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Chidichimo encourages excellence in service delivery28th of November 2011
In the last of his exclusive series of articles for ECJ, Pedro Chidichimo of Diversey writes about the importance of service quality and customer satisfaction as components of measurable profit for a company. He advocates the development of a service quality model for facility management/service contractor companies, based on five simple principles.
Among the many burning platforms of our cleaning and sanitation industry are operational efficiency, people management and sustainability. Throughout the year, I have shared with European Cleaning Journal my experience on these areas, and in this last edition of the year I would like to focus on the most critical burning platform for facility management companies: service quality.
Though marketers of tangible products define and measure quality with increasing discipline and precision, their peers in the service industry still have difficulty in measuring and controlling quality. In my regular meetings with customers in this industry, I am often surprised to see some senior executives fail to understand that quality is the customer’s perception of a delivered service.
The deployment of services – especially those with heavy reliance on labour – often differs among employees and customers, and from day- to-day. In most services in our industry, quality is defined during delivery of a service, when there is interaction between the two human beings: customers and our personnel. For this reason service quality is highly dependent on the performance of employees, an organisational resource that cannot be managed in the same way the quality of tangible goods is determined.
My research and personal experience reveal that delivering high service quality produces measurable benefits in profit, cost savings, and market share. Therefore, an understanding of the nature of service quality and how it is achieved in organisations is among my top priorities. One important lesson I have learned is the importance of developing a service quality model for our companies, based on five principles:
1. Process consistency - Quality in service delivery must be consistent over time. Streamlining the cleaning process and teaching it to the service delivery teams through training on a regular basis ensures quality results. You need very motivated and capable people to succeed in service delivery. My philosophy for cleaning excellence training is very straightforward: keep it simple, make it visual, and give a value to it.
2. Standard Tools and methods - I enjoy working with my iPad as much as any five year-old. The same principle applies to an individual in a service-oriented task. Service delivery teams need three levels of enablers: first, a harmonised, standard range of work tools that are best in class, simple and efficient, productive, environmentally friendly and safe. Second, they require a cleaning method that is simple and intuitive. Third, they need the support of key specialists and training leaders to address specific cases or issues. The higher price of quality tools, methods and a supporting structure always delivers higher quality service deployment.
3. Measurement – Quality in services is not designed at the manufacturing plant and then delivered intact to the consumer. Most services cannot be counted, measured, inventoried, tested, and verified in advance of sale to ensure quality delivery. But be assured that customers are constantly measuring the cost of a company’s service and the value they get for it. In times of budget constraints, spending control is often tightly enforced.
There is a clear need to have value reporting mechanisms in place to prove that not only are personnel checking the box in the spreadsheet attached to the toilet door, but are also adding value. This is achieved through a more complex equation that encompasses a mix of satisfaction/perception surveys, consistency checks, cost of service, frequency and independent certifications of quality.
4. Feedback – Communication breakdowns are always the root cause for misunderstandings. Constant communication between the leadership at the customer site and the site managers is imperative. Use mechanisms to collect feedback such as questionnaires and regular face-to-face meetings. Act upon the findings immediately, share them with the customer and with other operations for best practice cross-fertilisation.
5. Corporate Support – Strong procurement and site-to-site logistics management from the headquarters is essential. The right products and tools need to be ready and in good condition when the service needs to be delivered. Whether using distributors or outsource fleet management to third parties, make sure the basics are not overlooked. Secondly, innovation and sustainability support can enhance customer loyalty when introduced spontaneously.
Let me close this article and this year by saying all of our industry’s burning platforms are there to remind us that customer satisfaction is the most important thing we need to focus in business. All of my previous articles on sustainability, innovation and people management were written with a heartfelt intention to help our industry succeed with customers. I hope I have achieved that goal.