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Service quality in Manufacturing
Pons, D.1 Abstract
Service quality is important, even in the manufacturing industries that apparently sell only a physical product. The purpose of this research is to examine the actual practices of New Zealand firms for service quality, with a particular focus on the product-manufacturing industry. File and revision: DPR-OM-SRVQ_ServiceQuality-01-Aims_E1.00.doc
The purpose of this research is to examine the actual
practices of New Zealand firms for service quality, with a
particular focus on the product-manufacturing industry.
The tangible output for the manufacturing industries is a physical product. That
is the billable product that they sell. However, even then service quality is
important, because it includes sensitivity to customer needs, dealing with
defective product, and maintenance. Also, adding service can be a strategic
way for firms to add value to the customer, and grow to their business in a
competitive market. For firms that cannot compete on production cost alone,
adding better customer service has the potential to be a competitive
advantage (Pons, 2009). The purpose of this research is to examine the actual
practices of New Zealand firms for service quality, with a particular focus on
the product-manufacturing industry. We wish to identify the extent to which
awareness of service quality permeates through organisations, and identify
critical factors for successful (failed) service quality.
Existing approaches to the problem and preliminary literature
Quality of services is a vital factor in determining the success of service-industries such as banks and hotels, but it is also important for practically every organisation in some way. Quality of services differs somewhat from quality of products, firstly because of the intangibleness of services compared to physical products. With service
1 Please address correspondence to Dr Dirk Pons Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8020, New Zealand, Work Phone: +64-3-364 2987 Ext. 7214 , Work Fax: +64-3-364 2078, Email: [email protected]
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quality it is often necessary to distinguish between what has been provided (the technical quality), and how it has been provided (the functional quality).
The critical elements of service quality
(Bergman and Klefsjö, 1994) are:
Reliability, the consistency of service. This is often seen to be the most important part of service quality.
Responsiveness, willingness to help the customer.
Assurance, sufficient competence to perform the service, courtesy of supplier’s behaviour, credibility of supplier, and security (low risk) of the service.
Empathy, ease of access to the supplier, effective communication between customer and supplier.
Tangibility, the physical environment in which the service is provided. This is often the least important part of service quality.
Customer dissatisfaction arises from several potential causes. These are modelled as gaps between perceptions and expectations. The Gap model shown below is due to Zeithaml (Bergman and Klefsjö, 1994). It includes the customer and the company which supplies the service. In particular this model explores inconsistencies within the company that lead to customer dissatisfaction. It models several aspects of the operations inside the company.
The first gap is caused by management failing to accurately perceive the customer’s expectations. Some reasons might be inadequate market research, or inadequate communication within the company.
The second gap is management failing to implement service quality specifications in the company. Some reasons might be inadequate commitment of management to service quality, or a sense of unfeasibility.
The third cap is caused by the contact people failing to deliver the service properly. This can be due to the employee being unwilling to deliver, due one of many demotivating factors including lack of perceived control, or poor teamwork. It can also be caused by inadequacies in training, technology, supervision. There is also variability in employee performance.
The fourth gap is caused by the company promising more than it actually delivers. This may be due to advertising exuberance or poor of internal company communication between operations and marketing.
The fifth gap is the customer receiving lower quality of service than expected. This gap is the result of the previous one.
Figure: Gap model from Zeithaml illustrates causes of customer dissatisfaction. From Bergman & Klefsjö (1994).
The critical factors for creating service quality appear to be commitment of management to quality, and commitment of employees to the company goals. Employee commitment is related to a number of factors and from Bergman and Klefsjö (1994) some of these are the clarity with which the task is understood, a challenge in which it is possible to achieve success, a sense of consequence (things will go wrong if I don’t act), a need to maintain social standing by demonstrating competence, a sense of choice in what is undertaken (ownership of the job), immediate feedback, freedom from frustrations.
Flow charts are useful tools in planning service delivery. One particular type of flow chart is called a blueprint
and it shows the interactions between the customer and the service provider as a sequence of discrete contact events. The necessary behind-the-scenes activities and physical equipment are also shown. Another tool for designing services is QFD.
The Author's theoretical work is in the area of 'quality transitions' and suggests the model shown in Figure Om-4-2-9.
Copyright 2005-8 Dirk Pons. Version: Printed: Saturday, 3 July 2010
Manage quality transitions (Om-4-2-9)
Manage quality transitions (Om-4-2-9)
Getting a satisfied customer needs the whole quality process to work properly. Here the process is modelled as a series of activities, all of which need to be effective. At each point there is a transition which needs to be made: if not then a quality gap exists. The model identifies the following gaps:
GAP 1- lack of brand presence: customer is negative towards this
GAP 3- lack of satisfaction: customer dissatisfaction with the product
GAP 4- lack of solution: customer dissatisfaction turns to resentment
GAP 5 - out of touch: Producer Management misunderstands
GAP 6 - lack of management : Management fail to set relevant quality
GAP 7a - lack of leadership: Management fail to motivate staff to
GAP 7b- lack of capability: staff fail to deliver quality
GAP 8 - lack of closure: sales staff fail to deliver the product (service)
All of these transitions need to successfully traversed. Some of them (Gaps 5-8) are under the control of the producer organisation, more or less. Gaps 1-4 occur with the Customer, but are influenced by the organisation's marketing and after-sales service. As the model shows, having a happy customer is lot more than just an innovative product.
The following sub-projects are part of this programme.
Literature review: will investigate the academic literature and identify what is already known about the application of service quality to manufacturing industries. In particular, it will seek to identify the critical factors for successful implementation. Do these methods even work in this situation? If so, which factors are important? Where are the gaps in knowledge: what don't we know?
1. Summarise existing text-book knowledge on the topic
2. Learn to use on-line journal database search, and perform
3. Acquire and read journal papers 4. Write preliminary summary of literature. 5. Identify metrics for the performance of such production control
6. Write final summary of literature.
Case study: two firms will be compared regarding their service quality processes. This will be a benchmarking exercise, and the firms will be non-competing.
7. Set up site visits and permissions 8. Site visit A 9. Site visit B 10. Write preliminary findings 11. Write main body of final report 12. Write recommendation appendices
Disclosure of results: Participating firms will be aware of the identity of the other firm(s), and will receive a detailed report on the findings. Each firm will also receive any recommendations that are specific to their own firm, but not recommendations for the other firm(s). The information will also be used in an anonymous form for academic research publication.
Opportunities for engagement
This programme seeks to add value to NZ industries. We welcome enquiries
from students and industry.
The scope of the programme is not limited by the research agenda set out
here. Industry and postgraduate students with novel ideas not listed here are
encouraged to discuss these. We are seeking partnering manufacturing firms to host a Researcher for one
week (no cost) for a benchmarking study. Please contact the Principal
Investigator for details.
Postgraduate students: please note that this project is not currently funded for
Internship students: enquiries considered. Will need excellent English skills. References
Pons, D. J. (2009). Strategic risk management in manufacturing: a New
Zealand case study (unpublished paper)
: University of Canterbury.
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