SOPs for Service Industry
What constitutes services can be better understood from the perspective of economics. The economy of any country is driven by the combination of these three sectors – agriculture, manufacturing, and services. While agricultural output comprises raw food production and manufacturing contributes to the production and processing of physical products from needles to aeroplanes including processing of agricultural output, services comprise the facilitating activities like banking, telecommunications, retail, healthcare, consultancy, etc. In services, customers/businesses get things done for themselves which they have no business in accomplishing on their own. That opens a huge window of business opportunities. But from a business perspective, delivering a service also involves processes and operations around it that lead to the delivery of that service. How good those processes and operations of a business enterprise are, determines its ability to proficiently deliver the intended value to its customers and clients.
Challenges Faced Due to Poor Processes and Management Systems
Poor Delivery of the Final Services. From salons to mobile services, the quality of services and consistency in the flow of services delivered must live up to the expected and promised standards. It is comparable to how businesses dealing in goods like departmental stores or food processing units must maintain the quality of the products and ensure smooth availability to meet the customers’ demand. The standards of quality and flow of services cannot be good if processes and operations through which these are created and delivered are not planned and organized to run in a systematic and flawless manner.
Unplanned Management of Assets and Infrastructure. Delivering services also involves the management of assets and infrastructure that aids in the productions and delivery of the services. For example, for a salon, the assets are scissors, combs, hairdryers, shampoos, the store itself, furniture, etc. These assets have to be maintained with planned operations failing which the services will be hampered. The same is true for all other service-based businesses whether it is a salon or an airline company.
Poor Complaint Resolution. A critical element of the service industry is customer complaint resolution. How many times we have seen that poor handling of customer complaints by CRM executives have sent screenshots and AV posts flying all over social media platforms leading to face-saving campaigns from companies. But the executives cannot be blamed if the right operational procedures were not in place. Customers would not care whether or not there is an internal CRM process or how it works for a company. They will judge by the end product (in this case, easy and quicker resolution of their complaints).
Poor Communication with Customers / Clients. Keeping two-way communication with customers and clients reflect the sincerity of a business enterprise. But this has to be made a part of how a business functions at the operational level. For example, if there is a change in company policies that affect the services availed by customers, it should be clearly and quickly communicated to them.
Benefits of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to Service Industry
Impressive Service Delivery. Services and customer experience interact at almost every touchpoint – both physical and digital. Whether it is the delivery of final service or intermediary services like registration, providing information and handling queries, complaint resolution, refund and exchange, etc., how each of these services will be carried out calls for some standard ways of execution. This can be achieved through SOPs that seek to define and detail the list of activities to be carried out, the process owners, assigning of accountability and authority, timeframes, etc. Even if these services are delivered online, SOPs provide the ground inputs for creating the necessary digital or process automation platform and a solid basis for improved business process management (BPM).
Enhanced Customer Experience. Partly covered in the previous point, customer experience needs to be treated as a separate objective for the entire customer journey including every touchpoint and its unique requirements. For instance, if a great user experience has to be consistently provided to the digital audience, there must be a set of operational activities for the monitoring and upkeep of the website, hosting and servers, device compatibility, data security, etc. These duties and responsibilities can be incorporated into the routine working of the IT department of a company through SOPs. It will specify the process owners, frequency of monitoring, format of reporting, reporting authority, resolutions, escalation to service providers and vendors, timeframes, etc.
Becoming Growth-oriented. As SOP consultants for service industry, we have learned that the agility for scale, automation, consistency in quality, and certainty of delivery results are some of the essential prerequisites to make the operational platform of a business enterprise ready for growth and expansion. SOPs give that edge to businesses by defining and mapping how the business processes and operations need to work. Done right, SOPs provide the basis for process automation, defines the standards of performance and output required at every stage, assigns authority and responsibility, and prepares for scale.