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Operational Processes

The service entity must have in place the processes that allow it to be successful in the actual delivery of the service. The organization needs to understand its processes for the effective and efficient delivery of the service. And as the electric utility discovered, the process that works is the one the customer expects, not necessarily the one the company delivers.

It is important to understand the use of supporting processes from the main processes in the customer experience. For example, when visiting a restaurant, it is possible to consume the hostess services, the water services, the wait staff services, and the dishwashing services without getting what we really came to receive, namely, food. The food preparations, the menu planning, the procurement of ingredients, and the preparations are all part of the food service business, but behind the scenes. We only experience the wait staff taking our order and return­ing with the plate of food. Unless we eat in a glass-enclosed restaurant, the actual food preparation is not visible, and the customer is not vis­ible to the cook. But the operational service we came to experience, food, is key. And all the other services, while necessary, are support services to the event of dining.

The APICS Dictionary defines "process" as "a planned series of actions or operations that advances a material or service from one stage of completion to another." So operational processes are spe­cific to the organization that uses them to provide their specific ser­vice to a customer.

The service organization must have in place operating processes that allow it to be successful. Examples of service operating processes include actions to identify a customer and their specific needs for the service event. Also, supporting activities including material handling, quality monitoring, and financial and information handling to respond to the customer expectation are operating processes.

For food service, it means having both service and kitchen staff scheduled, with sufficient quantities of food and condiments, with suf­ficient dishes, flatware, and glasses to provide the meal. For a hospital, it means having enough beds, nursing staff, and potential doctors, op­erating rooms, surgical supplies, Pharmaceuticals, and related supplies to perform the medical procedure. Since the health care service event creates a financial event, ties to billing, information and patient records, and a myriad of governmental reporting information are also outputs of the service event.

Key questions to consider about operational processes include these:

      What information already exists or should already exist about the
customer? How can new customers be identified, and what are the
processes to collect or modify information about a customer?

      How are new services and products introduced to the customer? How is customer feedback about new items collected and measured?

      When problems exist, is there a problem management process, and potentially a problem escalation process for significant issues?

      How does the service offering and service event get measured? Are the measurements reasonable and actionable? Do they actually measure results from both the customer point of view and the company?

      What process exists to ensure appropriate staff levels and skills?

      How are customer expectations, and the operational processes to deliver those services, determined? What is the balance of alternatives a customer or group of customers is seeking along the dimensions of speed, quality, and cost?

      Do process maps of primary actions, secondary actions, and exceptions get reviewed for improvement on a regular basis? Are there contingency plans if appropriate to the process?

      Are support processes known, and their role in delivering the pri­
mary service known? For example, in a hospital, how often are surgical supplies restocked and to what levels to ensure service levels by the surgical team, and still maintain fiscal responsibility?

      Have new operational processes been tested and refined before being introduced to customers?

      What are the mechanisms to provide feedback from the process users to process owners?

      What documentation exists for employees performing the process, and for customers that consume the process? For example, ISO 9000. Is the documentation accurate, current, and easy to understand? Can it or should it be personalized?

To Be Continued

For balance of this article, click on the below link:

Lean Manufacturing Articles and click on Series 11

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