneurs who do business in the emerging economy. For the airline, it represents a way to develop extended connections with high margin service segments. For customers, the community goes far beyond traditional travelers' loyalty programs that rely on selective incentives (that is, frequent flyer points). Its primary proposition is based on "linking value," that is, the added value of social bonds (Cova 1997) that provide relevant information and relationships with peers. Immaterial value also stems from being part of an exclusive club, which in turn reflects the customers' entrepreneurial identity. Club China's online forum allows customers to maintain valuable contacts, share experiences through personal stories, pose questions, and propose new service concepts. Experts offer insights into matters related not just to business operations and investments but also to social issues, such as how to improve life in China's factory towns and the use of renewable energy in rural industrial centers. Members also can choose their seatmates for a flight by using a "meet and seat" functionality based on Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. Dedicated phone support services are available of course, and offline events take place in both China and the Netherlands. A myriad of services aimed at professional development and relationships through social media thus enhance the airline's core service, namely, transporting people from A(msterdam) to B(eijing).

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