Delivery of quality service is greatly determined by the practices of service employees and human resources.
Sometimes despite understanding the customer expectations appropriately (Gap 1) and specifying and designing the services as per those expectations (Gap 2), the quality of the service may not be up to the mark.
This is so because of the defect in the delivery process of the service. This is referred to as the service performance gap or Gap 3.
These gaps mainly result from the issues related to human resources as services are frequently delivered or performed by the employees.
The direct interactions which exist between service providers and the customers at various ‘touch points’ are the main point of differentiation for the service industry.
A shop floor employee will rarely interact with the customer while he may be having regular interaction with the supervisor and colleagues.
The absence of customer interaction is quite rare in the service industry. These events can lead to work-related nervousness among employees.
They may have the feeling of being regularly evaluated by customers, and there can be the chances of being reported to the seniors or to the person they are accountable to.
If the appropriate attitude towards the job is missing in the service employee, then there can be the probability of high stress due to regular interaction with the customers.
Most of the railway booking clerks have to face the long lines of customers during peak season, which makes them irritated and ready to fight on small issues.
Strategies for Delivering Service Quality Through People
In order to manage the service employees, the following four strategies can be adopted:
Hiring the Right People
The very first strategy for managing the service employees is hiring the right people. The job information and requirements are posted in the newspapers along with the internet.
A recruitment team is set up by the HR department which will examine all the applications to screen the suitable applicants.
After this process, selected candidates will be appearing in the interview. During the entire interview process, the conduct, interpersonal communication and communication skill, and so on will be evaluated by the recruitment team.
Ways to Hire the Right People
i. Competing for the Best People: Specifically, an organization must assure that the employees are interested and capable of providing quality services and they are motivated to be customer-centric and service-minded so that the service can be delivered in a certain manner.
This can be done with the help of a marketing activity which can deal with the issues related to the market (employee) segmentation, product (job) design, and promotion of job positions in such a manner that the employees can be retained for a longer period of time. Interviewing a number of employees for each job can be one of the possible strategies.
ii. Hiring for Service Competencies and Service Inclination: There are mainly two complementary capacities which must be possessed by the service employees:
- Service Competencies: The skills and knowledge which are required to perform a certain job are termed as service competencies. These are the traits of a person that derive a certain behavior or performance while executing any job. This can be validated with the help of certificates or degrees of the candidates.
- Service Inclination: The interest which a person has in performing the service-related works is termed as service inclination. The orientation of candidates to serve the customers and others on the job and their attitude towards the service job reflects their service inclination.
iii. Being the Preferred Employer: One way to recruit the right people is to create a good image in the eyes of the candidates.
The organization has to become a preferred employer for the candidates. For this, the organization should have certain attributes like, attractive remuneration, excellent training, exciting career and growth opportunities, good internal support, etc.
Developing People to Deliver Service Quality
In order to ensure better representation, it is quite important to facilitate the training and work orientation of the employees after their selection in the organization.
Especially, attitude training is vital for new service staff. Along with the new employees, this training should also be provided to the existing staff members working in different departments.
Supervisors monitor the performance of frontline employees. The staff members are motivated to handle the various issues with the help of their own ideas.
But if they are not able to deal with a certain issue, the manager will come to take them out of these situations.
Ways to Develop People for Delivering Service Quality
i. Training for Technical and Interactive Skills: Once the correct staff members are appointed at the right place, there will be a requirement for regular training relating to technical and interactive skills so that employees can be developed to offer quality services to the customers.
Training underwriting procedures in insurance sectors, cash machine methodology in retail stores, etc., are typical examples of this.
Training is a significant feature of big service organizations. They design it as per the goals and strategies of the business.
ii. Empowering Employees: Some service organizations have come to know that it is essential to empower front line employees for delivering effective services to the customers.
Giving authority to the service employees to make decisions on behalf of the customers is a real sense of empowerment.
In order to make these decisions, the correct knowledge, tools, and incentives are required by the service employees, it motivates them to take effective decisions making.
Prompt decision making, flexibility, and authority assigned to the front line staff are the traits of empowered service organizations.
iii. Promoting Teamwork: Teamwork among service employees is quite important to retain the service quality in the organization.
In most of the researches, the importance of teamwork in facilitating quality services has been identified. The individual effects of cooperation, competition, and independence on the performance of service employees have been studied by different researchers.
The performance improvement of service employees through cooperation is much more than that through competition or independence.
Service employees achieve higher levels and become confident and valued when they support each other, discuss the issues together, establish direct communication between them, and understand each other effectively.
Such empowerment is due to cooperation.
Providing Needed Support Systems
Customers are sometimes involved in the production of services and accordingly value creation.
The customers can have a decisive role in determining whether the services are provided as per the standards specified by them, and thus, they can also contribute to increasing the performance gap (Gap 3).
Therefore, defining the role of the customers in the service delivery process is the next strategy for managing the service employees.
In order to narrow down this gap (Gap 3), the role of the customers must be clearly defined by the organization. It means that the formulation of customer-oriented support is required.
Ways to Develop Customer-oriented Internal Support
i. Measuring Internal Service Quality: The organization can analyze and reward the internal service for facilitating customer-oriented internal support.
The internal organizations can identify their customers, analyze their requirements, evaluate their performance, and implement improvement with the help of an action, i.e., auditing.
The analysis of internal service quality can be ensured with the help of internal service guarantees.
ii. Providing Supportive Technology and Equipment: In order to improve service performance, technology integration is provided effectively and suitably.
In order to perform the jobs effectively and efficiently, there will be a necessity for technology that can assist the efforts of workers as well as customers. The services to customers can be improved with help of technology.
iii. Developing Service-oriented Internal Processes: The internal processes of any organization must be devised keeping customer satisfaction and value in mind so that it can further assist the front line service-oriented internal processes.
Traditions, requirements of internal employees, administrative rules, and cost-effectiveness, are the factors that mainly govern the internal processes.
Retaining the Best People
Promoting and rewarding the strongest service employees is necessary for the organization if it wants to retain them.
In order to retain the best service employees in the organization, a number of rewards are utilized. In fact, service performance and the conventional methods of rewarding such as one-time monetary awards, promotions, and higher pay are linked to each other.
There can be a very negative impact on employee morale, and overall service quality, and customer satisfaction when the organization faces a higher turnover of employees especially those who are good performers.
Thus a lot of effort and time is invested by the organizations to retain such employees.
Ways to Retain People
i. Including Employees in the Company’s Vision: The inclusion of employees in the vision of the organization is necessary if the organization wants to motivate and retain them.
The vision and direction of the organization are clear and motivating, encourage the employees to serve the organization in its tough times to follow the vision.
ii. Treating Employees as Customers: The concept that employees are also the customers of the organization is recognized by some of the service organizations.
Therefore, organizations can utilize the fundamental marketing strategies for these employees also. In order to estimate the balance between work life and job, periodic internal marketing surveys are being conducted by the organizations in order to evaluate the satisfaction and needs of the employees.
The employees will continue to work in the same organization if they have the feeling of being valued and if their needs are fulfilled by it.
iii. Measuring and Rewarding Strong Service Performers: Different types of methods must be used by the organizations to reward and promote their best performers to sustain them for a long period of time.
There must be a clear connection between the organizational vision and the reward system and also the results which are to be accomplished.
The concept of “peer award” is being implemented in some of the organizations so that the employees can recognize each other and it is given to that employee who is considered to be the best performer in customer service.
Importance of Service Employees in Service Process
The customers treat the service employees as the organization itself. They are perceived as marketers as well as brands by the customers. The following points describe the importance of service employees to the service sector:
1. They are the Service: In most of the cases, only employees are present and nothing else is there. In this case, employees on their own represent the service, e.g., legal services, haircuts, physical training, etc.
This indicates that the employee’s die service which is being offered by the organization. This implies that investment in employees in the service industry is similar to the investment made in the products in the case of a manufacturing organization.
2. They are the Organisation in the Customers Eyes: The true picture of the service organization is drawn by people with the help of observing its customer-contact service employees even if he/she is not involved in the service delivery.
When a person goes to a hospital, his/her opinion about the hospital is formed on the basis of his/her interaction with the employees; this may be the receptionist, the clerk, the nurses, or the doctor.
Thus in some cases, customers treat these employees as the organization itself.
3. They are the Brand: Employees sometimes act as the service brand. A typical example can be seen in the form of a university which is considered as a valued one among the students.
The talent of the faculties who teach in the universities decides the brand value of those universities.
Until and unless the students interact with the faculty members and find out their expertise, they do not make a positive perception of the university. Here, the faculty members are the service brands.
4. They are Marketers: As the organization is represented by the contact employees and they have a greater influence on customer satisfaction, they act like marketers.
They on their own are the services as well as walking promotional tool for the service organization.
For example, if people see a person on the road riding a motorcycle going to deliver a product or letters or other documents, they can easily guess the organization which is being represented by him/her just by looking at the uniform, appearance, or the vehicle.
Thus, even while performing the duties; the service employees are playing the role of marketers for their respective organizations.