The SQBoK Framework

The expandable list contains key Service Quality resources accessible to ASQ Service Quality Members. Please ensure JavaScript is enabled on your browser for optimal viewing experience.

Supporting Materials for Practitioners

Key Service Quality Concepts

Customer and market focus
Stakeholder Identification
  • Client/Customer/End User/Internal Customer
    • An entity that is served by an organization, receives goods or services, and may have the ability to choose between different products and suppliers. The entity may be an end user or external customer outside the organization or an internal customer who holds a position within the organization. “Customers” needn’t be served directly by an organization – they may be intermediate customers whose expectations, or requirements, must be carried forward through a series of requirements definitions and/or service contracts.
Requirements and wants analysis
  • Challenges
    • Because of the subjective nature of services, service suppliers often must reach out to understand specifically what customers want.
  • Market Research
    • A focus on learning customer expectations and desires and on assessment of current product value in order to provide input for service design and delivery.
  • Behavioral Science
    • The studies that help identify customer wants and needs by concentrating on patterns of responses to external stimuli. The conclusions can be integrated into an organization’s products or service delivery processes to better meet the needs of customers.
  • Competitive Market Assessments
    • The process of critically comparing one’s own service with what is provided by others to identify opportunities to better meet customer needs.
Relationship management
  • Customer Relationship Management
    • A system or process for tracking who customers are and what interactions have occurred in order to support the development of relationships and predict future interactions.
  • Outreach and education
    • The processes of reaching out to customers to support service awareness, and educate service users on how to maximize the goods or services provided adds value to those goods and services.
  • Building and maintaining trust
    • Focusing beyond an individual transaction and toward customer retention occurs most often when service providers build interactions on relationships and trust.
  • Feedback
    • A process to discover or confirm that the customer is satisfied with the service and the relationship.
Employee Focus
Staffing for Service
  • Service Traits (Soft Skills, Empathy, Etc.)
    • The traits desired in service employees that are more closely identified with interpersonal communication, such as conflict management, human relations, making presentations, negotiating, team building, and other abilities defined in terms of expected outcomes and not as specific methods or techniques such as statistical analysis.
  • Service Trait Identification
    • The process of identifying the traits that improve success in service delivery, especially when creating job descriptions.
  • Succession Planning
    • The identification and development of potential successors for key positions in an organization, through a systematic evaluation process and possible training or mentoring. Though not unique to service, succession plans aid in service continuity. As service can be built around relationships, succession planning is an influential factor in customer and employee retention.
Equip Employees
  • Service-conducive environment
    • An environment in which physical surroundings and organizational factors do not distract employees from helping their customers.
  • Job definition (authority, role, responsibilities)
    • A written statement of a specific job, based on the findings of a job analysis. A job definition generally includes duties, purpose, responsibilities, scope, and working conditions of a job, along with the job’s title and the name or designation of the person to whom the employee reports. The written definition provides important boundaries for customer interaction.
  • Skill development
    • The defined process of learning or improving necessary skills, such as technical skills, service/product understanding, and interaction skills.
  • References
    • The available tools and resources employees need to react promptly to any situation. These can be tools such as a knowledge management system, work instructions, or people references.
  • Code of conduct/ethics/social responsibility
    • A defined or implied expectation of required behaviors, responsibilities, and actions within an organization or of members of a professional body. The focus may be on ethical and socially responsible issues and applies to individuals, providing guidance on how to act in cases of doubt or confusion.
  • Diversity (relating to different cultures, values, ideas)
    • The recognition and respect of those who may think, act, or look differently based on culture, ethnicity, religion, creed, or physical or mental challenges.
Employee/team performance management
  • Knowledge, experience, skills, aptitude, attitude (KESAA)
    • A model focusing on job skills match, company fit, and task fit.
  • Four stages of competence
    • A model focusing on how a person learns, progressing from 1) Unconscious incompetence – you don’t know that you don’t know something, to 2) Conscious incompetence – you are now aware that you are incompetent at something, to 3) Conscious competence – you develop a skill in that area but have to think about it, to the final stage, 4) Unconscious competence – you are good at it and it now comes naturally.
  • Competency evaluation
    • A regularly scheduled review of an ability to perform expected job responsibilities and deliver service to achieve customer satisfaction.
  • Customer feedback
    • The process of inviting customers to provide their perceptions and experiences of an organization’s product or service delivery. Organizations can use these data to identify customer experience trends and create strategies to improve. Feedback is most commonly gathered through surveys, focus groups, or personal interviews.
  • Performance monitoring
    • A defined method of ensuring organizational processes or employee roles or behaviors are being carried out to the organization’s expectation. Expectations must be defined in order to assess level of performance, whether associated with expected sales, transactions per minute, missed calls, client touch points per month, or completed reports.
  • Goals/objectives
    • The defined result of what you wish to achieve. Employee and organizational performance is most often evaluated based on the ability to achieve set goals. Factors affecting goals include feasibility, time lines, and ability to measure progress.
Employee engagement and retention
  • Cost of replacement (rehiring, retraining, etc.)
    • The tangible hiring, training, and relocation costs for new workers, and the intangible costs such as new worker inefficiency and lost productivity while a job is vacant. The cost to replace employees generally exceeds the cost of helping an existing employee to be successful.
  • Motivational Theory (MacGregor, Herzberg, etc.)
    • Recognized theories regarding the activation of goal-oriented behavior, which can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the task itself and exists within the individual rather than relying on any external factors. External motivation relies on external factors, such as money or rewards, coercion, or punishment.
  • Motivation techniques
    • Service requires employees to give of themselves constantly. Rewards, recognition, incentives, and other motivational tools provide employees the opportunity to receive.
  • Teamwork
    • The actions of individuals brought together for a common purpose or goal that subordinates the needs of the individual to the needs of the group or the group objective. To achieve teamwork, the group often goes through stages of team formation, most commonly known as Forming – the team meets and begins working together for the first time, Storming – the team members struggle for control of the group or its direction, Norming – rules are defined and accepted, Performing – the team makes progress toward objectives.
  • Empowerment
    • The management practice of giving employees the skills, resources, authority, opportunity, and motivation, as well as accountability, in order to take initiative to solve problems and improve service and performance. In service, empowerment often has direct bearing on both the customer experience and employee morale; without it, employees can fail to serve.
  • Professional development
    • The pursuit of skills and knowledge for both personal development and career advancement. The process can take place through formal on-the-job training, in-house training, consultation, coaching, communities of practice, advanced education, mentoring, reflective supervision, and technical assistance. Professional development can make employees feel valued and prepare them to take on greater responsibilities.
  • Employee satisfaction assessment
    • A formalized process to measure two key factors: employee satisfaction and engagement. Regular assessments provide the necessary data to allow more effective management of service employees.
  • Employee feedback
    • A mechanism to collect employee opinions and experiences regarding their work. Whereas satisfaction assessments may occur at scheduled intervals, such as annually, ongoing employee feedback mechanisms allow employees to have their voices heard at all times. The mechanism may be as basic as a suggestion box or an online survey link that is available at all times, or may be more formalized through standardized surveys or focus groups. In order to be most effective, an evaluation and response process should be defined.
Communication
Communication Theory
  • Communication Theory Framework
    • Theories that examine communication through one of the following viewpoints: mechanistic, psychological, social constructionist, systemic, or critical. The most basic communication model consists of sender, receiver, media, message, and filters/noise, and feedback.
  • Non-verbal communication
    • The non-spoken context within which all communication takes place. Every behavior in the real or virtual presence of another is suffused with meaning without which all verbal communication would be ambiguous. Non-verbal communication includes pitch, speed, tone and volume of voice, gestures and facial expressions, body posture, stance, and proximity to the listener, eye movements and contact, and dress and appearance. For services requiring direct customer interaction, non-verbal communication is often as important as verbal.
  • Cultural Considerations
    • The understanding that the same words or gestures may have different meanings for different receivers, depending on culture, religion, tradition, country of origin, etc. Service employees should be aware of these differences and may require additional training.
Community Planning
  • Organizational Communication
    • The strategies and methodology of dispersing information and knowledge throughout or on behalf of an organization.
  • Internal (sharing wins, importance of work, motivation, etc.) and external (branding, etc.)
    • Internal and external communication both require planning and understanding that the messages may differ. Internal communication may be as simple as regularly scheduled staff meetings or employee newsletters, or as sophisticated as intranet systems that allow access to certain data and announcements based on job responsibilities or department designation. External communication may be focused on a specific customer segment; product or service messaging, such as advertisements; or information-sharing for the public good through media outlets, social media, or other technology tools.
  • Audience and frequency
    • A key part of communication planning is identifying audiences and their communication needs, and then matching the frequency to those needs. The audience may be as broad as employees versus customers, or may be narrowed to specific department employees, key shareholders, top-level customers, new customers, categories, or vendors, etc.
  • Social media
    • Web-based technologies that allow for social interaction using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. This emerging area of communication is a blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value. Communication plans should review these tools to determine how to best leverage their ability to reach many people with minimal effort.
  • Media protocols and etiquette
    • The norms, processes, and procedures of interacting with and reporting through the media. Implementing media and protocol plans for an organization allows for preparation for a variety of interactions that may occur during a business cycle, whether for positive interactions, such as product and service promotion, or negative interactions, such as crisis management.
Service Delivery
Transactional Service
  • Core delivery processes (connection, understanding, decision, delivery, confirmation)
    • The basic processes found in transactional services of engaging or connecting with the customer, gaining understanding of the customer’s needs, deciding how best to meet those needs, delivering the appropriate service, and confirming that the customer’s needs have been met. Core delivery process is commonly found in industries such as facility management, insurance, healthcare, mortgage lending, and banking, to name a few, or in administrative functions common to corporate operations.
  • Moment of truth
    • The point of delivery where the customer compares perception and expectation of an interaction with a service provider to the actual results of interaction. This provides an opportunity to form an opinion about the provider and to judge service quality. Focusing on the impression left and identifying ways to improve that impression, or moment of truth, can be an effective practice to improve customer relationships.
  • Escalation
    • A process in service delivery in which the customer is transferred to another service employee with greater authority with a goal of being able to provide a resolution or definitive answer to the customer’s issue.
  • Complaint handling
    • A defined process for capturing and responding to complaints. This process empowers employees to reduce or reverse a negative perception and provide an answer or solution to a customer issue.
  • Service recovery
    • Often related to complaints, this is the process of responding to service delivery that did not meet or exceed the customer’s original expectations. The service recovery process often results in a more loyal customer due to the customer feeling valued by the provider.
  • Sourcing
    • Hiring an outside firm to perform or produce goods or services on behalf of an organization. When outsourcing customer-facing services, the customer impact can be significant because of the reduction of direct management and control of customer interactions. The non-physical nature of service means that sourced service quality verification can be challenging and must be evaluated to ensure the integrity and expectations of customer interactions.
  • Process visibility (delivery confirmation)
    • Service processes may be delivered without the exchange of anything tangible, as in insurance claim processing. Therefore, customers may not be able to verify that a service has actually been delivered. Providing visibility is an important factor in creating a favorable customer perception. For example, sending hard copy or e-mail confirmations provides the needed visibility into the completion of a service delivery.
Non-transactional Service
  • Service visibility
    • Providing awareness of service to the customer. Services that are not transactional in nature often remain invisible to the customer except when they are not present (consider a power outage, for example). Providing visibility and transparency into service provision on a regular basis may be done through time-dependent statements or Web-based account access allowing customers to review service provision at any time.
  • Service reliability
    • The probability that an item (service) can perform its intended function for a specified interval under stated conditions. Electronic access to a service account may provide tangible evidence of reliability for industries such as insurance, financial services, and utilities.
  • Service availability
    • A measure of the degree to which an item (service) is in the operable and committable state at the start of the service when the service is called for at an unknown (random) time. A transportation service, such as taxis, may operate at high service availability as taxis are available at any hour of the day or night, while dental services may have a lower service availability due to stated office hours during designated days of the week.
  • Service renewal and improvement
    • The process of understanding changing customer expectations and industry norms and responding through change while balancing the need for continuous and uninterrupted service.
Internal Service
  • Recognition/types of internal services
    • Identifying processes are required within the organization’s regular functions that allow it to produce or provide the end product or service. Common identifying questions may be: What services are available? What purpose does each serve? Who is responsible? Who is the customer? Internal services may be indirect support functions like payroll, human resources, and information technology, or even direct support such as material handling.
  • Assessment and improvement
    • The process of routine qualitative and quantitative assessments of needs, effectiveness, and related improvement actions in order to manage internal services. Assessments may include such knowledge-gaining activities as employee satisfaction surveys, financial audits, and benchmarking against industry standards.

 

Service Quality Management

Leadership
  • Service Vision
    • The defined role service quality plays in the organization’s overall mission and vision as an underlying force driving profitability and business success.
Culture definition and development
  • Core Values
    • The philosophies or principles guiding an organization’s internal conduct as well as its relationship with the external audience. Ideally, service is incorporated into an organization’s mission and vision, reflecting what is important to an organization.
  • Social responsibility
    • The inherent obligation of an organization towards the welfare and interests of the audience or environment that provides the resources to be successful, and that is affected by the organization’s outputs or policies. The external community and society as a whole are also service stakeholders. In addition to incorporating its own core values, the organization must adhere to societal values.
  • Ethical and legal behavior
    • Norms and codes of conduct that help provide guidance when faced with problems or situations that require a person or organization to choose between alternatives that must be evaluated as right (ethical and/or legal) or wrong (unethical and/or illegal). Organizations are bound by legal and ethical considerations. While ethics may be subjective and reinforced by an organization’s core values, the organization is bound by local, state, federal, and international laws and regulations. The real estate industry is governed by specific laws, such as fair housing laws, while restaurants and the catering industry must adhere to specific FDA (Food and Drug Administration, U.S.A.) regulations.
  • Customer experience standards
    • Defined codes or standards that shape and support every aspect of the customer experience that may involve tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, or empathy. By effectively communicating expectations of service delivery as customer outcomes, a leader places focus on customer satisfaction.
Leadership Commitment
  • Conscious, demonstrated commitment among leaders and managers
    • The visible or tangible performance and support of organizational leaders toward service quality and the service vision. Without buy-in from top management, service quality initiatives cannot be successful.
  • Demonstrating commitment
    • The visible or tangible performance and support of immediate supervisors toward service quality and the service vision. This level of management has the biggest impact on employee perception of commitment to service quality, as the immediate supervisors are the most visible. Therefore, they are reliant on the demonstrated commitment of top management.
  • Modeling behavior
    • Training, whether formal or through observation, in which employees are encouraged to act and respond as their specified role models do in similar situations. People emulate their leaders, so demonstrating desired behaviors is effective in creating a service culture. This may require conscious effort or formal training, as behaviors must be witnessed in order to be effective.
Strategic development and deployment
Customer Identification
  • Ideal customer
    • The ideal customer is effectively the primary audience for a service offering. Focusing on the ideal customer promotes effective targeting of outreach and awareness efforts.
  • Competitive analysis
    • The relative likelihood of gaining a customer can be determined by comparing one’s service to the competition.
  • Wallet share (or share of wallet)
    • Organizations may focus on improving the amount of revenue from existing customers by offering complimentary services.
  • Non-paying customers
    • Many services are provided free of charge, especially by not-for-profit groups, by the government, or internally. Customer identification in these cases generally focuses on the primary beneficiary of the service.
  • Clients and customers
    • Services are often purchased by one entity for the benefit of another. In these cases, planning requires focusing on benefits to both the client (purchaser) and the customers (end users). Some organizations have defined unique ways in which they like to apply the terms “customer” and “client.” Confirming the internal definitions of an organization is important.
  • Customer segmentation/portfolio management
    • Different customers demand different services. Customer segmentation deals with the grouping of customers so that service offerings can be optimized for one grouping or segment. Portfolio management is about managing all service offerings — developing new and improved services to better meet needs, refreshing services, or retiring services that are no longer effective.
Service value proposition
  • Service differentiation
    • The process of focusing on the creation of real or perceived differences between one’s services and those of the competition in hopes of gaining greater market share.
Service strategies
  • Defined service strategy
    • The defined goals and objectives regarding the role of service quality and customer experience. Service can be a strategy in itself, or it can be incorporated into other organizational strategies.
  • Net Promoter strategy
    • A strategy focused on a metric derived from survey responses to a “How likely are you to recommend … ” question. Respondents who provide a rating of nine to 10 are “promoters”; those who give ratings of six or lower are “detractors.” The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is found by subtracting the proportion of detractors from the proportion of promoters.
  • Customized service modeling
    • A process of defining specific service strategies for customers with special needs. Business owners with storefronts, for example, may need to tailor customer service processes or presentations for customers with physical disabilities. This may include providing ramps to allow wheelchair access, lowered counter tops to ensure face-to-face interactions, or information printed in Braille for the vision-impaired.
  • Capability modeling
    • Useful in supporting both process design and process improvement efforts, capability modeling is a technique for analyzing a business in terms of its competencies. Capability modeling provides a hierarchical value network view of an organization, without details of business processes and resource. This view makes direct linkages to business objectives and strategy clearer, and provides a solid foundation for alignment of large strategic initiatives or change (e.g., information technology solution deployment, corporate mergers, business activity monitoring.
  • Partnering/strategic alliances
    • Cooperation among two or more independent firms to work together toward a common outcome. Organizations in a strategic alliance do not form a new entity but collaborate while remaining separate and distinct. The decision whether to partner or go alone is an important strategy consideration. Partners often offer qualification, reputation, or cost savings while adding management burden and communication complexity.
  • Service Contracts
    • Service contracts are used for continual and ongoing services to scope the duration of service and the expected performance level. Contracts may also be used in transactional services to define expected deliverables. Types of contracts include fixed price (lump sum or fixed rate) and cost reimbursement.
  • Warranties, guaranties, service level agreements
    • Tools and customer support techniques to evoke confidence in provided services.
Loyalty/retention plan
  • Customer feedback plan
    • A strategy intended to ensure adequate focus is placed on keeping current customers. This plan may include incentives, customer feedback mechanisms, and the means of assessment.
Service management systems
Service models
  • General service/quality models (CMMI Service, Baldrige, ISO)
    • There are several service-specific delivery models. All common quality frameworks (e.g., Baldrige, ISO) can be adapted to fit service.
  • Industry-specific service models (COPC, SERVQUAL, ITIL, COBIT)
    • Certain service industries have developed service models that pertain specifically to them. One example of an industry-specific service management model is ITIL, a widely accepted approach to information technology (IT) service management.
  • Systems thinking
    • Independent of any specific service model, systems thinking is an effective way of providing a holistic focus on service design. Systems thinking and analysis can help lead to more comprehensive and robust process design and/or improvement of service delivery systems – by conducting analysis from the perspective of the entire system, its sub-systems, and the recurring relationship patterns between them.
General service requirements and constraints
  • General requirements, regulations, and standards
    • Service planning should include a review of laws and any other constraints that would apply to all customers, partners (or suppliers), information management, and delivery channels, as well as services or products to be produced or delivered.
  • Industry-specific requirements, regulations, and standards
    • Many industries have specific requirements and regulations that must be considered. One example, applicable in the health services field, is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy rule, which is intended to regulate known and unintended risks to privacy that may occur as a result of use and disclosure of personal health information.
Customer value identification
  • Requirements gathering methods
    • Customer needs and wants are collectively referred to as requirements. To ensure proper focus, customer requirements should be the basis for all product or service delivery process design. Service requirements are provided both directly and indirectly by customers and can be obtained via direct contact with customers seeking services or their representatives, or inferred through competitive analysis or purchasing trends.
  • Market analysis
    • Market analysis is a general term referring to research and analysis performed with the goal of understanding factors that can affect the demand for a particular product or service, and even predicting trends and potential impacts of those factors. Market analysis components and approaches will vary, but, in general, all will target a population and study customer purchasing behavior, demographics, competitor offerings and solvency, and other factors believed to be critical to the particular industry, product, or service.
  • Service standards
    • Service standards capture expected levels of performance. Depending on the industry, standards can be set by customers (end-users of a product or service or supply chain partners), or they can be dictated by requirements established by regulatory bodies.
Delivery System Planning
  • Organization structure definition and management
    • Part of service design is creating an organization responsible for the components of delivery. Defining and aligning roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountabilities to customer requirements is an important service consideration.
  • Delivery procedure planning and deployment
    • Service delivery methods, or processes, should be planned, documented, and communicated (and with meaningful performance measures in place) to ensure process consistency.
  • Lean principles
    • Lean focuses on the elimination of waste. The application of lean principles to service can boost efficiency and speed by eliminating “nonvalue added” activities and bottlenecks.
  • Queuing theory
    • The mathematical study of waiting (e.g., customer waiting in lines, paperwork waiting in an “in” bin). Queuing is the formulation of those “lines” or “holds” that delay the time between the point of entry to a process and the point of transaction. Examples of queuing in service include waiting in line and correspondence waiting in an “in box” or e-mail queue prior to being processed. Queuing theory can be applied to help identify process solutions that will maximize resource efficiency while minimizing customer wait time.
  • Control versus autonomy determinations
    • A consideration in service planning is the balance between process control and employee autonomy. Process control promotes greater consistency and reliability in delivery; autonomy allows greater adaptability to specific customer needs. Low associate autonomy without robust escalation and clear follow-up accountability can sometimes be perceived by service customers as associate “knowledge gaps,” “lack of empathy,” or “broken processes.”
  • Teams (types)
    • A group of people linked in a common purpose. Because services are often delivered by teams, service quality practitioners should be familiar with various types of teams, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each. This will enable them to provide guidance regarding team types that will ensure the most effective service delivery.
Quality system planning
  • Corporate policy development and deployment
    • Several types of customer-facing policies, such as termination of service policies and warranty and refund policies, may be applicable, depending on industry.
  • Quality manual
    • A quality manual defines the scope of an organization’s quality management system (detailing and justifying any exclusions), describes the interactions between processes, and includes, at a minimum, reference to procedures. A quality manual is required by the ISO 9001 standard and is the pinnacle of the documentation pyramid used to define the organization’s quality system.
  • Service level agreements (SLAs)/metric plan
    • A contract between a provider of services and the customer. The purpose of a service level agreement (SLA) is to document and confirm expected levels of process performance. The SLA may often contain provisions for penalties if expected performance levels are not met. SLAs often serve as the basis for performance reporting to customers and for continual improvement. Organizations may establish SLAs with supply chain partners internal to the organization, as well as with external customers.
  • Management procedure development and deployment
    • Quality manuals are supported by standard operating procedures (SOPs) that detail the who, what, when, and why of service delivery planning, monitoring, control, and improvement. Work instructions constitute a third level of documentation that details the how for associates performing the work.
Process Management
Quality Assurance
  • Process adherence
    • Process adherence, or compliance to established policies, procedures, and protocols, is especially important when the process itself is a requirement by either a paying customer or a governing body. Examples for service: a) Financial services – adherence to financial reporting requirements for time and content, b) Healthcare services – adherence to HIPAA requirements for protection of health and privacy information and to applicable healthcare testing or other procedures.
  • Process capability
    • The ability of a process to consistently produce a product or service that meets a customer-specified range (tolerance). Different from process performance, process capability is statistically determined. Capability indices (Cp and Cpk) are calculated by comparing the width of process variation to the specified tolerance and are used to predict the future performance of a process. Capability indices have meaning only if the process being studied is in statistical control.
Supplier Management
  • Supplier qualification
    • Supplier qualification helps to ensure that both delivery and quality of the end product or service is not compromised, and serves as a type of risk assessment and management. Before any sourcing or purchase agreement is made for materials or services, vendors should be evaluated – assessing both the total value and risk to the organization. A good model should address the aggregate need of the buyer, supplier, and end customer. Supplier attributes across four main categories (quality, business, product, and support) should be reviewed and weighed against the cost of quality, cost of doing business, and product cost.
  • Supplier evaluation
    • It is wise to assess the value (quality and price) of outsourced services regularly. These evaluations may result in corrective actions and are generally kept on file. Proven vendors are generally tracked in a list of qualified suppliers.
  • Supplier corrective actions
    • Any corrective actions that result from a supplier evaluation or incident should be tracked and verified as completed.
  • Contracts management
    • Contracts are not set in stone and should evolve over time to adjust to the changing needs of customers. A contract management process should be in place to keep any contract reflective of customer needs and actual services provided. Failure to manage contracts can create disconnects between expectations and actuality.
  • Risk management
    • The risk management process links directly to quality, as risks regarding safety, security, and reliability, for instance, often have direct impact on service delivery. A process for risk identification, assessment, prioritization, response development, and response control should be defined and maintained. Risks are uncertain occurrences that can have a positive or negative effect.
Process reviews/auditing
  • Internal versus external reviews
    • Internal reviews performed by the organization have the benefits of timeliness, lower costs, and ease of understanding. External reviews provide greater objectivity and may be required in some cases.
  • Organizational performance reviews
    • Organizational performance reviews are a holistic approach to assessing success areas and opportunities for improvement, focusing on comparison to strategic objectives and goals.
  • Quality system reviews/audits
    • Quality system reviews are conducted at planned intervals to assess the effectiveness of the quality system. Reviews should be designed in such a way that they ensure that the quality management system a) conforms to requirements established by the organization, and b) is effectively implemented and maintained. Quality system reviews are required as a part of the ISO 9000 standard.
  • Policy/procedure
    • Policy or procedural audits help to assess adoption and effectiveness of the audited policies or procedures and are often executed as a part of a quality system review or audit. They can vary in depth, focusing on objectives, policies, or procedures. Procedural audits are more involved and place more focus on the effectiveness or controls of a particular process.
  • Compliance auditing
    • In the service arena, compliance audits or reviews are generally understood to be a specific type of policy or procedure audit, focused on comparisons of actual activities to regulatory, statutory, or service level requirements or standards. These reviews may be conducted by internal or external resources. The purpose of compliance audits is to confirm that “people are doing what the documentation says they [shall] do.”
Continual improvement
  • Corrective and preventive action
    • Service processes should be continually improved through corrective and preventative actions. As the foundation for any corrective or preventive action identification, organizations should have defined processes for identifying and containing nonconforming products or services. (Examples of service nonconformities include inaccurate or incomplete information, incorrect payment amounts, information security breach, failure to release payments on time, and customer complaints.) Processes for identifying root causes and eliminating nonconformities (corrective), as well as for identifying and eliminating potential for nonconformities (preventive) should be defined and documented, including definition of record-keeping requirements for process change tracking and impact validation.
  • Problem Solving
    • In some organizations, a recurring incident, or nonconformity, may be referred to as a problem. Problems are solved by using a variety of models. It is recommended that organizations apply corrective and preventive action investigation and action processes to all such instances, large or small.
  • Improvement projects
    • Chartered improvement projects, including Six Sigma projects, are time-bound and involve application of a structured methodology to solve problems. Definition of projects places increased organizational focus on problems and generally yields more effective results than unstructured approaches. Projects can vary in duration and resource requirements, and, though less common, even short-term problem solving can benefit from a few carefully selected project and/or change management tools. Because projects can carry greater cost than other problem-solving approaches, conducting a cost-benefit analysis and a check for alignment with organizational strategies, objectives, and resource capabilities is suggested before launching a project.
  • Change management
    • From a process control standpoint, change management refers to the structured process of change definition, approval, execution, and validation that change has occurred. Change management processes taking these items into consideration should be defined for [changes to] services, processes, service process assets, and requirements. A robust process or requirements change management process is especially important in areas such as information technology (IT) services where complex systems are used to deliver the service (see also configuration management), as well as in project management or new service definition, where requirements must be clearly defined and kept up to date. From an implementation standpoint, change management refers to the process of preparing organizations or individuals for change, communicating change, and reinforcing new behaviors. Without effective change management, even the best process improvement solutions can fail in implementation. Particularly important when implementing change that requires associate behavior change is clear and frequent communication including an explanation of “why” change, and addressing “what’s in it for me” questions of associates. Organizations can benefit from defined processes and rigor for both types of change management.
  • Configuration management
    • Configuration management focuses on establishing and maintaining the consistency of a system or product’s performance and attributes throughout its lifetime. First developed to put rigor around the technical management of systems hardware, the principles can also be adapted to support many technical management functions. Configuration management provides a holistic approach to managing and maintaining transparency and traceability of change to the technical aspects of any complex system over time. It involves the unique identification, controlled storage, change control, and status reporting of selected intermediate work products, product components, and outputs during the life of a system.
  • Innovation
    • Innovations are breakthrough developments or improvements to services or processes that involve new or adjusted products or services, means of delivery, or capabilities. Innovations are often fostered versus planned by creating a culture where opportunities are conceived and evaluated as a diverse team. One risk of organizations with significant focus on process standardization and driving out process variation is that they tend to develop “like thinkers.” These organizations, specifically, will benefit from implementing measures for ensuring encouragement of diverse thinking and leveraging external perspectives and benchmarking.
Measurement and Analysis
Measurement methods
  • Observation
    • One way to evaluate service effectiveness is through direct observation; however, if done in person, in many cases the presence of an observer can influence the process and bias results. Remote monitoring is possible for some services (e.g., recorded calls, with or without system navigation). Data collection sheets, Pareto charts, and affinity diagrams are two tools that can be valuable in transforming observations into useful information.
  • Artifact
    • Some service processes yield artifacts, or process records, such as service tickets or associate notes. Artifacts may be used as input to measure and assess service performance. Artifacts provide process influences that may not be visible through direct observation, and they can provide a means for obtaining quantifiable data.
  • Automated
    • Unlike manufacturing environments, automated monitoring and response is often more challenging, or even impossible, in many service industries. Where possible, automated process monitoring, controls, and response provide for risk management and loss prevention. Examples of automated service measurements could include speed of answer and handle time for calls, disbursement amount caps, and control processes.
  • Customer
    • Customer feedback, often gathered in the form of customer satisfaction surveys, may be used to assess process performance against expectations and has the advantage of providing voice of the customer (VOC) insights. Capture of customer feedback should not be limited only to end, external customers – measuring and understanding interim customer and internal partner feedback can provide great insights into end-to-end process optimization opportunities. Customer feedback can be skewed by a number of data capture factors, such as survey question and answer design, sampling method, sample size, and timing of delivery.
  • Qualitative or exception-based
    • Qualitative assessments (pass/fail, red/green) are more common and readily available in service industries. Exception-based monitoring, or tracking only those occurrences falling outside of an accepted standard or norm, is often reported using qualitative metrics (pass/fail). Qualitative measures are often transformed into quantitative data sets to allow for statistical analysis. This is accomplished either by representing data with numerical responses, or by calculating percentages. One tool useful in achieving this transformation is the Likert scale, well known for its application in customer satisfaction surveys, to transform qualitative data (Strongly agree, Agree, Neutral…) to quantitative data (numeric scale 1 to 5).
  • Quantitative
    • Quantitative (numeric) metrics allow for statistical analysis and are particularly valuable in assessing process performance. When possible, quantitative metrics – obtained from systematically generated and reported data – are preferable to maintain objectivity in performance assessments.
Internal Measurements
  • Measurement systems analysis (MSA)
    • The evaluation of the measurement process itself. Measurement systems analysis (MSA) is useful in determining the validity and reliability of data. As part of an MSA, statistical tools are often employed to evaluate the precision of measurements. Precision is a measure of repeatability of a measurement (ability of the same individual to obtain the same result), as well as reproducibility of a measurement (ability of different individuals to obtain the same result). An MSA can be conducted for measures gathered and/or reported by systems, humans, or a combination of the two.
  • Calibration
    • In manufacturing, calibration generally applies to measurement equipment (scales, defect detection devices, etc.) and provides assurance that equipment measures consistently against an agreed standard (e.g., a scale reports a weight known to be 50 pounds as weighing 50 pounds). In service, calibration most often applies to calibrating “people” who evaluate services to ensure that they are all consistently applying an agreed standard in the same way. In service, process definitions and performance standards are an important foundation of any associate evaluation process to guard against interpretations and subjectivity and to help ensure measurement accuracy.
  • Cost of quality (COQ)
    • Cost of quality (COQ) refers to the costs associated with providing poor quality products or services. Typical categories for quality costs are internal (poor productivity, inefficiencies), external (customer complaints, warranty), preventive (planning, mistake-proofing, quality assurance), and assessment (inspection, third-party audits, reporting systems, forms).
  • Sampling
    • Sampling is an important consideration for most service quality practitioners, as many services cannot be monitored through automated means. Acceptable limits for sampling risk (confidence level) and error (confidence interval) should be known and considered when determining a sampling plan. Sampling cost and/or feasibility can often be constraints that limit sample size. For this reason, it is important to calculate and report sample risk and error as a part of any sample statistics.
Customer Measurements
  • Customer feedback sources
    • Formal methods of capturing customer feedback include surveys, forums, focus groups, and complaints. Feedback can include assessments as well as suggestions. Informally, feedback is often received at the point of delivery, and a process for documenting informal customer dissatisfaction or suggestions can provide valuable insights into service improvement opportunity themes.
  • Criticism
    • Customer criticism (complaints) is a specific type of feedback and offers a valuable source of service improvement opportunity information. Over time, criticism can be used to identify problems as well as areas of strength (compliments) that should be maintained. Criticism can also be used to assess individual service delivery performance in many cases. Complaints are generally tracked along with applicable corrective action(s) taken.
  • Formal customer surveys
    • Many organizations choose to execute formal surveys, such as those provided by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), to capture customer viewpoints, loyalty, and improvement opportunities. It is important to understand the impact that sampling practices can have on the validity and usefulness of customer survey results. (See sampling.)
  • Customer lifetime value
    • Customer lifetime value is an approach that emphasizes long-term customer relationships and the potential value of retention. This can be especially relevant in service industries where retention and customer loyalty are built around relationships.
Analysis
  • Root cause
    • Root cause analysis is an effort to identify the source of an issue or problem. Identification and elimination of root causes allows for complete and sustained problem resolution. Failure to identify root causes can lead to sub-optimal solutions and problem recurrence.
  • Process versus individual
    • Because it can be difficult to differentiate the two, service quality practitioners run the risk of focusing on the individual versus the actions being performed (process). Focusing on the “what” instead of the “who” is necessary for process improvement and keeps morale high. Proper process definition and measurements will help to maintain focus on key drivers.
  • Design of experiments (DOE)
    • Design of experiments (DOE) is a combination of carefully planned tests, applied to understand the effects of different factors (inputs), their interaction, and the end impact to the outputs of a process. The end result of a DOE will be a mathematical equation of these relationships, which can be applied to predict process outputs. There are many types of DOE that can be applied, depending on the need. Service DOE can be a challenge because it must be possible to “turn a factor on or off” and measure an isolated response for each, while avoiding undesired negative impact of testing. For instance, testing the impact of a “blast mailing” or “training” as part of a multi-factor DOE would be a challenge, as one cannot “unsend” the mailing or “untrain” the same group of individuals to test different factor combinations.
  • Statistical process control (SPC)
    • Statistical process control (SPC) involves using statistical tools to measure and analyze the variation in processes. A primary tool used for SPC is the control chart – the type of control chart to be applied will vary based on the data set (continuous or discrete) and sample size. Before drawing conclusions about process capabilities based on application of SPC tools, service quality professionals should clearly understand the process being measured and factors that may contribute to variation, such as seasonality or shift/staffing differences.
Information Management
Information Sources
  • Customer
    • The customer is a critical source of information, including requirements, personal identification information, other demographic information, and feedback. Management of customer information, including protection of critical records and confidential information, is an important consideration – and is often regulated by industry standards or governing agencies.
  • Internal (performance information, processes, plans)
    • Internal information exists in a variety of forms and is generated in a variety of ways. Some examples include procedures and work instructions, reference guides, process performance data, reporting and analysis, associate performance evaluations and records, and day-to-day communications and information generated (e-mail, documents, completed forms, processing results, etc.). Managing information requires a level of review of what is important and to whom. Company policies regarding information management are often documented in several ways – examples include record management policies and procedures, e-mail protocol and limitations, and shared storage space access and guidelines.
Customer relationship/information management
  • Accessibility, reliability
    • Information management processes should ensure controls for both information security (accessibility/availability) and content integrity (accuracy/reliability/preservation).
  • Tools
    • There are many tools available for information management, from entire “business process management” data and workflow management systems, to internally developed processes and storage practices. The commonality is that tools are applied to manage information and access to it. Examples of specific tool applications are databases to manage customer relations or to manage information (procedures, reference materials) used to support services.
  • Personally identifiable information (PII)
    • When managing customer information, careful considerations should be made to protect personally identifiable information (PII). Leaks not only represent major performance failures, but could also present significant corporate risk. Access to PII should be protected via defined security procedures, with access limited to associates who require that information to perform their work. Associates with access should be trained on the organization’s security policies and processes, as well as on the potential consequences of not protecting customer privacy.
Reporting
  • Visibility
    • Reporting is often a stakeholder’s means of gaining visibility into process performance. Reporting requirements, therefore, should be developed with an understanding of specific stakeholder roles and their business needs. Poorly designed reporting can lead to significant gaps in information and knowledge and other information availability and presents process management challenges.
  • Types of reporting
    • As reporting needs are determined, considerations should be made to understand how data can be provided (frequency, actual or aggregate) and how the information will be used. A variety of report types (scorecard, dashboard, exception report, etc.) will allow information to be displayed in ways that promote desired decisions and actions.
  • Balanced scorecard
    • A service balanced scorecard (BSC) provides a “dashboard type” summary view of organizational performance. Traditional BSC categories include financial, customer, processes, and learning and growth. Process performance in service often focuses on efficiency and can also often include critical customer measures (e.g., service level performance – call handle time, speed of answer, other customer wait times).
Information Security
  • Key Attributes
    • Information security is focused on protecting information confidentiality, integrity, accessibility, and preservation. In some cases, industry-specific standards define required controls and even recommend processes for protection of these attributes. Security policies should also include provisions for revoking access to personally identifiable information (PII) when it is no longer required.
  • Encryption
    • A common process for maintaining information security and protecting sensitive data that are transferred between systems (intranet, e-commerce, mobile telephones, Bluetooth devices). It involves a process of transforming information to make it unreadable to anyone except those possessing special knowledge (or a “key”). Equally important to protecting the confidentiality of information through encryption is the protection of the authenticity of information and the integrity of the information decryption (making information “readable” again).
  • Knowledge management
    • Organizations benefit from the definition of standard processes for capturing and retaining associate artifacts and learning in a way that they can be accessed and referenced by others as input for continual improvement. Examples include capture of lessons learned, projects and their results, process changes and their outcomes, presentation slide decks, articles, and analysis results. Knowledge management adds context to information to make it more valuable to an organization. Knowledge management includes not only information, but an understanding of strategy, methods, or application of that information to bring value.
Environment and infrastrucrure
Facility
  • Design for productivity, safety (ergonomics)
    • Productivity and safety (customer and employee) are both cost and quality considerations in most services. Design considerations such as ergonomics help to promote employee safety and often result in efficiency gains, as well as improved employee satisfaction.
  • Design for collaboration
    • Collaboration is an important factor in promoting teamwork and effective customer solutions. Facility design should include considerations that will enable, even encourage, collaboration. When organizations successfully design for collaboration, they ensure the free flow of information and ideas, whether as part of a customer service delivery work flow or day-to-day operations support. Examples include provisions for meeting areas, break areas, virtual meeting and call capabilities, as well as co-location of dependent work groups or associates.
  • Worker-friendly environments
    • Motivated employees provide better service, and a worker-friendly environment helps to increase motivation. Environments that promote a sense of community and respect for individuals and that provide safe work conditions (both on site or when travel is required) are generally worker-friendly.
  • Business continuity planning
    • Business continuity planning is a critical planning consideration to ensure reliability of service. Business continuity planning refers to redundant or response measures in place to limit the impact of incidents (e.g., loss of power, server access interruption, natural disaster affecting one location, etc.) on continuous or ongoing services. The plan should include provisions for verifying the location and safety of all employees, include a communications tree, and define processes for transition to back-up resources (e.g., different IT servers, electric generators, etc.). Business continuity plans should also be regularly tested.
Tools/equipment
  • Impact of tools on productivity and motivation
    • The availability of appropriate and useful tools is a critical success factor for all processes. Lack of effective tools (access to information, case-specific scripting, etc.) can decrease employee motivation due to their inability to deliver quality service. In addition to information-based tools, tools supporting communication and work flow can also be valuable in service industries. When carefully selected and properly implemented, automated work flow tools can help to increase both productivity and service quality. Tools supporting virtual work environments and team collaboration help to allow for greater employee flexibility of movement while maintaining consistency, an especially important consideration when services are delivered from multiple locations.
  • Standardization
    • Application of tools, such as automated work flow processes and shared storage/access points for information and records, helps to promote greater efficiency and consistency in service delivery.
  • Tool-driven versus service-driven processes
    • When considering the usefulness of any tool, existing or new, service quality professionals must be careful not to “let the tool dictate the process.” For a variety of reasons, organizations may be resistant to good process change because of an allegiance to an existing tool. Some tools, by design, will require a change in process in order to use them. Before purchasing new tools or making a decision about retiring existing tools, potential impact to process efficiency, organizational costs (e.g., licensing fees), employee productivity and morale, information protection security, and customer experience should be considered.