The Importance of Service Processes

Early this year, I ordered an item from an online shop with a promise of next-day delivery. The following day, I got the item. Impressed by their service, I ordered another item in February, but it came after 4 days, with profound apologies. Last month, with reluctance, I ordered another item from the same shop. After 3 days, I was told the item was out of stock. Disappointed, but at least I got my money back. However, I’ll not buy again from that shop.

Many organizations have capacity for great service but they show only occasional service greatness, when in fact it’s better to be consistently good than occasionally great.

Inconsistency confuses customers, erodes trust, causes fear, and can lead to a sort of learned inertia where the customer, paralyzed by uncertainty, just stops buying.

And whenever service to customers is inconsistent, the first things to check are the service processes.

A service process is a set of defined tasks needed to complete a given business service activity, including who is responsible for completing each step, when, and how they do so.

Service processes are the lifeblood of the operations in service organizations. The way the DNA provides the pattern for a living organism is the way service processes provide the service pattern for a service organization.

Hence good service processes ensure that service is delivered consistently, time after time and creates the desired experience and outcomes for the customer.

It is important to note that service processes are not just the processes at the point where the customer receives the service. Service organizations that consistently meet both cost and quality targets know that they must manage the chain of processes from start to finish rather than simply the final stage of delivery to customers.

That is why excellent service – which satisfies the customer and meets the strategic intentions of the organization – is usually the result of careful design and delivery of a whole set of interrelated service processes.

Although the service process is only one element of the service operation, it’s the glue that holds the rest – the customers, staff, equipment and materials – together. It is the mechanism that creates the customer’s experience and results in the service outcomes.

Thus, services frequently fail when service processes have been inadequately designed and executed. And rather than solving service failure issues from the root, most organizations keep treating them on the surface by merely trying to pacify customers.

What makes customers annoyed, even angry, after a failed service recovery, is not so much that they were not satisfied but that they feel the system has not been changed to prevent the problem from arising. In other words, the relevant service processes have not been improved.

Many service organizations underrate the importance of service processes and do not pay adequate attention to them. They fail to get their process design right and also do not bother to make continuous changes as needed.

This results to services that are inconsistent and poor. Unaware of the root cause, these organizations just let their staff soak up the resultant pressure, leading not only to dissatisfied and disillusioned customers but also to stressed out and negatively disposed staff, who feel powerless to help or sort out the problems.

As mundane as service processes may seem, their importance to service operations cannot be overstated. To achieve consistent service excellence, service organizations should ensure they have processes that are well-defined, consistently executed and evaluated, and continuously improved.

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