Professional service relationships in chronic illness: the client's perspective
The relationship between professional service providers and their clients is of great importance to many service industries including educational, financial, consulting and healthcare services. The aim of this research enquiry is to identify, generate and describe a theoretical explanation of how a client engages in and manages their relationship with their health professional over a period of time. Fifteen participants living with chronic medical conditions were interviewed over a period of four months with data collected via unstructured in-depth interview sessions, and analysed using thematic analysis. The analysis reveals three major themes, nature of relationship, degree of control and service satisfaction. Of central concern is the longevity of the relationship between the healthcare client and his/her service provider. If the service provider is willing to share their authority and relinquish some of the control to the client, the client feels empowered. The client is then willing to provide information and effort to co-create effective service episodes. This sharing of authority enables the client to have better control on their service consumption. The sharing of authority also has an impact on the client’s propensity to remain engaged with their service provider. The findings of this study have implications for our knowledge and understanding of professional service delivery and how it differs from the delivery of consumer services. The study clearly indicates a shift in the role of a client as an empowered entity who wants to be part of, not just the service consumption, but service production as well. The key lessons from this study may inform other types of services including financial, educational and consulting services.