Human-Led Service Qualities are how a Human-Led service behaves, it’s non-functional characteristics, including how reliable, responsive, trustworthy, empathetic, and attractive it is to customers and users.
Human-Led services are driven by humans, and may be assisted or facilitated by IT, for example, PC repair, Moves/Adds/Changes; contrast this with IT-Led services, which are driven by technology, and may be assisted or facilitated by humans, e.g., Office365. Service qualities are how a service behaves, its non-functional characteristics. Contrast this with the functionality of a service, which is what the services does, how it functions, it’s basic features independent of a service’s behaviors, and the service configuration (what its made of, its component parts). Human-Led service qualities include reliability, responsiveness, trustworthiness, empathy, and attractiveness.
Human-Led services run the gamut from:
Technology-free customer contact, e.g., the face-to-face contact between a psychological therapist and patient. This type of contact does not require the use of technology; thus, it is the most traditional and direct mode of customer contact.
Technology-assisted customer contact, e.g., hotel check-in and check-out procedures, transactions conducted over manned bank counters, and passenger check-ins for airline boarding. During these, technology (i.e., a computer) is used by the service personnel only. However, the customer and service personnel still experience face-to-face contact.
Technology-facilitated customer contact, e.g., the use of Microsoft PowerPoint by a financial expert to present and discuss financial plans with customers during a conference. Although technology is used by both parties, face-to-face customer contact still occurs.
Examples of Human-Led services
Moves, adds and changes
New hire setup
Human-Led services are provided primarily by humans, possibly with the assistance of technology, but where the human-to-human interaction is the primary driver. Contrast this with IT-Led Services, where services are provided primary by technology, possibly with the assistance of humans, but where technology-to-technology or technology to human interaction is the primary driver. Human-Led service qualities in OSM are adapted from SERVQUAL.
Key questions for Human-Led service qualities include:
People—the individuals and teams that deliver the service—how reliable and responsive are they? Are they dressed appropriately for what they’re doing, from the perspective of customers and users?
Service IP, kits, collateral—the knowledge and materials teams rely on to deliver services–for example, if you are running workshops as part of the service, are the materials attractive and well-organized, or do you have a lot of bad graphics and spelling errors in them?
Systems & Tools—for example, process mapping software for a process engineering engagement—is the tool easy to use for the facilitator and the customer, or is it clunky and error-prone?
Goods—for services where goods are involved, e.g., installing a new physical monitor—is your packaging for goods neat and complete, or do goods show up dented or broken or in the wrong place because of shoddy addressing?
Facilities—is your service location neat, organized, appealing, or shoddy/off-putting?
Performance is effective when…
Stakeholders see us and our services as reliable, responsive, trustworthy, empathetic, and attractive
People—the individuals and teams that deliver the service, have the knowledge, skills and mindset required
Service IP, kits, collateral—the knowledge and materials teams rely on to deliver services—is up to date and easy to location
Systems & Tools—for example, a process template for a process engineering engagement—exist and are good enough to ensure successful delivery
Goods—for services with goods involved, e.g., installing a new physical monitor—we manage inventory to meet demand
Facilities—are physically appealing, and strongly support the conduct of the service
“Attractive” as used here does not mean that all our people are supermodels, that all our facilities are slick, etc. It means at a minimum that they are not off-putting, and are suitable for the purposes of the service and its stakeholders. For example, there is one standard of dress you might expect a dollar store employee to have, and quite another for say, a Nordstrom salesperson. And if the dollar store fixtures were too expensive-looking, you might wonder what you’re getting for your dollar—similarly, if the fixtures in a Nordstrom’s were shoddy or cheap looking, you might be wondering if the t-shirt you’re buying is really worth $30.
An example: Anything by David Maister is great advice for managing Human-Led services. While most of it is pointed towards consulting firms, the advice is sound and impactful nonetheless. Here are two classics:
Maister, David H. Managing the Professional Service Firm. (New York: Free Press, 1993.) Maister is a former Harvard Business School professor and is currently a consultant to the world’s top professional firms. He is recognized as the foremost expert in professional service firm management and this is the first comprehensive text on the managerial problems of professional firms. Maister explores a wide range of topics including marketing, staffing, service quality, and personal development. The book is full of insightful and practical advice.
Maister, David H. True Professionalism: The Courage to Care About Your People, Your Clients, and Your Career. (New York: Free Press, 1997.) In this follow-on to Managing the Professional Service Firm, Maister discusses his definition of “true professionalism”–a personal commitment to self-betterment and a dedication to providing excellence and efficiency in client service. He also strongly emphasizes the importance of ethical behavior as the primary means to commercial success. Maister examines these subjects at both the individual level and the firm level and includes excellent recommendations.
Another worth of mention is, Wittreich, Warren J. “How to Buy/Sell Professional Services.” (Harvard Business Review, March-April 1966.) The author explores the complexity of buying and selling professional services and provides guidance to both buyers and sellers. Among Wittreich’s key ideas are that the selling and rendering of a service can seldom be separated and that the majority of the “sale” actually occurs in delivering on the initial promise made when the engagement was initiated.
Valerie Zeithaml and Mary Jo Bitner created the most widely used and accepted model for professional service quality, in 5 dimensions:
Valerie Zeithaml and Mary Jo Bitner created the most widely used and accepted model for professional service quality, in 5 dimensions shown here. OSM adopts and adapts this model, renaming “Assurance” trustworthiness, and “Tangibles” attractiveness.
As you can see, Human-Led service qualities are in some cases the same (reliability, responsiveness, trustworthiness, and attractiveness) as many of the qualities we seek in an IT-Led services. If for example, you are using an online banking service, you’ll want it to be reliable, responsive, trustworthy, and attractive enough. And while an online banking service can’t necessarily exhibit empathy per se, the empathy of it’s designers for you as the customer or user should shine through in its design.