Service Process

Customers of service organization obtain benefits and satisfactions from the services themselves and from how those services are delivered. The way in which service systems operate is crucial. Service systems which operate efficiently and effectively can give marketing management considerable marketing leverage and promotional advantage. It is clear that a smooth running service operation offers competitive advantages, particularly where differentiation between service products may be minimal.

In service systems the marketing implications of operational performance are so important that the two functions have to co-operate. In services, marketing must be just as involved with the operational aspects of performance as operations managers; that is, with the ‘how’ and the ‘process’ of service delivery.

While customers have their desired expectations, they are normally prepared to change the level of their expectations depending upon previous experiences, information captured from various sources or the current situation. Accordingly, they would settle for a minimum or ‘adequate’ level of service that could satisfy them for that instance of service. For example, when customers find that the service facility is crowded with other customers, they would start expecting lower levels of service from what they would ideally desire from the service personnel. It is important for us to know the minimum level of service that could satisfy customers, as they would be dissatisfied if the service level fell below this minimum level. This could motivate them to leave the service without purchasing it. They are likely to talk ill about the service to others as dissatisfied customers tend to talk to more people about their frustrations that satisfied people talk to others about their positive experiences.

Operations management is not just concerned with manufacturing. Here we define operations as the means by which resource inputs are combined, reformed, transformed or separated to create useful outputs (goods and services).

Operations management is concerned with planning, organizing and controlling this resource conversion process which is illustrated in Figure 8.1. The concept of ‘useful’ is important; for the purpose of the process is to add ‘utility’ or ‘value’ over and above the costs incurred in obtaining system inputs and in undertaking the transformation process.

topic 3

Classification of services operating systems

Services operating systems may be classified in a number of ways.

Two considered here for illustrative purposes are according to:

1. The type of process

2. The degree of contact

1. The type of process

Three types of processes of relevance to service organization are:

(a) Line operations

(b) Job shop operations

(c) Intermittent operations

(a) Line Operations: In a line operation there is an arranged sequence of operations or activities undertaken. The service is produced by following this sequence. In manufacturing, an assembly line for domestic appliances typifies this type of process; in services, a self-service restaurant typifies this process.

(b) Job Shop Operations: A job shop operation produces a variety of services using different combinations and sequences of activities. The services can be tailored to meet varying customer needs and to provide a bespoke service. Restaurants and professional services are examples of job shop operations. While flexibility is a key advantage of this type of system it may suffer from being more difficult to schedule, from being more difficult to substitute capital for labour in the system and from being more difficult to calculate the capacity of the system.

(c) Intermittent Operations: Intermittent operations refer to service projects which are one off or only infrequently repeated. Examples include the construction of new service facilities, the design of an advertising campaign, and the installation of a large computer or the making of a major film. The scale of such projects makes their management a complex task. Such projects provide an appropriate field for the ready transfer of many project control and scheduling techniques like Critical Path Analysis. The scale and infrequency of these projects make them different in kind from line and job shop operations.

2. The Degree of Contact

Managing service operations with a high level of customer contact with the service delivery process presents different challenges compared with those systems where there is a low level of customer contact. The amount of customer contact has an effect on may of the decisions operations managers have to make. These kinds of systems (high contact or low contact) have an effect upon service operations and have implications for managers of service systems.

Some of these are:

(a) High contact systems are more difficult to control since the customer can make an input to the process or even disrupt the process.

(b) In high contact systems the customer can affect the timing of demand and it is more difficult to balance the capacity of the system to meet demands placed upon it.

(c) Workers in high contact systems can have a great influence upon the customers’ view of the service provided.

(d) In high contact systems production scheduling is more difficult.

(e) It may be more difficult to rationalize high contact systems (e.g. by substituting technology).

(f) It may be beneficial to separate high contact and low contact elements of a service system and encourage staff specialization in these different functions because of the varying skills required.

Both of the schemes outlined are useful ways of classifying service systems for operational purposes. Both however imply that the sequence of operations involved in the service process can be made explicit to enable the systems to be categorized according to degree of contact. One step that service managers can take to understand their process of service delivery is to flow chart the system and the interactions with customers within that system.

Customer expectations could have the following orientations:-

Outcome orientation, i.e., customer expectations of what (e.g. a haircut) he/she should receive from the service,

Process orientation, i.e., customer expectations of how (e.g. smoothly or happily) he/she should receive the outcome of the service, and

Relationship orientation, i.e., customer expectations about how he/she can relate (e.g. as a non-intrusive friend) to the service personnel.

How will we find out what customers desire from our service personnel at each moment of truth, depicted in Figure 14.1? If your answer is that you will take a representative, yet random sample of customers from our target market and ask them, you are on the right track. We must ask our customers to imagine the situation from their past experience of the moment of truth in a same or similar service. Then we must ask them to write down not what happened, instead their desire as to what service personnel should be doing during the particular moment of truth and how he/she should be doing it. Collate the customers’ desired expectations at each moment of truth.

It is possible that the desired expectations vary, both with respect to their content, and the level of intensity for different customers. For example, at the entry to a restaurant, some customers may desire a smooth door which they can operate themselves, others might wish that the door is opened for them by the doorman, still others may wish that they be greeted by the doorman while opening the door while some customers might desire that they be greeted with a rose at the time of entering the restaurant. Which of these desires are to be acceded to? One simple way is to provide what most of the customers want. However, the expectations may not point towards a single mostly demanded desire in some cases.

There is a more sophisticated method of choosing which of the above desires should be satisfied at the moment of truth. Noriaki Kano and his colleagues developed a method around 1979 by which various requirements of customers could be classified into three categories as follows:

  1. Must-be requirements: Take the example of the provision of soap in the washroom of a restaurant. Customers would be dissatisfied if these requirements are not fulfilled but would take it for granted when these are provided. 
  2. One-dimensional requirements: Take the case of the speed with which food is served at a restaurant. Customers would be more satisfied with faster service and less satisfied with slower service. In general, customers’ satisfaction would be proportional to the level that their requirement is fulfilled. 
  3. Attractive requirements: Imagine the example of receiving a rose at the time of entering a restaurant. Customers would be delighted, when such requirements are fulfilled, but will not be dissatisfied when these not fulfilled.


Figure 24-1: Kano’s Model

The above model has been depicted pictorially in Figure 14.2. In order to categorise desired customer expectations into the above three categories, the customers would have to be asked a pair of functional and dysfunctional questions. In order to categorise customers’ wishes to be greeted with a rose at the time of entry, the pair of questions would be as follows:

Functional: How would you feel if you are given a rose at the time of entry?

Dysfunctional: How would you feel if you are not given a rose at the time of entry?

Customers would be asked to answer each of the above questions in terms of the following options: 1. I like it that way 2. It must be that way 3. I am neutral 4. I can live with it that way 5. I dislike it that way. Now the mean value of the answers of all the respondent customers are plotted on the Kano Evaluation Table (see Table 24‑1) and the requirements classified into each of the three types, attractive, must-be or one-dimensional.

Table Kano Evaluation Table

Customer requirements Dysfunctional
1. like 2.
3. neutral 4.
live with
5. dislike
Functional 1. like Q A A A O
2. must-be R I I I M
3. neutral R I I I M
4. live with R I I I M
5. dislike R R R R Q
  A = attractive
M = must-be
O = one-dimensional
I = indifferent
R = reverse
Q = questionable result

Now we must ensure that all must-be requirements are fulfilled, the one-dimensional requirements are fulfilled as much as possible with respect to what the competition does and the attractive requirements are fulfilled to distinguish our service from our competitors. In this way we can ensure that we are on the track of providing customers what they want so that they can be motivated to purchase our services.

24.4 Preparing the Service Script

Once we have decided what and how service personnel are going to perform at each moment of truth, we have to write down the service script. The service script would encapsulate the customer expectations in print that are to be met by our service offering, i.e. what and how service personnel would deliver the service at each moment of truth. For instance, the script would mention how the door attendant would greet the customers, and open the door to let them in. It would also mention that if the capacity was full, the attendant would tell that to the customers, give them an estimate of the time they would have to wait for their turn, request them to sit down in the waiting area or advice them to visit another restaurant if other customers were already waiting in queue. Similarly, the waiter would have to learn the script to take and confirm the order, to serve in the correct manner, to take feedback and present the bill at the right time and the correct way. You must have noted that the script removes ambiguity about what and how the service has to be delivered at each moment of truth, ensures that the service is completely delivered without the customer having to undergo discomfort in fulfilling missing links like beckoning the waiter again and again to state his requirements. The service script pinpoints the exact role each service personnel has to play in order to deliver the service correctly. Even when something goes wrong in the delivery and the customer complains, service personnel have to learn the script to be followed to handle the irate customer and make good or ‘recover’ the service! The service script, is prepared in consultation with the service personnel, the service manager and a representative customer. The script is acted out few times before being finalised and isused for training service personnel.

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