Process configurations - services, Operation Management

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Process Configurations - Services

Schmenner's service - process matrix was introduced, categorising service operations by the degree of labour intensity and the degree of customisation/ customer interaction. Building on Schmenner's ideas, Silvestro et al (1999) have devised a service- process model (see figure) which parallels the Hayes and Wheelwright product-process matrix. Three of Schmenner's categories (professional services, service shops and mass services) are mapped against volume and customisation/contact time/discretion. Customisation refers to the degree to which the service may be tailored to a particular customer's requirements; discretion concerns the extent to which the service provider may decide how to perform the operation. As with the product-process matrix, these basic service types naturally lie on a diagonal. The implications are that a service which positions itself above the diagonal is likely to be uncompetitive, because a greater degree of customisation and contact time is being provided than is appropriate, whilst a service positioned below the diagonal will, likewise, be uncompetitive because the service offerings are over-standardised and inflexible.

At the professional services end of the spectrum the operations are, typically, lengthy and conducted by highly-skilled, highly-paid personnel; the customer participates in the service process, often determining the specification of the service (customisation) during its course. Often, long-term relationships are established between individual staff members and customers, giving the opportunity to 'lock' the customer to the service provider. Because such professionals are consulted for what they know, rather than what they do, there is generally little scope for replacing labour by equipment. At the other end of the spectrum, mass services are characterised by highly-standardised short-duration services delivered by staff who, typically, will have limited skills and are lowly paid. Although the customer may be presented with a range of choices, these are always pre-determined and standardised; there is little scope for customisation. Because of the standardisation and high volume, specialised equipment is often used to replace labour.

The combination of low variety, standardisation and the customer's participation in the process, presents a particular challenge to the service process designer; to ensure that the customer does not feel that he/she is being 'processed', it is important that the service encounter and its surroundings are designed to be as 'warm' as possible.


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