Improving the Service Quality

Parasuraman, Berry and Zeithaml maintain that the following nine lessons are essentials for improving service quality across service industries:

  1. Listening: Understand what customers really want through continuously listening to the expectation and perceptions of existing customers and potential customers.
  2. Reliability: Reliability is the single-most important dimensions of service quality and must be a service priority.
  3. Basic service: Service companies must deliver the basics and do what they are supposed to do keep promises, use common sense, listen to customers, keep customers informed and be determined to deliver value to customers.
  4. Service design: Develop a holistic view of the service while managing its many details.
  5. Recovery: Service companies should encourage customers to complain (and make it is easy for them to do so) if they encounter a service problem, respond quickly and person­ally and develop a problem resolution system.
  6. Fair play: Service companies must make special efforts to be fair and to demonstrate fair­ness to customers and employees.
  7. Teamwork: Teamwork is what enables large organizations to deliver service with care and attentiveness by improving employee motivation and capabilities.
  8. Employee research: Conduct research with employees to reveal why service problems occur and what companies must do to solve problems.
  9. Servant leadership: Quality service comes from inspired leadership throughout the orga­nization, from excellent service system designs and from the effective use of information and technology.

Pre-requisites for Achieving Service Quality

Quality is not an event but it is an on-going process. As far as service organizations are con­cerned, quality is not the responsibility of the Quality Control Department only; rather it is a matter to be taken care of by the entire business system. The following are the pre-requisites for achieving service quality.

  1. Visionary leader: The presence of a visionary leader at the top is a necessary element for achieving quality. The vision of the leader guides the organizational effort into achieving a high standard of service quality. A visionary leader through his verbal and symbolic communication shows others where the future lies.
  2. Setting high performance standards: It must be made clear to every employee that one is expected to give one’s best. Casual attitudes will not work and will not be accepted in any case.
  3. Management’s commitment and support: The process of quality improvement should receive total commitment and support from the top management.
  4. Preparing the employees: The organization needs to prepare employees so that they are capable of delivering quality service. Employee training programmes to cultivate and develop technical and inter-personal relations and communication skills need to be organized. Box 16.3 discusses the importance given to training at the Apollo Clinic.
  5. System for addressing customer complaints: There should be a system for handling complaints and suggestions. The customer should be informed about the action taken and thanked for giving suggestions.
  6. Systemfor monitoring service quality: Commitment to quality also means that services deliv­ered must be continuously monitored to assess as to what extent the customers are satisfied with the service offering of the firm. Internal performance analysis, customer satisfaction analysis and specialist marketing research are the improvements which are included where needed.

Box 16.3 Service Quality at the Apollo Clinic

The Apollo Group is at the forefront of creating service quality standards in the healthcare industry. At the Apollo Clinic, one can avail of the widest range of services that could be provided under one roof—consultations, preventive health checks, diagnostics, laboratory, dentistry procedures, treat­ment room, and pharmacy and telemedicine consultation.

Apollo is able to deliver high standards of service because of the stringent training given to employees. The entire staff is put through a four-week rigorous training session, which includes areas such as patient care, clinical and non-clinical procedures in the Clinic, query and objection handling, software training, etc. Apollo has tied up with institutions such as the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore for training of franchisees, NIS Sparta for training of Front Office and Sales staff and Wipro for software training.

Clinical and Non-Clinical Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have been developed specifi­cally designed keeping in mind the patients’ requirements. This means that none of the usual issues that one associates with a primary health clinic would be seen at the Apollo Clinic. The difference can be noticed from the moment one walks into the Clinic. The front desk staff is fully equipped to understand and address most customer queries. Waiting times are significantly reduced by efficient scheduling. Doctors and other staff explain all procedures to the customers before carrying them out. At the Clinic, daily controls in the laboratories are performed, to ensure that quality is main­tained—again something that is not commonly addressed in most clinics. Quality control samples are taken every two months by an independent team to confirm quality. Even basic requirements like home delivery of medicines or delivery of sample collection containers are provided for.

A number of mechanisms have been set up for continuous quality review and improvement. Patient feedback is an important component of this, and the Clinic takes it very seriously. In addition, independent quality audits are conducted on a periodic basis, the results of which are used to fur­ther enhance quality.

Source: Poornima M. Charantimath (2017), Total Quality Management, Pearson; 3rd edition.

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