• Methods and Approaches

    by Published on 18th April 2014 08:10 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Methods and Approaches

    Assessing Outsource Service Quality

    When determining whether service delivery is meeting service expectations, it is useful to seek the views of the actual service users. One tool that we are making available on this site to assess outsource service quality is the OUTSOURCE SERVQUAL (or OUTSERVQUAL). This is a new approach available exclusively from this site as a service to the community.

    OUTSERVQUAL (Service Quality) is a self-administered questionnaire designed to measure how customers view/judge the service quality of suppliers and is based on the SERVQUAL approach by Parasuraman. Parasuraman et al (1994) defined service quality as the degree of discrepancy between customers’ normative expectations for the service and their perceptions of the actual service performance.

    Parasuraman made the assumption that customers judge service quality by making a comparison between their expectation of the service that they should receive and their perceptions of the service that they actually receive. This is a harsh measure of course as often we have perhaps overinflated expectations of what can actually be achieved for a certain price.

    Differences between expectations and actual performance are referred to as 'gaps'. The OUTSERVQUAL instrument can be used to measure any the following five gaps.

    Gap 1: Consumer expectation - management perception gap. This is understanding the difference between consumer expectations and management perceptions of the customer expectations (what they want versus what we think they want!).
    Gap 2: Service quality specification gap. Where the gap between management perceptions of consumer expectations and service quality specifications that are required.
    Gap 3: Service delivery gap. The difference of service performance between service quality specifications and the service actually delivered.
    Gap 4: External communication gap. The difference of communications between service delivery and what is communicated about the service to customers.
    Gap 5: Expected service - perceived service gap. The difference between expected service and perceived service from customers’ point of view.

    Based upon these gaps, five behavioural dimensions of service quality were identified and can be used in the SERVQUAL approach. For this survey instrument these dimensions have been adjusted (based on our research) to be more in line with the assessment clients make of their suppliers in delivering an outsource service.

    There are 5 Service Quality Dimensions.

    1. Tangibles - The physical aspects of the delivery that includes the use of up to date technology, facilities and software. This may also include issues such as robust DR in place.
    2. Reliability - Ability to perform the service to the required standard, at the right cost, accurate/error free work and stick to commitments
    3. Responsiveness - Responsiveness to client issues and the degree of good support provided to clients
    4. Assurance - Knowledge and skills of the vendor staff and degree to which vendor employees instil confidence in their ability.
    5. Empathy - Good account management practices, fair dealing, open working and attention to specific client needs.

    Users of the OUTSERVQUAL questionnaire will rate questions on a Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree to 7 = strongly agree). The instrument comprises 22 statements used to assess service quality across the five dimensions outlined above with each statement used twice - once to measure expectations and once to measure perceptions. There is also a question that assesses the importance of the five dimensions to you.

    I have set up two free on-line versions that 1stOutsource members can use for their own assessments - you can find them here:

    For Outsourcing: Outsourcing Vendor SERVQUAL Test
    Generic SERVQUAL: Generic SERVQUAL Test

    Clients can assess their vendors (if you submit the results you should get a nice short PDF report to download) and vendors can assess themselves by putting 'themselves' in the position of the client. Try it out and as the test is still underdevelopment some feed back as a reply to this thread would be useful.

    by Published on 29th July 2013 11:51 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Methods and Approaches,
    3. Market Research

    Lecture three starts us off by considering the product and product planning and the main considerations when product planning.

    by Published on 29th July 2013 11:24 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Methods and Approaches,
    3. Article

    In this slide show elements of the psychology of behaviour are introduced and the marketing implications explained.

    by Published on 28th July 2013 08:06 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Methods and Approaches


    Outsourcing can be strategic in reducing costs, enhancing competitiveness and enabling focus on core competences. This paper clarifies what outsourcing actually is, the potential risks and benefits, and sets down management guidelines concerning when outsourcing may be beneficial, how to maximise chances of success, and how to ensure a successful transition which maintains staff performance.


    More companies are considering outsourcing than ever before, and research indicates the trend will continue. Whilst most western companies outsource to save on overhead or induce short-term cost savings, consideration is also given to related aspects such as avoidance of building in-house skills and access to specialist functional capabilities. It has been suggested that outsourcing can also free up management time to facilitate focus on core competencies, and enable companies to become more competitive in increasingly dynamic and uncertain markets. Although there have also been suggestions that there are risks involved in outsourcing, smaller enterprises in particular are often unclear regarding what these risks are, how to minimise them, or indeed, what outsourcing actually is compared to other related activities such as contracting and facilities management. To understand outsourcing then, requires consideration of clear definitions and an awareness of the processes involved.
    by Published on 7th July 2013 10:27 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Methods and Approaches,
    3. Templates,
    4. Quality Tools

    Here is a draft quality plan oriented towards a SME consultancy. In order to bid for a government contract you will need one of these in place. The first section is shown below:

    1. Purpose
    The requirement for the quality plan are driven by the need to achieve customer ...
    by Published on 7th July 2013 09:55 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Methods and Approaches,
    3. Templates,
    4. Project Tools

    SWOT (Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats) Analysis is a simple but surprisingly effective technique to assess an organizations positioning and begin the process of turning general ideas for market growth into actionable activities. This brief guide shows how to extend the simple SWOT concept into a tool for defining the actions needed to deal with external threats and internal weaknesses in the organizations capabilities.

    The process is best done within a workshop concept. So organize a team meeting of around 7 to 10 interested parties who are experts or knowledgeable in the domain to be considered.

    The process:

    Step 1 – First agree the area to be considered and the core assumptions. For example ‘we will consider the 'Softhouse' organization and the opportunities to grow the market in the States.

    Step 2 – Use a brainstorming technique such as nominal group and ask the team first to think about the area we have chosen and what the issues in delivering this approach are. They write down (on their own) what could be the barriers or carriers to entering the new market in the States onto post-it notes or just make a list on paper before them.

    Step 3 – They place their post it notes (or the facilitator) in turn onto the grid as shown in the diagram below – barriers to threats and carriers to opportunities.

    Step 4 – Brainstorm as in step 2 and consider the organization (Softhouse) and what are its unique strengths or capabilities and its weaknesses. The team on their own write down onto post-it notes their ideas as before.

    Step 5 – They place their post-it notes (or the facilitator) in turn onto the grid as shown in the diagram – strengths to strengths and weaknesses to weaknesses.

    Step 6 – The team then consider the crossing points of the SWOT for example between Threats and Strengths below (top left box) and as shown in the diagram think of specific actions to use strengths to counter any threats. These are written onto post it notes as before and placed in turn into the grid.

    Step 7 – The facilitator tidies up the board removing duplicates or clarifying actions that have been written down. The board actions are then agreed prioritized then transferred to a standard action plan template.

    Example Swot Action Analysis

    Here is an example taken from an early draft of a business plan to illustrate the completed board. From here the actions can be taken across to a standard action plan template and owners and timescales applied. Thus from an initial consideration of the external and internal environment we can quite quickly move to a position where we can see possible practical actions we can take to move the agenda forward.


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    by Published on 20th June 2013 11:46 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Methods and Approaches,
    3. Consulting

    Change Management Practice: Just do it - sometimes you have to act

    I was giving a lecture on change management the other day and the class and I were deep in discussion about involvement and ethical behaviour when one of the students asked 'but what if we don't have time for all this pink and fluffy stuff?'

    I was a good question that needed a clear response and to some extent my answer is a little surprising coming from a confirmed pink and fluffy person like I am - my response was 'sometimes you have to act'. When an organisation is in dire straits and on the brink of failure or when to enter a new market a new process has to be implemented then there is simply no time for long discussions to get people on board the change manager has to act and get on with it.

    What this means is we have to seize the moment and implement a new system or close down a department sometimes in the teeth of stiff opposition. The ongoing discussions needed to bring people with us or the time needed to make those in the process 'make sense' of the situation is just not available - we must act.

    But does this mean we need to be brutal or cavalier in the way we treat people? - well no - we do not have to behave in this way in order to get the message across. The key is to behave ethically and make the process transparent that needs to be gone through and explain openly how the change process will effect the persons concerned in a clear and relevant way. People respect managers who spell it out as it is without and prevarication or weasel words - 'Say it as it is'.

    What this means is, if say, a department is to be outsourced and there is a good chance that substantial people we be let go, you tell the full story. Concretely: 'Your department is being closed and moved to the new Company - you and several of your colleagues will have to leave'. You make clear the process that is about to unfold in clear words (the person will be in shock at this time) and tell them to think over what you have said and invite them back when they have had time to think it through to discuss their feelings and concerns. Expect defence and emotion, this is normal, but respond in a clear way - do not prevaricate - stick to the line explain the process and allow the person to internalise the consequences. When giving bad news as in this case leave no room for doubt of what is occurring avoid constructs like 'you may be selected', 'there's a chance that some of you may stay' and so on. This only raises an expectation that they will survive. In the same vein if you are asked 'will there be job losses?', say 'Yes I expect many will leave'.

    I know this seems hard but research has shown that when bad news is to be given out people are very resilient as long as it is clear they are not being singled out (a fair process is in place), that there is a valid reason, and the process is transparent and applied equally. What we as managers have to understand is it is our job to treat people fairly and ensure their self-esteem is protected and they are given the grounds they need to rationalise what has happened. Aggressive, perfunctory methods of change management do not work (so put away the phone no texts that people are sacked) and are a sign of management incompetence or inexperience - do it right and your people will respect you as a person who treated them fairly in difficult circumstances.

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