Breaking the Trade-Off Between Efficiency & Service Analysis

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E-Man 251 Marketing

Breaking the Trade-Off between Efficiency & Service Analysis

Frances X. Frei’s article in the November 2006 Harvard Business Review discusses ways service businesses need to deal with customer variability. Her beings with an example of a business that have their customers show room floor and how customers aren’t simply opening their wallets, they are involved in the ongoing operation of the company. Even though Ms.Frei focuses on service businesses, her article provides useful insights for libraries. The first step in managing customer variability is understanding the forms it can take.

Arrival variability: This is the first and most common type of variability. This type is when customers don’t want service all at the same time, of at times which aren’t convenient to the business, i.e.: grocery stores, call centers, or emergency rooms. The solution stated was that you require appointments or reservations, only issue with that is that in some environments, such as the emergency room, you cant make the customers make a reservation, or know when they will fall from a ladder and make a reservation to see the doctor. The resulting inefficiencies have inspired lots of solutions, including those in W. Earl Sasser’s Match Supply and Demand in Services Industries. I personally believe this is one of the most painful variances, considering I used to work in the fast food industry and in customer service, sometimes your service just isn’t up to par at the time in which someone is asking for it. For example: I worked for Fazoli’s in which anytime could be horrible, whether it be a bus of hungry baseball players, or a hungry family that comes 2 minutes before closing time. I personally have not figured out a way in which way to solve this problem, I just think the company needs to be prepared at all times to serve whoever, whenever, and however much they are trying to order.

Request variability: Where customers ask for things that can...
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