Service Customization Strategies

Service Customization Strategies

Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1604-2.ch005


This chapter discusses several frameworks from the literature, which address the complex interactions between IT and business in service design. It then introduces a methodology that advocates the development of a conceptual network that interrelates concepts from the business and IT domains at strategic, business process, and technological level, to achieve strategic alignment between customization strategies, business processes and e-services customization. This methodological framework supports the identification of e-services, opportunities analysis, and strategy formulation. It also engages in its steps managers, employees, and IT experts. This chapter describes the objectives and the steps of the methodology in detail and explains how individual customer views can be accommodated in deriving customized services. It illustrates how strategic customization objectives are assessed in terms of their impact on business and technological factors and how they are translated into service proposals.
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This chapter proposes a methodology for developing service customization strategies and integrating business strategies with service characteristics, organizational process design and IT solutions. The readers might question the need for yet another methodology for service customization process design. The service management and the business process management literature is full of models, techniques, methodologies and approaches that promise systematic and effective investigation of organizational change and process design. There are, indeed, several frameworks for service strategic planning and process management, which however, address only a certain part of the complex interactions between IT and business, with no framework offering a complete answer to the critical issue of translating the business strategy into concrete service design options and IT solutions. Rendering the strategic choices into process level actions means that the implementation of the strategies as well as their implications to process and organizational level performance becomes clearer. Questions that arise at this stage include:

  • How can service customization strategies be devised and formed?

  • What are the “ideal” service features a business should offer to its customers and how can these features be realized?

  • What are the implications of certain strategic choices on the process design?

  • How can a new service proposal and process design affect and possibly shape the business and technological strategic environment?

In the current literature, there are no approaches that can give an answer to such questions. In manufacturing, concurrent engineering promises an integrated systemic approach to translating a design into a product. Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) systems transform the design of a product into a sequence of well-structured tasks ready to be implemented in the production lines. Would it be possible to have the equivalent of CAD and CIM systems in service management? Would service development and customization be supported by an Integrated Service Design and Delivery Environment that integrates consumers and providers views on service quality and design priorities? This chapter presents a new methodology that tries to give an answer to these questions and explains why such a new approach is needed.

Conceptually, there are differences between services and products, which distinguish products’ quality from service quality and hence, product design and manufacturing from service design and delivery. Products are tangible and their quality can be defined relatively easy. Recalling from previous chapters, a service is intangible and its quality has several dimensions. Service quality is defined as vaguely as in the statement “what the customer wants” or more ambitiously as “more than the customer may want”. Clearly, the subjective nature of service quality undermines any attempt to define it, in a universal way, and to translate it objectively to service and process design options. In an era that competition is not based solely on cost cutting strategies but also on quality, translating the concept of service and service quality, as conceived at the strategic level, into concrete process level actions and solutions, will distinguish the effective organizations from those who perceive strategic planning as a time consuming flight simulator game.

All these concerns are not new. Neither is the need for an approach that will assist management in service and process design in an integrated manner. What is new, however, is the way that the proposed approach reaches equilibrium by blending simultaneously the requirements for a rigorous though flexible approach throughout the customization driven service and process design.

The abstract and broad concept of service quality, as opposed to product quality, maybe perceived as a problem, since it is difficult to define it accurately and unequivocally, making it therefore difficult to realize. To the contrary however, our approach suggests that such loose definition of service quality imposes no restrictions but instead opens up opportunities for service differentiation and customization. From the service designer perspective, the road map to success is highlighted below:

Set your imagination free like you are a science fiction author. Then, articulate and express your thoughts for the ideal service. Utilize IT in service design and bear in mind that information management techniques are becoming more and more powerful”.

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