An Exploratory Research Study

Robert Teehan
Industrial Distribution, School of Technology Studies

Walter Tucker
Quality Management, School of Engineering Technology

Ladda ner artikel

Ingår i: 11th QMOD Conference. Quality Management and Organizational Development Attaining Sustainability From Organizational Excellence to SustainAble Excellence; 20-22 August; 2008 in Helsingborg; Sweden

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 33:6, s. 89-98

Visa mer +

Publicerad: 2008-12-09


ISSN: 1650-3686 (tryckt), 1650-3740 (online)


Purpose: The purpose of this research is to test a simple model designed to measure and improve service delivery in call centers. In many countries including the U.S.A.; the service component of the economy has been dominant for over 50 years and continues to grow both in relative and absolute importance. Even so; there is a dearth of literature on strategies to improve services using simple interventions. Improvement in service delivery may be defined as increased customer satisfaction and/or reduced costs. Service delivery systems are highly idiosyncratic so change or improvement must to closely linked to each system’s unique characteristics. There are many academic studies reporting effective and validated research methodologies employed to measure service quality from the point of view of the customer. However; these methods of measuring service quality are complex and unwieldy and best left to highly trained academics and graduate students for implementation and interpretation. Still; competition in the market drives service providers to seek ways to continuously improve. Customers expect and wish to receive value from the service center (value demand). Some literature (Seddon; 2005) suggests that service customers do not receive what they expect (failure demand) about half of the time. Service providers seeking a mechanism for continuously improving efficiencies while maintaining or increasing customer satisfaction may submit their systems to the rigors of academic research; develop expertise internally; or engage an external consultant. Our purpose is to adapt the lean service concepts of value demand and failure demand from the consulting world and apply them to actual call center service operations using academic rigor.

Methodology/approach: The authors developed a checklist of best practices for call centers from the literature. These checklists were discussed with call center staff and their managers and compared to their standard operating procedures and measurement/staff evaluation systems. All participants acknowledged that this was an experiment and the results could not be used for employee evaluation. Through multiple iterations with call center staff and managers; the researchers developed a three part call evaluation system to include (1) value demand (2) failure demand and (3) not able to determine. This call evaluation system was used for several days. The ratio of the three categories was charted in a simple spreadsheet.

Findings: Managers of service operations are deeply interested in simultaneously improving efficiencies and customer satisfaction. Any validated tool to achieve these goals is highly valued. The findings indicated that the value/failure demand measurement system was useful and many failure demand occurrences occurred. Managers will consider improvements based on these data.

Research Limitations: This study describes a tiny sample of the service economy and is limited to direct service providers in call centers and their managers. This first step did not validate value from the point of view of the customer. This would be the next logical step for additional research. Practical implications: Service providers need simple tools to assess operations; improve quality and efficiency. This was the first step in what we hope will be the development of an easy-to-use tool for the continuous improvement of services.


Service; quality; value; demand; failure; customer; lean


Ahlstrom; P. 2004. ‘Lean service operations: translating lean production to service operations’; International Journal of Services Technology; 5(5-6); 545-564.

Bellamy; A. & Tucker; W. 2006; ‘Social psychological dimensions of quality: an exploratory analysis’; Ninth Quality Management and Organization Development Conference; Liverpool; U.K.

Bowen; D. & Youngdahl; W.1998; ‘”Lean” service: in defense of a production-line approach; International Journal of Service Industry Management. V. 9; Issue 3; pp.207-225.

Feinberg; R.; IK-Suk; K. & Hokama; L. 2000 Operational determinants of caller satisfaction in the call center’; International. Journal of Service Industry Management. Vol. 11; No. 2; pp. 131-41.

Hines; P.; Holwef; M. & Rich; N. 2004; ‘Learning to evolve: A review of contemporary lean thinking’; International Journal of Operations & Production Management; Vol. 24 No. 10; pp. 994-1011.

Johnston; R. 2004; ‘Towards a better understanding of service excellence’; Managing Service Quality; Volume 14; Number 2/3; pp. 129-133

Johnston; R. and Jones; P. 2004; ‘Service productivity: towards understanding the relationship between operational and customer productivity’; International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management; Vol. 53; No. 3; .pp. 201-213.

MacDuffie; J. 1995; ‘Workers’ roles in lean production: the implications for worker representation’. In Lean Work; ed. S. Babson .Wayne State University Press; Detroit.

Maleyeff; J. 2006; ‘Exploration of internal service systems using lean principles’; Management Decision; Vol. 44; No. 5; pp. 674-689.

Marr; B. & Parry; S. 2004; ‘Performance management in call centers: lessons; pitfalls and achievements in Fujitsu services’; Measuring Business Excellence; 8(40); 55-62.

Nonaka; I. & Takeuchi; T. 1995; The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation. Oxford University Press; New York.

Parry; S. 2004; Managing and Measuring for Value. Research Report for Publication. Cranfield School of Management and Fujitsu; Bedfordshire; Great Britain.

Parasuraman; A.; Zeithaml; V.; & Berry; L. 1985; ‘A conceptual model for service quality and implementations for future research’; Journal of Marketing; 49 Fall; pp.41-50.

Parasuraman; A.; Zeithaml; V.; & Berry; L. 1988; ‘SERVQUAL: a multiple item scale for measuring customer perceptions of service quality’; Journal of Retailing; 64; Spring; pp. 12-40.

Seddon; J. 2005; Freedom from Command and Control; Productivity Press; New York.

Swank; C. 2003; ‘The lean service machine’; Harvard Business Review; October.

Womack; J. and Jones; D. 1996; Lean Thinking; Simon & Schuster; New York; NY.

Womack; J.; Jones; D. and Roos; D. 1990; The Machine That Changed the World; HarperCollins. Publishers; New York; NY.

Citeringar i Crossref