Virtual Technology & the Customer Experience: A Breast Augmentation Context

Project dates: 2018 - 2019

This honours research aimed to explore the breast augmentation service through a customer experience lens, with specific consideration given to the role of 3D imaging software. Through the exploration of the holistic patient experience, the research aims to better understand how patients expect to receive a breast augmentation service, and the role of 3D imaging technology in potentially shaping expected outcomes and post-operative perceptions.

Why is this important?

Customer experience is key to service design. However, current literature lacks application to transformative services such as medical & cosmetic surgery. In breast augmentation, there are rising rates of dissatisfaction with technically successful surgical outcomes, and re-operation rates continue to increase (Cash, Dual & Perkins, 2002; Phillips, 2017). Motivated by a drive for femininity, improved selfesteem, and social acceptance, there is volatility in the physical and psychological wellbeing of these consumers (Solvi et al, 2010; Walden, 2010). This trend evidences a dissonance between expectations of the breast augmentation service, and subsequent perceptions. The role of virtual technology in enhancing the service experience has been widely acknowledged in fields such as fashion retailing, e-commerce and tourism. While the literature considers the role of 3D breast imaging as an aid in the customer experience and evaluates the breast simulation accuracy, there is little understanding of how and whether 3D breast imaging can bring the imagined goal closer to the reality to improve the customer experience.

What did we do?

This research reports the findings of qualitative, semi-structured, longitudinal interviews with 14 patients of a metropolitan breast surgery clinic. The interviews were conducted both before and six weeks after surgery (28 interviews), with half the sample electing to undergo 3D breast imaging and half receiving the standard service (no imaging). Through analysis of the both the first and second interview data, the role of 3D imaging was investigated.

What did we find out?

The data revealed that a patient’s imagined customer experience is guided by external information sources, evolves across the customer journey, and that patients engage in a reappraisal of emotions to focus on the cognitive dimension of the imagined customer experience. Through analysis of both the first and second interview data, the role of 3D imaging was investigated. The findings were that 3D imaging is part of an informed search strategy, that the software provides peace-of-mind to patients in the actual customer experience, that imaginal responses dominate the 3D imaging service, and that 3D imaging is part of a package of touch points that facilitate positive evaluations.

Overall, the research provided potential approaches for practitioners to leverage the findings and improve the customer experience through a number of strategies including the introduction and development of informational resources, and a restructuring of the consultation process to align with the unique customer journey. The research in this thesis stimulates further exploration of the customer experience for breast augmentation patients, and the role of 3D imaging in shaping this experience.

Key contributions:

  • Theoretical
    • The imagined customer experience is shaped by external information sources
    • The customer experience is dynamic and evolves
    • 3D imaging is part of an informed search strategy
    • 3D imaging leverages imaginal responses to create peace-of-mind
  • Managerial/Practical
    • Practitioners should develop comprehensive resources to reduce information asymmetry
    • Practitioners should tailor the service to the evolution of customer experience
    • Practitioners should incorporate 3D imaging into the core service
    • Practitioners should implement a second ‘sizing’ consultation to the customer experience (including 3D imaging)

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Chief Investigators