Quality of Service Methods for IP Networks

Summary

This article provides an analysis of the methods and protocols used to improve the Quality of Service (QoS) in Internet Protocol (IP) networks. The challenges of achieving a high level of QoS in IP networks are examined. The traditional methods for QoS are presented along with current and proposed methods for QoS in IP networks. The goal of the article is to educate the reader on the various methods of achieving QoS and to examine the best options for the future. As Internet bandwidth requirements grow and high quality IP applications such as real-time video and Voice over IP (VoIP) become widespread, QoS will be critical to the success of providing high quality Internet Protocol (IP) services.

Quality of Service

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) defines Quality of Service (QoS) as a service agreement (or a guarantee) to provide a set of measurable networking service attributes, including end to end delay, delay variation (jitter), and available bandwidth. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defines QoS as the collective effect of service performance which determines the degree of customer satisfaction. Cisco defines QoS as the capacity of a network to provide better service to selected network traffic.

This article defines QoS as the capability of an IP network to classify and prioritize traffic flows in order to ensure that the technical characteristics of packet loss, delay, error rate and jitter are met for each customer. Quality of Service (QoS) methods are based on the ability of an IP network to identify and classify traffic that is higher priority so that the technical requirements of the customer are met. QoS methods are based on having an adequate amount of bandwidth (i.e. low network utilization) to prevent traffic congestion and to permit the setup of priority traffic flows.

Traditional QoS Methods for IP Networks

In the early days of the Internet, the applications were low bandwidth and not real-time in nature, so a high quality of service was easy to maintain. The early Internet applications of email, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) and web browsing were low-speed bursty IP traffic so delay, latency and bit error rates were not critical. The early networks relied on the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) to provide flow control, error checks and retransmission of data packets when necessary. TCP provides a best-effort level of QoS that is acceptable for email and web browsing. However, the TCP protocol alone will not provide an acceptable level of QoS for real-time high bandwidth applications such as video or VoIP. Another method used to improve the QoS in early TCP/IP networks was the First-In First-Out (FIFO) buffer. FIFO buffers provided a simple method to store packets when there was temporary network congestion, but FIFO buffers make no intelligent decision about the priority of traffic. This section will examine some of the traditional methods of QoS to include the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP), IP Routing Protocols, First-In First-Out (FIFO) buffers, the Real Time Protocol (RTP) and the Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN) protocol.

Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is one of the most common protocols used in the Internet. Although it is not traditionally considered a QoS protocol, TCP can provide adequate QoS for best-effort Internet applications such as email and web browsing. The Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) is a connection oriented protocol that provides reliable data transport between host computers. The term connection-oriented means the two host computers using TCP must establish a connection with each other before they exchange data. TCP includes flow-control to control the transmission of data so that the receiver can limit how much data the sender transmits. TCP uses a sliding window protocol for flow control. TCP uses the sequence, acknowledge and window fields in the header for flow control. The window field identifies the number of bytes that can be sent without acknowledgements. The window size will slide up and down based on performance of the connection.

First-In, First-Out (FIFO) Buffers. FIFO buffers provide temporary queuing of data when there is network congestion. The shortcoming of FIFO queuing is that no intelligent decision is made on the priority of traffic. FIFO is still used in many networking devices, but is now considered a non-QoS method because FIFO is unable to meet the QoS standards of today’s IP networks.

Explicit Congestion Notification (ECN). The ECN protocol provides advance warning of network congestion so the routers can mark data packets being transmitted. With ECN, a bit is placed in the IP header to signal the transmitter that the network is congested. ECN will set a flag notifying the sender to decrease the window size to avoid having to retransmit packets. ECN is also not a true QoS protocol and is incapable of reserving resources or guaranteeing services.

Quality of Service Methods in IP Networks

Quality of Service Levels. The service levels of QoS refer to the actual capabilities of the network to provide end to end service. There are three levels of QoS for IP networks:

1. Best Effort Service. This level of service provides no guarantees of service and relies on basic TCP and FIFO functions to transmit data across the network.

2. Differentiated Service. This level prioritizes traffic and provides a statistical preference for higher priority traffic, but not a hard guarantee of service. Priority Queuing (PQ) is an example of differentiated service.

3. Guaranteed Service. This is the best level of QoS and provides a reservation of network resources for high priority traffic. The RSVP protocol is an example.

Classification of IP Traffic. To provide a high priority service for a type of data traffic, the data must first be identified and classified for service. If the data is marked, then IP precedence throughout the network can be used to provide a higher level of service. For data that is identified, but not marked, classification is on a ‘per-hop’ basis. On a per-hop basis means that classification of the data only pertains to a single device that uses a QoS method such as priority queuing.

Access Control Lists (ACL). Access control lists are used in IP networks to identify traffic for congestion management methods such as policy based routing. The ACL is a list of permissions on a router that determine the actions that the device will take with a given traffic flow.

Policy Based Routing (PBR). Policy Based Routing permits the classification of traffic based on extended access control lists and set IP precedence bits. PBR uses route-maps within a network to route traffic based on established policies. PBR can direct packets to take a different path than derived from routing protocols.

Committed Access Rate (CAR). CAR is a method to classify traffic and set policies for handling traffic that exceeds a bandwidth allocation. If a traffic flow exceeds an established bandwidth on a device port, it can be either dropped, passed or have its IP precedence changed based on established policies.

IP Precedence. IP precedence takes advantage of the three precedence bits in the IPv4 header’s Type of Service (TOS) field to specify a class of service for each packet and provide a differentiated level of QoS. RFC 2475 extends the number of bits used in the TOS field from 3 to 6 and is known as DiffServ.

Priority Queuing (PQ). PQ provides a higher priority to important traffic so that it is handled first at each device in the network. Packets are given one of four levels of classification by the application. PQ is useful at prioritizing certain types of traffic, but PQ uses static routing and is unable to adapt to network changes.

Custom Queuing (CQ). CQ provides a guaranteed bandwidth for a higher priority data flow and is used in situations where network congestion or potential latency must be avoided by high priority traffic. Like PQ, CQ uses static routes and will not dynamically adapt to the network.

Flow-based Weighted Fair Queuing (WFQ). WFQ uses a flow-based queuing algorithm to ensure that all data is serviced fairly and predictably without wasting bandwidth on reservations. WFQ uses IP precedence for classification of traffic to provide superior service to high priority flows. The advantage of WFQ over PQ and CQ is that WFQ can automatically adapt to changing traffic conditions. WFQ is the default queuing mode for Cisco routers on low speed serial ports.

Real Time Protocol (RTP). The Real Time Transport Protocol (RTP) is a layer 4 transport protocol that can be used with either TCP or the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) to improve the quality of service. RTP is frequently used with UDP in voice over IP (VoIP) networks because it provides a sequence number for packets, allows applications to detect packet loss, and provides a time-stamp so delay and jitter can be monitored. RTP does not address resource reservation and does not guarantee quality-of-service for real-time services. The RTP data transport is normally used with a companion control protocol (RTCP) to allow monitoring of the data delivery.

Improving QoS Methods for IP Networks

Differentiated Services (DiffServ). The DiffServ protocol is used to provide service differentiation of services within backbone networks. Packets are labeled with their quality of service when they enter the network and placed within large groups. DiffServ is not an end-to-end solution and is only intended to work within the core of the network. There is no signaling between ends and the service is static, established ahead of time by service level agreements. However when used with an end-to-end QoS protocol such as IntServ, it has potential to provide good QoS. The DiffServ method is a good solution because it removes the per-flow state and scheduling that leads to scalability problems with IntServ QoS architectures.

Integrated Services (IntServ). The IntServ method of QoS provides guaranteed service with quantified delay and jitter standards. The IntServ protocol uses end-to-end signaling and resource reservation with three levels of service:

1. Guaranteed Service supports real-time applications and provides a guaranteed connection with standards for packet loss, delay and jitter that cannot be exceeded.

2. Controlled Load Service is the second best level of IntServ and is intended for applications that can tolerate some delay.

3. Best Effort Service provides no guarantees of service.

In a network using the IntServ protocol, every router in the network must implement IntServ, and every application that requires a level of QoS must reserve resources for the service. The RSVP protocol (described in the next paragraph) performs the signaling end to end and among the routers. There are problems with IntServ such as poor scalability. IntServ works well in small networks, but in large networks like the Internet, it is difficult to keep track of the many reservations. There could be thousands of reservations for some routers. Therefore IntServ is often recommended for use only in the edge networks while within the core of the network, other protocols will reserve aggregate resources. Another problem is that IntServ duplicates some of the functions of RTP such as jitter control.

Resource Reservation Protocol (RSVP). The RSVP protocol is used to signal QoS messages across a network. It is used with IntServ and also Microsoft Windows software. RSVP is an out of band protocol and messages are sent end-to-end. Routers listen for the RSVP requests for reservation and respond if they can support the service. RSVP is used in conjunction with other QoS protocols. The RSVP messages can be sent across the core of a network and only the edge routers using IntServ will interpret the messages.

Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS). The MPLS protocol enables the transmitter to label packets and establish priority of service. The edge routers in a network mark the packets with a fixed length label that contains information on the route and the priority of the service. MPLS has a wide range of service classes, but it can only provide QoS within a MPLS domain and not end-to-end. Therefore the use of MPLS for QoS is very limited.

Layer 2 Solutions for QoS. A very effective method of implementing QoS within a network is to use layer 2 protocols to prioritize the traffic. Operating at the media control access (MAC) layer, the 802.p standard provides specifications for layer 2 switches that establish eight classes of traffic. Both Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) and VPLS (Virtual Private LAN Service) will support 802.p to establish virtual circuits that are prioritized according to the type of content. Layer 2 solutions for QoS may be the most effective means for providing high quality and prioritized service over an IP network. However, layer 2 solutions are normally only used within intranets and VLANs that are controlled by a single system administrator. Over the global Internet, it may not be possible to use layer 2 QoS solutions when accessing public sites.

Conclusion

This article has demonstrated that the early methods of QoS in IP networks such as TCP flow control and FIFO buffers are not adequate for today’s high speed Internet applications. Better methods of QoS are necessary to support real time applications such as video and voice over IP.
There are three levels of QoS: best effort, differentiated service and guaranteed service. Best effort provides no QoS protocols other than TCP flow control and can only be used for bursty IP traffic that is not time sensitive such as email and web browsing. Differentiated service classifies and prioritizes traffic flows so that higher priority traffic has precedence in the network. Examples of differentiated service methods are PBR, CAR, IP precedence, PQ and DiffServ. The guaranteed service level of QoS provides the best QoS by reserving resources throughout the network for high priority traffic flows. Examples are RSVP and IntServ. Guaranteed level of service can only be provided when the network has adequate bandwidth to support the traffic.

Implementing Layer 2 QoS is very effective when a single system administrator controls the network. The 802.p standard provides a method for classifying and prioritizing traffic using the MAC address and layer 2 switches. With VLAN, virtual circuits can prioritize traffic and establish a high level of QoS. However these methods are not applicable when the IP network is the global Internet and public sites must be accessed.

The future of the Internet will depend on effective quality of service (QoS) methods. To support future real-time applications over the global Internet, reliable transmission methods will be needed along with the ability to classify and prioritize traffic on an end to end basis. The QoS methods described in this paper provide a framework for implementing QoS within IP networks. Layer 2 solutions will serve the Intranets, while standards and common solutions will have to be decided upon for the public Internet.

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Services Marketing

Services marketing has incurred an explosive amount of scholarly research in the last 20 years, however since 1986 there has been no debate concerning the notion that services are distinct from products, and thus deserve a special approach, a set of concepts and a body of knowledge (Brown, Fisk, & Bitner, 1994). This essay will explain the distinguishing features of services marketing, giving examples where possible. It will begin by defining services marketing and giving some background knowledge on its divergence from product marketing. It will then examine the four characteristics of services, and then finish with an explanation of the extra P’s found in the services marketing mix.

In the last century there has been a large shift in marketing thought; evolving from a goods-dominated view, in which tangible output and discrete transactions were the focus, to a service-dominant view, in which intangibility, exchange processes, and relationships are central (Vargo & Lusch, 2004). Vargo and Lusch define services as the application of specialized competences (knowledge and skills) through deeds, processes, and performances for the benefit of another entity or the entity itself. Four idiosyncratic features of services will now be given, highlighting why services marketing is different from basic product marketing.

Arguably the most distinguishing feature about services is their intangibility. Services are defined in (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2006) as “deeds, processes, and performances”. None of these are physical objects in which a customer can take ownership of, even though during a service physical evidence will be apparent in the form of things like medicine the doctors prescribes to you, the photo taken of you riding the rollercoaster, or the food on your plate in a restaurant. This invisibility creates a number of issues for marketers. Firstly there is no stock, making it hard to manage supply and demand. Secondly services cannot be shown or displayed to customers, making it hard for marketers to advertise the quality of the service. And finally, because services don’t physically exist, there is difficulty in patenting them, making it easy for other firms to copy your service.

Another notable aspect about products is that on average they stay the same. If you buy a Ford Focus here in Australia, and then go and buy the same model in America, chances are they will both be exactly the same. Services are different in that they are heterogeneous, meaning they differ with each use. For example a wildlife tour will never be the same twice, not only because of the random and unpredictable nature of the animals, but the guide may be in a different mood, the weather will have changed, and there will be different customers each time. These factors make it harder to consistently give quality service, which is important to marketers because customers will have a particular set of expectations in mind, based primarily on what was promoted in the service and previous experiences in the particular industry.

Another distinguishable feature about services is the fact that it’s both produced and consumed at the same time, as opposed to products where customers do not see how the product is manufactured. A good metaphor for this is being at the theatre. Consumers can be compared to an audience, where they watch actors (employees) perform on stage (physical location like a business store) amongst props (physical objects like chairs, tables, pot plants etc). The actors are ‘live’ and performing (producing) at the same time as the audience are watching (consuming). This brings us to the concept of interactive marketing. In a service, operational staff carries out much of the marketing function (Klassen, Russel, & Chrisman, 1998), and marketers are left to the advertising and promotion.

The final distinction that differentiates services from products is their perishability. While some products perish very quickly (like water balloons), services simply cannot be stored, saved, resold or returned at all. Marketers main concern would be the procedure for when things do not go as planned. Customers cannot simply return the service and ask for another one; it is up to the service provider to offer the customer some kind of compensation. If passengers are forced to wait a long time for their flight, employees could provide free coffee and refreshments while they wait, in an attempt to make up for their failing service.

With product marketing the marketing mix includes the four P’s; product, price, place and promotion. Services use the same elements plus three more to help account for their unique nature.

Firstly there is people, which comprise of everyone that influences the buyer’s perceptions, including the buyer themselves. Customers have an active role in the production, and thus can influence the outcome of their own service or the service of others. For example a large family with screaming children interrupting a young couples romantic dinner at a restaurant.
Every person is important to the marketer, no matter how small their role may be. Consider an IT professional who installs computers in people’s homes. During that installation the buyer may form an opinion of the service provider as a whole based purely on that IT professionals performance. Sometimes a person is the sole service provider, for example a dentist or lawyer, making their performance and appearance critical to gaining a high perceived quality of service.

The sixth ‘P’ is physical evidence, which is the environment in which the service is delivered and where the firm and customer interact (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2006). It also includes any physical objects that assist in the delivery of the service. (Lehtinen & Lehtinen, 1991) define it as the environment and its instruments. With some services customers may find it hard to judge the quality of the service, especially with credence service’s like financial advisors or legal advice. It is crucial that marketing managers address consumer fears regarding risk that results before, during, and after consumption of credence services (Keh & Sun, 2008). Since the customer does not have the knowledge or experience to judge the actual service, they instead turn their attention to other things, including the physical evidence of service quality. This would usually come in the form of a professional looking workspace, however would change with each service provider. For example in a doctors surgery cleanliness would be expected.

Finally there is the service process, including the procedures, mechanisms and flow of activities by which the service is delivered (Zeithaml, Bitner, & Gremler, 2006). When purchasing a service, customers often have a set of expectations of the process of the service, and when these are not met, the perceived quality of service drops. For example in white water rafting a customer might be dissatisfied if, when they arrived, they were told they had to carry the raft to the top of the river first. The process is important because people participate in it, unlike products, where the process is behind doors.

Services represent at least 70% of the nation’s total GDP for at least 5 countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia, making it a hot topic for not only marketers, but anyone competing in the business world. Services are distinguished from products by four characteristics; intangibility, they are heterogeneous, there is simultaneous production and consumption, and their perishability. Services marketing differs from product marketing from the fact that three extra P’s are added to the original marketing mix; people, physical evidence and process.

How the U.S. Private Service Sector Can Eliminate $2 Trillion in Costs

The private service sector in the U.S. contributes $10 trillion to GDP approximately 20% of this figure is non-value-added costs…

Why apply lean to the service sector? Simply because of the potential cost reduction lean can bring to bear in trade, transportation and utilities, information services, financial services, professional and business services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality services, marketing services, etc. The private service sector in America contributes 80% of the Gross Domestic Product or approximately $10 trillion annually. In most service organizations it is conservatively estimated that at least 50% of their costs are a result of non-valued added work. For the sake of argument, let’s say that the average operating expenses for the service sector is 40% or $4 trillion. If 50% of these costs are non-value-added that is $2 trillion wasted every year.

Isn’t it amazing that potentially twenty percent of service sector GDP is non-value-added cost? Isn’t this enough justification for applying Lean in the service industry? Aside from the cost reduction power of lean other benefits the service industry could reap include error reduction, improved productivity, faster service delivery, and increased customer satisfaction.

Lean is no longer a manufacturing “thing”-it is a strategy for improving all business processes. It represents significant potential for achieving speed, quality, cost improvements and positioning an organization well above its competition.

By analyzing and improving its processes the service industry can reduce work in progress delays, unanswered phone calls, and incomplete reports. All of which result in lower customer satisfaction rates.

To enhance their competitiveness, service firms need to embrace systems such as Lean, Six Sigma and practical problem solving, within their organizations to ensure continuous process improvement. These systems can provide individual providers with the opportunity to meet and then surpass the challenge of competitors. A philosophy of continuous process improvement enables a service firm to cultivate a process-oriented way of thinking and developing strategies that assure continuous improvement involving people at all levels of the organizational hierarchy. Such a system requires a new organizational culture that considers change, rather than complacency, the norm.

A widespread dissatisfaction with the current way in which the organization functions can be the impetus for implementing lean in a service business. In the case of profit-making service organizations, dissatisfaction is heightened by red ink or lost market share. However, with respect to non-profit service organizations such as government, and public education, these kinds of competitive pressures are largely absent. Therefore, organizational dissatisfaction must be created from within by the leadership team.

The service sector of the U.S. economy can longer rely on the traditional methods like restructuring and reorganizing to make them more cost competitive. A more focused approach for improving quality and productivity must be found. One such alternative for increasing competitiveness is to introduce lean process improvement into service organizations. If you have a company in the service sector and think that you could benefit from a more effective strategy, then why not consider adopting lean thinking? Not only will you establish a more productive approach, but it will also help you to reduce your non- value-added costs, motivate your employees, increase customer value, and improve the efficiency of your business.

Products And – Or Services – Defining “Service-Oriented” Products and the Related Role of Technology

The economy can be analyzed using both market-driven and production-driven approaches to industry classification. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) uses a market-driven approach; the older Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) uses a production-driven approach.

Under a market-driven approach, the economy comprises goods-producing and service-providing industries. Goods-producing industries include: natural resources and mining, construction, and manufacturing; service-providing industries include: wholesale and retail trade, transportation (and warehousing), utilities, information, financial activities, professional and business services, education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and public administration.

Under a production-driven approach, the economy comprises product-driven and service-driven industries. Product-driven industries comprise enterprises that manage inventories available for sale as primary activities (regardless of whether they transform them or not). Under this approach, the retail, wholesale, and food service industries are product-driven. (The kitchens of food service providers are equivalent to factories.) Product-driven enterprises may have extensive cost accounting and operations practices for inventory management.

Industry classifications can be applied to an enterprise as a whole (the primary industry), and to the establishments within it, which may be in differing secondary industries. Establishments are facilities that include plants (factories and warehouses) and branches (retail and wholesale outlets).

For example, the hospitality industry is service-driven; under the production-driven approach, the bar and restaurant establishments within a hotel are product-driven. The entertainment industry is service-driven; under the production-driven approach, the retail and bar establishments within a theater are product-driven. The health care industry is service-driven; under the production-driven approach, the retail pharmacy establishment within a hospital is product-driven. Under the market-driven approach, all of these establishments are service-providing.

For example, a manufacturing enterprise is goods-producing under a market-driven approach, and product-driven under a production-driven approach. If it also operates a retail delivery system, the stores are service-providers under a market-driven approach, and are product-driven under a production-driven approach. If all sales revenue is sourced from its own products, the enterprise is in two primary industries. However, if forced to decide, its selection should be based upon core competencies – activities that it performs well. The enterprise can be divided into two separate business units: manufacturing and merchandising. The merchandising unit is an internal customer of the manufacturing unit. However, depending on strategy and policy, the manufacturing unit could sell products to wholesalers and other retailers, and the merchandising unit could buy products from other manufacturers and wholesalers. Under a market-driven approach, the manufacturing unit is goods-producing and the merchandising unit is service-providing, whereas under the production-driven approach, the merchandising unit is product-driven.

The make-up of the economy changes overtime as newer industries emerge and grow and older industries mature and decline. For example, the manufacturing industry is shifting from vertically integrated to strategically outsourced. Strategic outsourcers may manufacture specialized components and assemble finished products. However, by outsourcing the manufacturing of utility components to specialty scale manufacturers, strategic outsourcers can lower their production costs.

Biotechnology and nanotechnology are emerging industries. The information industries are growing as technology becomes more ubiquitous, and as knowledge is packaged in digital products. Knowledge is information that has been learned and retained. In the future, knowledge will be retained extensively in electronic form.

Products and services…

The term “product” is associated with something that is tangible – the resulting inventory from agricultural, mining and drilling, construction, and manufacturing activities. Outputs are either end-products, or components that are assembled into end-products in downstream processes within the enterprise or in its customers.

The term “service” is associated with something that is intangible – capabilities either delivered at the point or time of sale, or shortly thereafter, or as a supporting service. Supporting services can be purchased at the time of sale for downstream use, or later, and consist of such items as warranties beyond those bundled with the product, preventive maintenance, and routine cleaning and repairs.

Functions and features of products are easier to discern than those of services, which are event or activity driven, and may occur in the future.

The term “time of sale” means when a contractual or non-contractual agreement between a buyer and a seller is made, and does not necessarily mean when revenue is recognized and earned. Revenue is recognized and earned according to the accounting principles that fit the service offering, which may be over a period of time.

A commodity is a product or service that is indistinguishable and interchangeable with another of the same type because there is little to no value added. Many commodities are natural, such as produce, minerals, oil, and gas. Services can be commoditized too. The distinguishing factors of a commodity provider include convenience, quality of service, and price.

Product-driven enterprises also offer delivery and supporting services. Delivery services include arranging for transportation, dealer preparation, training, and gift wrapping. Supporting services include cleaning, repairs, and maintenance. To remain competitive over time, enterprises have to add services with their product offerings that exceed customer expectations. However, if customers require such services, then they must become part of the basic offerings. For example, bathroom facilities and color TV are included in modern hotel rooms, even though the primary purpose is providing a place to sleep.

Although services are intangible, their effects are not. Transportation services move people, cleaning services remove dirt and stains, and repair services restore items to working order. Services require facilities, equipment, and supplies that are bundled in. When products are bundled in, the enterprise pays sales or use tax, if applicable; when products are sold with services, the customer usually pays sales or use tax, if applicable.

Service-driven enterprises can produce tangible deliverables. For example, dry cleaners produce clean and pressed clothes; professional service firms, such as architects, accountants, attorneys, and consultants produce reports; and engineers produce design drawings that can be transformed into facilities, equipment, or other tangible products.

The recording and movie industries employ technologies that can capture sound and pictures. Starting in laboratories, these industries transform science into art. Hence, live entertainment performances (services) can be transformed into recorded products. As a consequence, an event or activity can be reproduced, duplicated, distributed, and repeated to the public-at-large indefinitely. Digital products are impacting traditional manufacturing, distribution, and consumer buying behaviors, and placing intermediaries at risk.

Process control and information technologies have enabled seamless integration between designers and manufacturers. The “design-to-construction” process becomes ubiquitous as computer-aided design and manufacturing technologies (CAD/CAM) enable a designer in one location to transmit specifications to manufacturers in others. The designs are virtual, and result in instructions that control manufacturing equipment in both local and remote locations. As a consequence, manufacturing can be outsourced strategically to any manufacturer that can accept electronic designs anywhere at any time. Because the process is seamless, the precision is higher.

As more enterprises adopt the design-to-construction model, dramatic changes will occur in the structure of industries. For example, in the publishing industry, books can be printed on demand from electronic files upon receipt of orders placed over the internet, eliminating the need for physical inventory available for sale at printers, publishers, and bookstores. The electronic files represent a virtual finished goods inventory from which physical products can be made when necessary. As a consequence, inventory carrying costs are lower.

Both product-driven and service-driven industries render service from centers that receive inbound and place outbound service and telemarketing calls. Call center activities can be outsourced in a similar fashion to manufacturing.

The notion of strategic outsourcing can be applied to almost every function in an enterprise provided intellectual property is protected. However, although management consultants may be used in the development of strategy, the ultimate responsibility for planning, deployment, execution, and performance remains in-house with the governance function.

Products and/or services…
The term “products and/or services” describes collectively all types of products and services.

Service-driven industries are evolving into providers of both “product-oriented” and “service-oriented” services. In order to differentiate product-oriented services from the delivery and supporting services, the term “service-oriented” products provides more clarity. Service-oriented products must be definable, duplicable, and repeatable. They are intangible outputs of processes that are represented by tangible items, packaged in a definable form. Technology plays a major role in the delivery through hardware, software, and both voice and data telecommunications. “Hard” products are tangible and “soft” products are intangible.

For example, traditional land phone line services were offerings with few differentiating features, primarily in the style of equipment. As the telephone system migrated from electro-mechanical to electronic, the offerings were transformed into service-oriented products with features such as call forwarding, caller identification, call waiting, and voice mail. Cell phone offerings are service-oriented products with more extensive functions and features than land lines. Cell phone service-oriented products have cameras built-in, and have delivery and supporting services bundled in such as account information, internet access, and application software for calculators, calendars, contact information, notes, games, music, pictures and movies. Cell phone and computer technologies are converging.

In the financial and business and professional services industries, service-oriented products are packaged with such items as accounts, agreements, brochures, contracts, databases, documents, equipment, facilities, policies, procedures, and statements.

In the leisure and hospitality industries, service-oriented products such as flights, hotel rooms, car rentals, and limousine services are packaged with facilities, equipment, and supplies. The types of facilities and equipment define specific offerings. For example, an Airbus A380 renders a different experience from a Douglas DC3 even though the principal service is the same: providing air transportation. A hotel room with a view of the ocean renders a different experience from one with no windows at all, even though the principal service is the same: providing accommodation. The quality of the accoutrements such as blankets, pillows, towels, newspapers, cable TV, internet access, and fruit baskets can affect the overall experience. A Cadillac renders a different experience from a Chevrolet, even through the principal service is the same: providing a rental car to drive, or a limousine.

Travel-related service-providers bundle air, hotel, car rental, and limousine services into packages to make the buying decisions easier for consumers. Event planners bundle travel-related services with conference and convention services for enterprises.

Consumables, durables, and facilities…

Manufactured products consist consumables and durables.

Consumables are products change or wear out as they are used and comprise food, clothing, personal care, health care, household supply, and office supply items. Media such as books, records, audio and video CDs, and DVDs are classed as consumables – the intellectual property is worth far more than the media.

Durables are long lasting equipment items such as appliances, furniture, and vehicles.

Digital products may involve no media if they delivered electronically other than the server of the publisher and the electronic device of the user.

Facilities are the outputs of construction activities and are made of durable materials.

Contractual or non-contractual products and/or services…

Agreements are contractual or non-contractual based depending upon the type of offering, and the nature of the relationship between buyers and sellers.

Consumable products can be sold with the right to return for exchange or refund within a certain period of time. Durable products can be sold with agreements that define warranties and maintenance.

Service-oriented products and services can be sold with agreements that specify exactly what is to be delivered and when, with procedures for reporting problems or complaints.

In negotiations, discussions should embrace the specific functions and features of hard and soft products, and the delivery and supporting services. Experienced negotiators pay attention to both the tangibles and intangibles because the total cost of ownership comprises both.

Digital-construction and digital-manufacturing…

As technology continues to develop, service-oriented products will become more common because it makes intangible items definable. New knowledge-based industries will emerge.

The reproduction of software on physical media is classified as goods-producing, and all other development and publishing activities are classified as service-providing under NAICS. However, software and other digital products are durable because they can last indefinitely, even if they have to be transferred among storage media. Software products are developed by service-providers such as business and professional services firms, publishers, and “in-house” developers. Nevertheless, software development activities require the project management disciplines of goods-producing industries, such as construction and manufacturing, to be successful.

The “digital-construction” and “digital-manufacturing” industries are evolving: digital construction delivers software; digital manufacturing delivers soft service-oriented, information, and knowledge-based products. However, through CAD/CAM processes, software delivers hard products too. In the future, almost all hard and soft products will result from digital-construction and digital-manufacturing processes.

Defining product and/or services is an enterpriship (entrepreneurship, leadership, and management) competency.

Customer Service Improves Sales

Henry Ford said ‘The only foundation of real business is service’. In many companies, the customer service function sits outside of the sales channel as it is seen in some way inferior to sales. Yet customer service is integral to sales success. Without good customer service there will be no repeat sales, and repeat sales are the most profitable revenue any company can generate.

The selling process is not complete merely because the customer has stated that he or she will buy your products or services. Throughout the entire selling process, the maintenance of goodwill is important, but even more so after the purchase. Regardless of your customer’s previous feeling towards your company, the experience they have after they have bought will have a significant impact on future sales. Customer service doesn’t complete the sale; it reignites the sales cycle. A worthwhile maxim to adopt is: ‘a customer cannot be regarded as satisfied until we get their next order.’

Whilst customer service represents the last element in many standard sales processes it could also be argued that it is the first element in a recurring sales process. Ask yourself:

  • Did I ensure that the agreements reached with the customer actually happened?
  • Did I attempt to up-sell?
  • Did I ask for a referral?
  • What records are kept and maintained?
  • What feedback did I get about how the customer benefited from my product/ service?
  • How could customer service be improved?

Why Is Customer Service Important?

There are a number of empirical studies on the value of customer service and the effect of repeat business on the bottom line. Frederick Reicheld and Earl Sasser said that ‘if companies knew how much it really costs to lose a customer, they would be able to make accurate evaluations of investments designed to retain customers’. They found that customers become more profitable over time as increased sales; reduced costs of distribution; referrals; and the opportunity to up-sell all add to the bottom line.

Heskett, Sasser, and Scheslinger collaborated on a training programme to assist managers in understanding the lifetime value of customers and in addition advised on the importance of developing a culture whereby employees are engaged to contribute to the value chain. They postulated that employee satisfaction leads to service value which produces customer satisfaction and which in turn results in profits and growth. It is hardly surprising that happen employees produce happy customers.

What is Customer Service?

Is it just about smiling and being nice to customers? It’s a good place to start but it can’t just be about that.

It is generally accepted that it is very difficult to deliver high standards of customer service. Some say we have not been educated for it – it is not our tradition. This observation is often justified by stating that since late Victorian and early Edwardian times fewer and fewer people have worked in ‘service’. What was a major employment sector in those days has now dwindled to almost nothing.

While this has happened, employment has increased in manufacturing, sales, administration, information technology, and social sciences. Through the years ‘working in service’ came to be regarded as a dead end job that nobody wanted and would only take as a last resort. As a result, the label ‘service’ has almost fallen into disrepute, and many people see giving service as something beneath them that lesser mortals do.

However, the truth is that everybody likes and appreciates good service.

Difference between Good & Poor Service
An often quoted but unattributed statistic is that where people have been asked the question – ‘what would you say was the main difference between somewhere where you received good service and somewhere you received poor service’ – in 70 percent of cases the response has been – ‘the attitude and behaviour of the person delivering the service’. Whether true or not, it seems probable that if we receive poor service from somewhere we are unlikely to buy from that source again.

It is therefore reasonable to assume that good customer service does not involve the quality of the product (unless you have advertised a product as being something it is not) but the quality of the people delivering the product or service, and the experience the customer has of buying your product or service.

It is also reasonable to assume that you yourself know the difference between good and poor service and can put yourself in the customer’s shoes when buying your product or service.

It should be relatively easy to establish a list of thing you have purchased in the last couple of months and determine whether the experience you had of buying was good, bad or indifferent. Obviously a lot of buying and selling these days happens without the interaction of people (e.g. buying on the web) and for the purposes of this exercise perhaps you should record those activities separately. Although it might appear simple, an appraisal of your own experience, coupled with putting yourself in the customer’s shoes should provide you with a wealth of information regarding the difference between good and poor service.

Analysing Good Customer Service

Ask the customer

A simple yet highly effective way of establishing the quality of your customer service is to ask the customer. Attached is an example of a customer service questionnaire used in a car distributor showroom (customer service questionnaire).

Standards

You might check out the set of customer service standards as determined by the Institute of Customer Service. In 2007 they conducted some research into what they believe customers wanted. The top ten responses were as follows:

  1. Overall quality of the products/ service
  2. Friendliness of staff
  3. Handling of problems and complaints
  4. Speed of service
  5. Helpfulness of staff
  6. Handling enquiries
  7. Being treated as a valued customer
  8. Competence of staff
  9. Ease of doing business
  10. Being kept informed

Management

In 2004 the Institute of Leadership published the results of a survey with staff regarding the reasons for poor customer service. The top four reasons given were:

  1. 60% of staff believe that the main contributing factor contributing to poor customer service was bad line management
  2. 45% claim that their relationship with their line manager impacted significantly on the service they provide to the customer
  3. 60% felt they were not praised enough for good customer service, and
  4. 10% said they never receive any praise for a job well done

Definition

I have defined customer service as being:

A set of business behaviours which seek to provide superior service to existing and prospective customers; build customer loyalty and repeat business; and influence the acquisition of new customers.

The Follow-up of a Sale

A major life insurance company revealed that in nearly 60% of all life insurance lapses, the policy terminated after the second premium payment. The same company pointed out that after a policyholder makes four premium payments, lapses are negligible. The significance of these statistics is that customers must remain convinced that their buying decisions were correct or repeat purchases are likely to stop. You, through the final step in the selling process – the follow up – can influence the satisfaction your customers derive from their purchases.

Consider one of your customers whose purchases have been poor during the past year and are not likely to increase significantly in the future. Also assume that you have one highly profitable account whose purchases amount to nearly 25% of the total volume of your business. What sort of follow-up and service should you provide to each? Naturally the larger, more profitable account would probably receive greater attention on your part.

For all customers, you should analyse how extensive your follow-up should be. For most accounts, an occasional email, letter or telephone call should suffice. For more active customers you might need to make in-person calls every week or so. Customers who have made or are likely to make large purchases at some time in the future certainly deserve the best personal service you can provide.

Many salespeople are fond of quoting the Pareto Principle in regard to sales, saying that around 80% of their customers provide them with only about 20% of the total sales volume in their territories. Conversely, about 80% of total sales volume comes from only 20% of their customers.

Your principal responsibility as a salesperson is to sell products or services profitably. This should be your rule of thumb when servicing accounts. Your time is limited, but time spent with customers is often an investment in greater sales and future profits. Even accounts that are semi-active or lacking in potential might become high volume purchasers if service and follow-up activities can improve their attitudes toward you and your company.

Follow-up activities vary substantially by industry and product. At one extreme, it is unlikely that a Scout selling raffle tickets house to house during his annual fundraising will make any follow-up calls during the year. On the other hand, a retail merchant buying household products for re-sale may require regular assistance from their supplier such as inventory maintenance, merchandise displays, and co-operative advertising programmes that can be part of the follow-up. Even the Scout group will need to deliver the prizes and should publish a list of winners.

Ideas for Follow-up

Thank you communication

You are far more likely to get repeat orders if you develop an amicable relationship with your customers. Any activity that helps to cement this relationship, from a simple ‘thank you’ to hand delivering a substantial order, can benefit both you and your customer. A simple goodwill builder, but one far too frequently overlooked, is sending a thank you letter, card, or email soon after a sales call has been made.

You can develop a few formats and then modify to suit each specific customer and specific occasions such as moving to new premises, or even more personal such as birthdays or recovering from accident/illness. The cost and the time expended are minimal compared to the goodwill that a ‘thank you’ can create.

After-Sales Service & Assistance

Even if the product is not delivered in person, a telephone call or an in-person visit may enable you to help your customer with the proper use of your products. Customers who do not know how to use a purchase may blame you or the product for their frustrations and problems. Besides instructing your customers on the proper use of your products, you may also be able to point out additional uses for the items. Sometimes there may be minor repairs or adjustments resulting from faulty installation that you can correct or arrange service for. In some cases, you may create goodwill just by checking with customers to make certain that their orders were fulfilled and delivered as directed on purchase orders. You might find some of these suggestions regarding follow-up activities useful:

  • Make a follow-up ‘goodwill building’ visit to your customers within a week after delivery of the product to make certain that the order was fulfilled properly.
  • Make certain that the product is satisfactory and is being used properly.
  • Offer suggestions to the customer on ways to make more effective or additional use of the product.
  • Use the follow-up visit as an opportunity to obtain new prospects i.e. ask for referrals.
  • Handle any complaints or misunderstandings as soon as possible and with a positive and courteous attitude.

When you make in-person follow up visits, be sure they are not ‘waste-of-time calls’. Before making the call, ask yourself ‘How is my customer likely to benefit from this call? What do I want to achieve?’

Personal delivery

In some instances, you might be able to develop more satisfied customers by delivering your product in person. For example, life insurance agents frequently deliver policies in-person as soon as the contract is prepared and returned from head office. Five major reasons for this type of in-person delivery are:

  • To review the features of the policy
  • To reassure the client that a wise purchase was made
  • To remind the client when the next premium is due in order to make the sale stay solid
  • To promote the sale of additional life insurance in the future
  • To solicit referred leads.

There is a double reason for after-sale selling. Firstly, the existing buyer is, and always has been, a great referral source. Secondly, some sort of professional friendship is developed which can be a future useful testimonial to a new prospective customer.

Goodwill

Goodwill is a factor related to customer attitudes and sentiments toward you and your company. The loss of goodwill is, in effect, the loss of sales. Goodwill building is not automatic. It requires a deliberate, conscientious, and sincere concern about customer interests and needs over extended periods of time. Virtually every step in the selling process has an influence on goodwill.

Goodwill is not concrete – you cannot put your finger on it or measure it accurately in currency. Nevertheless, goodwill is of significant value since it helps the salesperson in making initial and repeat sales. Furthermore, customers with favourable attitudes towards your company and its products are also excellent sources of referral business.

Keeping Customers Satisfied and Staying Competitive

Getting a prospect to place an order and become a customer is long and arduous. Although the search for prospects to turn into new customers never stops, you should also never stop building good relationships with your present customers. They deserve your follow-up so that they will receive the products or services ordered. A commitment to service is required to keep your present customers buying from you. It is service that builds goodwill. In competitive markets it is not products that are different; it is the after sales service provided that makes the difference.

The Importance of Developing Enthusiastic Customers

Enthusiastic customers are one of your best sources of prospects because they are excited about what they buy and want to share that excitement with others. Because of our natural reserve, that is not something we do lightly, so we always take notice if a colleague or friend speaks highly of a company.

If you deliver what customers want at a fair price, without any problems, they are should be satisfied. Although that is better than being dissatisfied, you need more than this to ensure keeping the customer and increasing sales. You have to develop customer enthusiasm about your products and services. You must deliver more than the customer expects. This breeds enthusiasm, which produces a climate that ensures loyalty and increased sales and recommendations to others. Here are some suggestions for producing and maintaining enthusiastic customers:

  1. Keep in touch: check after delivery to see that things are going well. Check again later and ask for leads on new prospects.
  2. Handle any complaints promptly: problems are inevitable. Do not ignore them. They grow with neglect. Do more than the customer expects in satisfying the complaint.
  3. Be a friend: think of the customer as a friend and do things for them accordingly. Send birthday cards or postcards while you are on holidays. Congratulate him or her on awards or advancement.
  4. Give praise when it is due: look for things for which you can give legitimate praise: something the firm has done awards, increased earnings, and a big order. Congratulate the customer personally for awards, election to an office, and honours. Customers appreciate attention too.
  5. Send prospects to your customers: if your customers are in business, send leads or refer prospects to them. It is human nature to respond in kind to anyone who does us a favour.

The Competition

Learn as much as you can about the competition’s products and services. Study how they bring their products to market, their policies, their pricing levels or strategies, the markets they serve, and their customers. Use this information to carry out a SWOT Analysis described elsewhere in this book.

List the strong selling points of your competitors and next to each list a similar or better customer benefit from your own product or service. Don’t assume that every prospect or customer of yours knows your competitors’ strong points. Emphasise your own customer benefits during the sales call. Don’t mention, or sell, your competitors.

Analyse why prospects or customers are buying from competitors and prepare a detailed plan to convince them that they should be buying from you.

Continually review and reinforce the reasons why your customers are doing business with you.

Continually strive to build a close relationship with your customers so they can be more dependent on you.

Earn the right to ask for more orders based on your commitment to service. Remember: your best customers are probably your competitors’ best prospects. Keep working to keep them satisfied and buying from you.

A competitor’s customers are loyal and satisfied because the products or services they receive fit their organisation and requirements now. These conditions can and do change so customer satisfaction is relative.

Becoming a Preferred Supplier

When competing against established suppliers, you may first have to get on the list of acceptable suppliers. To do so this you must create awareness and then an interest and desire for your products or services.

Consider sending copies of advertisements, newspaper articles, or trade journal reports in which you and/ or your company appears, to your customer. Use testimonial letters and recommendations. This will alert your customer to your acceptance by other companies in the same or similar activities.

Invite members of the customer’s firm to visit your plant, your headquarters, your offices, customer installations, or trade shows.

Suggest that their present suppliers are quoting a fair price; however, with new products and services continually being introduced, inflation, improved efficiency, higher productivity, maybe you can do better.

Ask for a copy of their bid specifications and requirements so you can prepare a proposal and quotation for their review and evaluation.

Suggest that they can determine whether or not what you have proposed will give them more value for money. Offer them:

  • trial orders
  • sample equipment
  • thirty day service evaluation period
  • money back guarantees

These are all part of what it may take for you to become an acceptable supplier. Your creativity as a sales professional will be really challenged by thinking of ways and means to become an acceptable supplier to prospects that are apparently satisfied by their present suppliers.

Complaints

‘We don’t have problems, we have opportunities.’ A cliché, but very true in the case of complaints. It has been estimated that only one in twenty customers complain when they get bad service. The vast majority just go elsewhere! Worse still, the average person tells nine people about the bad service they received. They tell everyone but you. A complaint is an opportunity in identifying ways of improving your services and hence the goodwill of your customers.

Most of us do not like criticism. Therefore, when people complain to us, whether it is face to face or not we try to defend ourselves. Even if the complaint is directed personally towards us, which it rarely is. In doing so we sometimes resort to attack, only making the situation worse.

The best way to deal with complaints is to: –

  • Acknowledge the complaint
  • Listen carefully for information
  • Do not defend or excuse
  • Empathise with the caller
  • Promise to put investigate it
  • Promise to call back is necessary and do so

All the customer wants to know is: –

  1. That you fully understand their problem
  2. What you are going to do about it

If you deal with people in this way, there is no reason why every communication of this kind should not result in both parties being satisfied.

This positive result is not necessarily dependent upon the issue being fully resolved it is dependent upon responsive and responsible communication.

Remember, when a customer complains, they are giving you a second chance to put it right

When the complaint is received over the telephone:

  • Note down the facts.
  • Summarise your understanding of the facts back to the customer to ensure clarity.
  • Phone the customer back when you said you would.
  • If you have not solved the problem by this time, give a progress report.

Agree a common method for handling complaints in your organisation. Include procedures for complaints that are face to face, by ‘phone and by letter/email. Draw up a complaints form. It should include:

  • Date and time received.
  • Who received it?
  • Department.
  • The details of the customer: name address, telephone number. Make sure that it meets data protection standards on keeping the information (every organisation should have this as a written procedure and ensure that everyone is aware of this).
  • Complaint details.
  • The nature of the complaint.
  • Action to be taken and deadline.
  • Sign off when dealt with, and where appropriate signature of line manager.
  • Build into the process a method for building customer relationships by getting in touch with the customer two weeks after the complaint has been dealt with to confirm that the complaint was dealt with satisfactorily.

Staff need to ensure that they:

  • Don’t take complaints personally or be defensive; this isn’t an attack on their competence.
  • Take responsibility and ownership on behalf of the organisation and explain to the customer that they will do their best to sort it out.
  • understand that bad news spreads
  • don’t get drawn into an argument
  • remain calm and professional

The rule for complaints
A complaint is a customer communicating their dissatisfaction at the service or product that we have provided, it is an important message that tells us where we are going wrong and gives us vital information about our customer’s wants, needs and expectations. You can’t buy this information!

Regaining Lost Customers

All organisations lose customers, some for very genuine reasons such as relocation or closure. Sometimes though, they go either because we do something wrong or a competitor makes a better offer. After losing a customer to a competitor ask yourself:

  • ‘What can I do to get this customer back’?
  • ‘What has to be done to assure myself I do not lose more customers for similar reasons’?

Prepare a list of all the things that could have gone wrong with the account. Next, set up a convenient meeting with your former customer for a frank discussion so you can clarify the position. Consider key areas such as price, delivery, proper handling of warranties or guarantees, and service calls

Say that although you’ve lost this particular piece of business, it is your intention to win it back in the future. You want to gain their support in helping you to identify what went wrong by discussing the problems. Consider the following:

  • Have you kept them abreast of all your new products or services?
  • Have you kept them abreast of important price, personnel or policy changes?
  • Have you visited them on a frequency appropriate for their business activity?
  • Have you considered all the ways of helping them improve their businesses by emphasising products and services that would help them in the marketplace?

In-House Inefficiencies – The Advantages of Service Outsourcing

The rise of inefficiencies that prevail in many business send many business owners on a quest to outsource product manufacturing or specific service requirements. When confronted with the opportunity to outsource, many opt not to pursue this direction because there is a feeling of loss of control. Used correctly, the ability to use outsourcing can improve operational performance and individual job quality no matter whether the outsourced activity provided is product or services. What has made this approach popular with some companies and avoided by others? Why is outsourcing a good idea for companies? Is outsourcing a viable strategy given the business environment of today? If so, to what extent is it appropriate for your business?

The idea of outsourcing has grown beyond the idea of product or component part production. The initial concept of supply-chain management coupled with lean manufacturing techniques support outsourcing components and can be illustrated well when reading Henry Ford’s comments on the subject:

“The task of putting business on better foundations depends on every department of the business and not alone on the manufacturer.”1

The resulting effects on industry have been substantial for large manufacturers and especially for businesses with smaller work forces where the ramifications have been substantial. In many cases, their ability to use this approach has fostered their competitive advantage and provided a sustained period of business growth.

Businesses are increasingly hiring specialized service firms that perform services that they used to provide for themselves. A company’s ability to specialize or provide a more sophisticated service creates opportunities not previously available for many businesses. Growth in the underlying need for services is driven by several factors including the need for increased sophistication, globalization, and the ever-increasing aspect of management complexity.2 Specialized forms of services have proliferated, as has the complexity of needs in such established service industries as advertising, accounting, consulting, information systems, market research, and investment banking. The companies that are able to create advantages by working smarter and staying cost competitive will be the companies that will have the ability to survive the increased competition, aggressive pricing, and sustain the threats from international competition.

Are products and services affected in the same way? Specialization and sophistication are occurring in both areas. However, services are actually being de-integrated or removed from the businesses. This de-integration result actually is a net increase in service provision being provided to the organization. The trend in graphic arts industries is toward integration, or in-house provision, though this industry is considered non-traditional and does not reflect the trend by the majority of other service industries.3

By far the greatest reason for lack of outsourcing within any industry, no matter whether product of service related, is the fear of loss of control. The pervasive thought that the product can be produced better or the service performed better can be an inherent part of a business culture that can cause stagnation and large inefficiencies. Individual managers or owners will many times decide that the opportunities to vertically integrate demand in-house functions to remain “in-house”. Thus maintaining quality standards that cannot be supposedly matched by outside sources or incur increased costs that will impact the sale of the product or service.

The services that are being provided have grown and are continuing to grow due to three underlying factors: the specific need for increased sophistication by service providers, the de-integration of services previously performed as an in-house function, and the privatization of public services.4 Many of these service firms have reinvented themselves during the last decade due to the increased use of information technology. It has allowed increased productivity from the individuals that are part of the firm as well as increased the amount of information and number of services each service firm can offer to their clients. Many of the services are now automated which provide immediate access without a need for direct customer interface. The airlines have taken automated ticketing to new heights via the telephone and the Internet. The new technologies are both the cause and effect of changes the industry structure and the source of major competitive advantage in many service industries.5

Multi-service firms allow their clients to tap into a broader selection of available services. At the root of the growth of these firms is a type of systemization that allows efficient and consistent replication of the services at multiple clients due to standardized employee procedures, internal methodology, automation of the actual service tasks performed by the individual. This has spawned another critical aspect that allows firms to narrow their focus of specialization for their clients. Take for instance, a consulting firm that offers multiple service functions but has true expertise in only a couple of areas. This broad approach has given way to increasingly specialized services such as human resource management, compensation modeling, and strategy definition to name just a few. Specialization leads the service firms to a much more narrow focus which provides better service in the specific areas of client need.

There are several advantages of having a narrower focus within the service firm. Among them are the economies of scale that the service firm can gain with the specificity of a narrow focus area. For example, diagnostic service programs that can be run via a phone modem at a remote location of the client can check software programs and often even correct the problem. Other types of enhanced communication can provide data processing, telemarketing functions, or answering services possible. These are closely related to the centralization needs of the client and are specifically scale-sensitive meaning that activities provided by the service firm are adapted to the client’s need to service their clientele on a regional, national, or on a world-wide basis.

Additionally, the aspect of competition and focus are potent advantages for the outside service provider. In-house service departments are at the very least cost centers for the business. This is not to say that an in-house service facilitator cannot be profitable. It does, however, mean that the policies, procedural methodologies, and accomplishments should be regularly measured to not only justify the existence of the department, but also provide adequate pressures and performance incentives when faced with outside service alternatives.

At the same time, in-house service departments do face inherent constraints.6 Understanding barriers that are constraining for a business helps ownership and management better evaluate the performance requirements necessary for an in-house service department to function well. Given the limitations, such as compensation structures and employee benefit packages, those responsible for making the decision should probably opt to outsource the services instead of having them handled internally.

“In-house service units are housed at expensive locations, subject to corporate salary structures and benefit plans, constrained in some cases from using part-time workers, and live under other guidelines that are inappropriate for the nature of the service function provided. The independent service provider, conversely, tailors every aspect of its value chain to the particular service involved.”7

The concept of increased cyclicality should be considered by the organization facing inefficiencies. Cyclicality increases the inefficiency of maintaining a permanent service function in-house which provides companies alternatives to converting a fixed cost into a variable one.8 They need only to call on these companies, as the organization requires their services.

Recognized Opportunities to Outsource

Similarity of Service Needs – The aspect of service needs that organizations require have similarities whether competing at the local level or on a global scale. Some service needs may be industry specific, or even segment specific. For example, consulting services tailored to niche industries require years of expertise to understand specific nuances that affect industry trends requiring specific client recommendations. As the demand for services globalizes and competition becomes greater, the actual service performance at the local level may provide a cost advantage to the client. This allows for competition to be somewhat “equalized” for the local firm regardless of a whether the competing firm is considered to have global reach.

Mobility of Buyers – With increased information flow throughout the world, the opportunity for global service firms increases at the local level. In past years, buyers were confronted with minimum options when faced with the need to take in-house services out for bid. The buyer’s perspective has increased substantially providing the buyer’s organization opportunities today that may have existed in prior years, but were not available or familiar to the buyer. Additionally, the aspect of paying in different currencies is continuing to be less of a concern since many trading blocks have adopted a common currency thus relieving the concern of loss due to currency fluctuation. The Euro is probably the best and most recent example of this.

Rising Economies of Scale and Geographic Scope – The advantages that drive local service competition to open multiple offices or locations are prevalent at the global level as well. It is easier today than at any other time in history for companies to establish an international presence for services that can be outsourced. Economies of scale allow these companies to spread costs in areas such as information technology, personnel training, and capabilities to enhance topline sales revenues. The advantage of global positioning by an organization allows for growth in areas of brand cache, local personnel participation with global perspectives, and the overall advantage of serving other multinational firms similar in scope.

Greater Mobility of Service Personnel – The aspect of telecommuting has grown in recent years because many people prefer to work from home, or are unable to make the commute efficiently to the home office of the service firm. In-home workers are providing companies the opportunity to reap large benefits on productivity and employee satisfaction unobtainable in prior years. If travel is required, the ability to get to an international location is relatively easy and customer contact is relatively short. This again provides economies of scale for the employing organization which enhance the solution for their client.

Information Exchange – Buyer interaction at a distance today is to be expected given the overwhelming amount of information available via the click of a mouse. Samples are available via overnight delivery services. Emails and telephones provide instant access to other individuals needed in the buying process. Employee assessment and testing are available through many consulting service firms where the client has access to use licensed information technology at their discretion and the consulting firm has virtually no client interaction, unless required by the client, except to invoice for the services. This type of service function allows for more access to remote buyers whether face-to-face or not. Employee behavioral assessments illustrate this point well.

Wide Disparities in Cost or Quality – Huge differences remain in costing methods and overall quality of services that can be outsourced. This is true at both the domestic and international level. It is becoming easier today to setup service facilities in India or China due to availability of personnel and the overall cost of the facility itself. Many countries have not made the jump to service outsourcing from manufacturing outsourcing as yet. However, as the world’s population continues to grow and the state of development by country is opportunistic, the proliferation of service industries will be advanced.

Buyer/Supplier Relationships – The relationship between the buyer and the supplier is pivotal in the use of service firms for the organization. There are two considerations that should be taken into account when mentioning this aspect. The first is without a local manufacturing base, the demand for outsourced services will be limited. The second is the actual structuring of the manufacturing sector which can strongly influence the types of services to be provided. A certain amount of sophistication is required in order for specialized service firms to exist and be successful such as specialized software application companies or consulting services.9 On the other hand, economies of many third world countries that are non-manufacturing based have no need or demand for out-sourced services. The point being that the more sophisticated service-based economies is more apt to take advantage of the out-sourcing opportunities.

Outsourcing is truly a quality of life issue that faces individual owners and corporate business entities alike. Mature industries where specialized firms are available to be used, should determine what their core competencies are and how they impact exploitation of the firm’s competitive advantage. The organization’s core competencies should be protected at all costs.

Firms are demanding more opportunities to use outside services that provide increased product quality or sophistication of services. The opportunity to find specific areas that will benefit from these services can make a company more profitable, time efficient, and productive. Employed as a viable company strategy, outsourcing will enhance an organization’s ability to sustain upward growth patterns and explore new opportunities by using redefined human resources within the business.

RESOURCES:

The Competitive Advantage of Nations, by Michael E. Porter, published by The Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster Inc., New York, New York, 1990.

Henry Ford’s Lean Vision: Enduring Principles from the First Ford Motor Plant, by William A. Levinson, published by Productivity Press, 444 Park Avenue South, Suite 604, New York, New York, 2003.

NOTES:

1Henry Ford’s Lean Vision: Enduring Principles from the First Ford Motor Plant, by William A. Levinson, published by Productivity Press, 444 Park Avenue South, Suite 604, New York, New York, page 292.

2The Competitive Advantage of Nations, by Michael E. Porter, published by The Free Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster Inc., New York, New York, page 243.

3Ibid., The Competitive Advantage of Nations, by Michael E. Porter, pages 244-245.

4Ibid., The Competitive Advantage of Nations, by Michael E. Porter, pages 244-245.

5Ibid., The Competitive Advantage of Nations, by Michael E. Porter, pages 244-245.

6Ibid., The Competitive Advantage of Nations, by Michael E. Porter, page 246.

7Ibid., The Competitive Advantage of Nations, by Michael E. Porter, page 246.

8Ibid., The Competitive Advantage of Nations, by Michael E. Porter, page 247.

9Ibid., The Competitive Advantage of Nations, by Michael E. Porter, page 253.

Service Encounters of the Third Kind

What makes a company successful over the long, long term? What characterizes the service relationship between companies and customers who do business together for decades, even generations?

How can your company stay close to your customers even as times change, technologies change and expectations continually rise?

What can you do to improve customer service quality and ensure your company’s future offers are relevant and valuable in the market?

One powerful step forward that will improve customer service quality is to explore your customers’ future needs and interests by cultivating Service Encounters of The Third Kind. In these unique encounters, your precious and loyal relationships for the future are built by your words and actions – today. You can improve customer service quality over the long haul by thinking proactively.

Let’s start by looking closely at Service Encounters of the First and Second Kinds and how they improve customer service quality.

Service Encounters Of The First Kind

In Service Encounters of the First Kind, your company approaches the customer with the most basic of all customer service questions: “What do you want (or need)?”

Your customer replies with equal simplicity, “I want your product X, by time and date Y, at your listed price Z.”

Your company’s priority and service focus should now be clear: Get the customer’s order right, and get it right the first time to improve customer quality!

Campaigns to accomplish this objective are widespread and easy to spot. “Do It Right!”, “Zero Defects” and “Six Sigma Quality” are all examples of slogans companies use to focus their workers on getting the basics right, first time, every time to improve customer service quality.

In this kind of encounter, breakdowns in service delivery are bad news since they don’t improve customer service quality. They are to be identified, analyzed, solved and, most of all, eliminated to improve customer service quality. The service system must be streamlined and standardized in every possible way to improve customer service quality.

Companies that consistently succeed in this undertaking (delivering X by Y at Z price) earn their reputations in the market as steady and reliable suppliers. This leads, as it should, to customer satisfaction and will improve customer service quality.

Training in these organizations is focused on product knowledge, technical skills, thoroughness, accuracy and adhering to proven procedures to improve customer service quality.

Marketing consists of powerful efforts to push proven products in the market. The customer is “sold to.”
Looking into the management mindset of these first kind organizations, we usually find a keen interest in cutting costs, increasing volume and decreasing cycle-time.

This need for speed is important: Competitors are often closing in with similar products, faster delivery and even lower prices. In this kind of competitive situation, profit margins are paper-thin and companies thrive only through continual increases in volume.

So far so good. But if we look into the staff mindset of such an organization, we find a different way of thinking altogether that doesn’t help improve customer service quality. Frontline service employees, focused on getting it right the first time, trained to carefully follow all procedures, and encouraged by management to achieve more and more results in less and less time, find themselves answering the phone, opening the mail or meeting the next customer in person thinking to themselves, “I hope this customer isn’t a pain in the neck!”

After all, customers with questions and unusual requests generally take more time, lead to more errors and can result in a general slowing down of the whole system.

No wonder so many customer requests for anything out of the ordinary are met with the retort: “We don’t do it that way” or “That’s not how our procedures work here.”

Service Encounters Of The Second Kind

In Service Encounters of the Second Kind, your company approaches the customer with a question that goes beyond standard offers of X product at Y time and Z price. Instead of the basic “What do you want,” your service representatives now pose a more inviting question: “How do you want it?”

Faced with such an open-ended question, the customer naturally replies, “I want it the way I want it. I want it special. I want it my way!”

Your company’s service focus must change if you are to deliver what your customer wants just the way your customer wants it. Special products, unique combinations, odd-hour deliveries, different schedules for pricing or payment – all are new challenges for your service team to understand and accomplish to improve customer service quality.

In Service Encounters of the Second Kind, breakdowns in the service delivery system are to be expected at first – and then overcome to improve customer service quality. Responsiveness and flexibility become your prime objectives to improve customer service quality. The organization focuses on being adaptable, accommodating and open to changing requests that improve customer service quality and satisfaction.

Your service system improves, not through vigorous efforts to standardize but through your willingness and commitment to customize to improve customer service quality!

Companies that succeed in this challenging undertaking (giving their customers what they want, when and where they want it and just the way they want it) earn their reputations in the market as quick, responsive and open to ongoing change. In short, they understand how to improve customer service quality.

When a company is recognized for welcoming and fulfil-ling unique customer requests, the result is not only customer satisfaction, but a well-deserved and valuable reputation for customer delight.

In these responsive second kind organizations, training programs include active listening, creative problem-solving, and attitude-building activities to improve customer service quality. Staff learn how to find a “yes” for the customer rather than rolling out the standard “no.”

Marketing isn’t a broadside of mass advertising. Rather, it’s a selection of specially modified programs gently pushing customized products to key segments of the market. Clients aren’t “sold to” here, they are served to improve customer service quality.

In the staff and management mindset of these organizations, we find a shared and sincere commitment to “bend over backwards” for the client to improve customer service quality.

For example, one adapting company proclaims, “We’ll go out of our way for you!” But this catchy phrase reveals the remnants of a first-kind encounter company being forced into second-kind levels of service. Here management is essentially saying: “We still have our way.

But don’t worry, we’ll go out of our way just for you.”

You can see this contrast in the advertising of two fast food restaurant chains. A&W features large posters that read: “You’ll love our way!” (That’s Service Encounters of the First Kind.)

Compare this with the slogan and jingle for Burger King: “Have it your way!” (That’s Service Encounters of the Second Kind.)

At which establishment will you feel more comfortable saying, “Two chicken burgers, please. One with extra ketchup and no pickles, and one cooked rare, hold the onions and two packs of mustard on the side?”

Burger King goes even further with its follow-up campaign: “Sometimes You’ve Just Gotta Break the Rules.” That’s a direct invitation to highly customized Service Encounters of the Second Kind: “Have it your way.”

Service Encounters Of The Third Kind

In Service Encounters of the Third Kind, your company welcomes the customer in a manner completely different from the standardized “What do you want?” or customized “How do you want it?”

In a Service Encounter of the Third Kind, your company looks to the customer with interest and patience, and asks the somewhat unlikely question: “What do you want to become?”

Most customers, if they are given an opportunity to reflect on this very open-ended question, realize that they are, in fact, still a bit uncertain about the future and will reply, “Actually we’re not entirely sure yet.” And then, availing themselves of the sincerity and interest you have shown, might add, “Could we talk about it together?”

Your question, and their response, opens the door to a very different and collaborative conversation: a Service Encounter of the Third Kind, which can work over the long haul to really improve customer service quality.

Your company’s focus shifts again as you enter into a new dialogue with customers, seeking to understand and add value to their plans and possibilities for the future to improve customer service quality. These conversations, held in a mood of mutual discovery, are concerned with much more than just meeting a customer’s existing business requirements. By exploring scenarios and possibilities, you and your customers work together to resolve breakdowns that might emerge only in the future and you improve customer service quality as a result.

For example, innovative financial service companies in Japan consistently ask their customers, “What do you want to become?” And customers consistently answer, “I want to become a homeowner, and I want to pass the home on to my children.”

But housing prices in Japan have climbed beyond the average customer’s reach. What was the jointly planned and innovative solution to improve customer service quality? Mortgages with payment terms spanning two generations – and customer relationships that endure beyond a lifetime. Talk about a measure to improve customer service quality!

In this third kind of customer service, companies must be willing to adapt, modify and in some cases entirely reinvent the purpose and procedures of their business to improve customer service quality. Rather than “standardize” or even “customize” existing products and systems, third-kind companies must make a commitment to “customer-ize” – to become whatever customers need them to become in order to work together in the future.

For example, railroads in America thought they were in the train business many years ago and nearly went bankrupt asking the customer, “What type of train car do you want to travel in, where do you want to go to and at what price do you want to travel?” They built coach cars, dining cars, sleeping cars and more to improve customer service quality.

But since they never asked the customer, “What do you want to become?”, railroad companies did not foresee the need for airborne shipping and travel, and missed evolving into airline companies altogether.

Today, government financial support is necessary just to keep American railroads alive.

Companies that do evolve and improve customer service quality get noticed and earn the respect of customers as relevant, dynamic and constantly changing organizations. They are focused on and committed to the future and taking steps to improve customer service quality. They are not stuck in the success of their past.

Committing to Service Encounters of the Third Kind means you and your customers enter into an intimate and closely linked evolution to improve customer service quality. As changes in the business environment demand greater innovation, more flexibility and even faster response, you learn to adapt, anticipate and actively support each other to improve customer service quality.

This association is not based on customer satisfaction or even on customer delight. Instead, the inventive and interactive quality of this relationship is founded on a level of customer loyalty that is precious to both parties, and can be vital to a vibrant future.

Competitors can steal away a satisfied customer by offering a little bit more satisfaction, and can even lure away a delighted customer by offering a little more delight. But a loyal customer is one who sees his future emerging in part due to your commitment to improve customer service quality. “Win-win agreements” and “building synergy” become passwords for communication between your company and your customer.

Adding long-term value is a goal you take responsibility for together and it will improve customer service quality.

Training programs in third-kind companies highlight the principles of cooperation, collaboration, creativity, invention and design to improve customer service quality. Real customers and suppliers are featured and included in the real-time training programs that improve customer service quality.

The customer is no longer sold to, nor simply served. He is genuinely cared for through a conscientious relationship that builds trust and momentum over time while helping improve customer service quality.

Your service representatives do not “hard-sell” or “push” their products. Instead, they work closely with customers to ensure that appropriate products are “pulled” from your organization to improve customer service quality.

Customers also influence the development of your organization’s future competencies, capabilities, and commitments to improve customer service quality.

Staff and management share the same mindset toward the third-kind customer: “We make your concerns our concerns.” And in such an atmosphere of growing trust, your customer can make similar long-term and loyal commitments back to you. The customer comes to count on you, rely on you and evolve with you. All of this because you took the steps to improve customer service quality.

In the fast-food industry, for example, McDonalds is now test-marketing an all-soy “veggie burger.” This is in direct response to customers who said, “We are becoming more health conscious and we want to eat healthier foods.”

Third-kind insurance companies now reap an ever greater slice of the savings and investment pie. Agents no longer ask the simple question, “Do you want whole life, term or endowment?” Instead leading companies provide their representatives with entirely new categories of investment and insurance products addressing individual concerns and responding to changing needs to improve customer service quality.
While these are some of the success stories, other companies have missed the importance of third-kind service and teeter dangerously close to the edge of obsolescence.

General Motors, for example, suffered a serious erosion of market share and loyalty before they heard what their customers were saying: “We want to become more efficient, more cost conscious, and more environmentally friendly.” Other companies listened, took steps to improve customer service quality and delivered appropriately designed new cars. Customers responded, giving back profits and gains in market share.

Intricate slide rules were famous for aiding calculation in my father’s day. Manufacturers diligently asked the engineers, “How do you want it?” and built an impressive range of slide rules in response: wooden, plastic, steel, large, pocket-sized, flat, round and double-sided.

But they never asked what customers were “becoming,” so didn’t hear their customers’ growing urge for things instantaneous and electronic. The firms that built a wide range of precision slide rules are now gone. Not one slide rule maker is among the calculator and computer manufacturers of today because they did nothing to improve customer service quality.

From carbon paper to photocopies, buggy whips to stick shifts, typewriters to computers, copper wire to fiber optics, smoke signals to wireless, each evolution begs the question, “What happened to those companies?” Did they make the switch? Did they survive? Did they move from “What do you want?” to “What do you want to become?”

In an environment of continually accelerating change, the only certainty we have is that the future will be different from today. The opportunities for evolution and collaboration with your customers will be endless.

What about your company? Will you gradually go out of business with a standardized service system that provides efficient answers to questions your customers no longer ask?

Or will you change the tone and tenor of your service encounters from the order taker asking, “What do you want?” and the order maker’s, “How do you want it?” to the loyal business partner who patiently and intelligently asks, “What do you want to become?”

This change requires a new mindset and new methods for engaging with your customers and suppliers. It’s called Service Encounters of the Third Kind. Learn it and you will improve customer service quality for the better.

Pitfalls When Selling Services Online

We can’t imagine our life without online shopping and it seems that everything we need can be bought online. E-commerce is widely used for selling different services. But very often merchants don’t take into account that the services are not physical products and require special approaches to their promotion. Let’s take a closer look at the peculiarities of e-commerce marketing services.

People frequently perceive the service as a normal state of things and don’t even think about it when they buy it. The service sector is really huge and it has a strong influence on our life.

Services can serve as added values to physical products such as delivery, after-sales and guarantee services, assembly operations, 24/7 customer support, etc. That is what customers usually expect from online stores. The situation with such industries as education, medicine, tourism, hotel service, banking service, insurance, transport, and others, is a bit different. Such companies also have their websites which operate like online stores. A user can go to the site and make an order. But what do people buy exactly? The main difference from the physical product is that the service is intangible, so physically people buy nothing. This feature is very important and it defines the other service aspects.

Service Quality Can Be Estimated Only When Service Is Completed

In other words, when you sell a service, you are selling a promise of the final result. To understand this better, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Everything is easier with any physical product. It can be touched, tested before buying, which becomes impossible when it comes to service. A client will be able to evaluate the training program quality only at the end of the learning process. The medical service quality may be evaluated only after completing treatment. Thus, the decision making process for buying service is more complex compared to that for purchasing physical products.

How it can be put into practice

Give all possible high service quality evidences. Provide certificates confirming compliance with the essential requirements; customer reviews; service process videos and photos. Your website’s design and functionality should support the high service quality image.

Service Quality Is Inseparable from the Producer

Service requires the producer and the consumer meeting each other. A hairdresser won’t be able to make a hairstyle till the customer comes to their beauty shop. A dentist will not be able to treat the teeth till the customer comes to them. A flight service can’t be provided till the passenger comes to the airport. It should be noted that information technologies make a lot of changes in the service sector and give many opportunities for its development. E-learning allows providing services distantly. E-banking allows clients to use bank’s services whenever they want without visiting bank’s office. E-service is quite common for us and greatly affects the quality of life.

E-service concept identifies the use of information and communication technologies in providing services. But it is really hard to give an exact e-service definition because all the products and services are very closely associated with each other. The main point is that there are services that can be provided online, but not in all industries.

How it can be put into practice

The service company has to be easily accessible with comfortable business hours. It is important to use all possible ways to provide e-service.

Service Quality Depends on the Producer

Clients prefer to have the best specialists providing the service. It is obvious that treatment quality depends on the doctor. Design quality depends on designer’s skills and experience. Moreover, it is necessary to understand that many services require special equipment and conditions to deliver them. The clearest example is medicine service. Choosing a medical company clients pay significant attention to technical facilities.

How it can be put into practice

It is essential to publish detailed information about the professionals who provide services on the company’s website. Certificates, work experience, real customer reviews about a particular specialist – clients might be interested in such details. The company description is also very important and can include work experience, technical conditions, and plans for development, etc. It is also effective to allow testing service before purchase. Free first lesson, trial period, a free consultation or examination, all such services may help the customer to make a choice.

It Is Difficult to Get a Refund for a Poor Quality Service

Practically, it is impossible because any service is the process and it is not easy to prove that something was wrong.

How it can be put into practice

Clearly describe the refund policy and the guarantees that are offered by the company.

It Is Difficult to Standardize Service Quality

It sounds very easy, but in fact it is the most problematic feature for providing services. The service can’t be always provided at the same quality because many factors influence the process. The same training program does not guarantee that all customers will be satisfied with the result. Different people may have different opinions concerning the hotel services quality, even if they stayed in the same room. It is also important to take into account such aspect as client’s expectations. If they are too high initially, it is impossible to provide the best quality service and the final result will be perceived negatively.

How it can be put into practice

Consider carefully the description of the service you provide on the website and give only a real picture. Don’t promise too much. A well-written advertising text can help to sell a service, but finally the company may get a dissatisfied customer only because of high expectations. It is useful to ask clients what they expect before the service is provided, to be able to correct them.

In fact, in any type of business it is possible to find unique service features that determine consumers’ behavior. The main services characteristics provide a better understanding to start the analysis, see what can be improved and find the opportunities to increase sales.

Global Air Ambulance Services In Patna With Aero Medical Faculty To Serve The Patients Needs

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Types of Physician Answering Services

Physician Answering Services – So what are your options:

  • Business Answering Services – As a specialist your hours are most likely erratic and seldom fall between the hours of nine to five, Monday through Friday. You undoubtedly have patients recovering both in hospital and at home. Regular medically trained receptionists generally work a typical week. Many patients as well as their general practitioners will often try to contact you during off hours. While not all calls can wait until Monday or until you are out of the operating room, many can.  
  • Medical Answering Services – No one can be “on-call” 24 hours a day, 7days a week and still function indefinitely at the high professional level one is accustomed to providing. Although a noble and passionate career, running your own medical practice is after all a business. All business owners want their customers to be happy and have that business flourish. Making sure that your clients can speak to a professional whenever they need to is an important way to ensure the successful growth of your business.  
  • Telephone Answering Services – Having the right answering service will also enable you to take time from your practice to be with your family. There is no need to worry about taking a weekend off when you feel confident that you will not be out-of-touch with your clients. You know that they will be taken care of and that you will be immediately notified of any issues that require your attention.

So why look into Physician Answering Services

When you partner with a company providing Physician Answering Services you prevent any future complications arising from a missing receptionist. Your callers will always hear a professional and articulate operator. Local Physician Answering Services , particularly in major metropolitan areas, are well aware that first impressions count and the voice callers hear first, is vitally important to maintaining your company’s professional image.

When companies engage with a Physician Answering Services for their answering service needs, there are a number of things they should consider before signing on. These include looking at a number of things, like the contract being offered by the Physician Answering Services , and checking out the references that they provide. However, doing so does not ensure that the Physician Answering Services is reliable because the reliability is measured using a different set of criteria, which involve looking at the actual operations. The good news is that there are a number ways companies can assess reliability, including asking the right questions with regard to the operations.

What are the benefits to Physician Answering Services

The answering services benefit almost all the businesses but it benefits people like those who are running home inspection services or construction services or even people like doctors who have just compelted their Online Doctoral Program running their clinic or other home cleaning service owners. Their nature of business is such that they do not sit in the office and are out in the field handling operations but they also need more business to grow. This means that they cannot ignore field operations nor can they ignore calls and the solution for this to hire answering services .These answering services can respond to simple queries or can redirect calls as desired.

It is also important to note that your customers talk to their friends, family, neighbours, and coworkers. This communication most often occurs under negative circumstances. If you do not subscribe to a Physician Answering Services , your clients may be unable to reach you when they need to. As stated above, this often creates an unhappy customer. It has been said that an unhappy customer often leads to more unhappy customers, through communication. That is why it is advised that you, at least, think about subscribing to a business answering service, especially if you are unable to be available all of the time.

Business Answering Services

You have devoted your life to a very specialized field in medicine and your time is in high demand. If it is becoming increasingly difficult to juggle your time between the operating room and the obvious and legitimate demands of your patients, it may be time you gave serious thought to a business answering services.

As a specialist your hours are most likely erratic and seldom fall between the hours of nine to five, Monday through Friday. You undoubtedly have patients recovering both in hospital and at home. Regular medically trained receptionists generally work a typical week. Many patients as well as their general practitioners will often try to contact you during off hours. While not all calls can wait until Monday or until you are out of the operating room, many can. Let a professional physicians answering services screen those calls for you. You can be assured that you will be notified of the calls that need to be dealt with right away. Calls that are not of an urgent nature will be forwarded to you at a time that you have pre-selected or when you call into your online business answering services office.

In many cases your patients have traveled to you from another town or city for their care which is common for medical specialists. With an 800 number that is provided by most business answering services, you can be assured that there will be no problems receiving calls from your patients or their general practitioners whatever the time of day or night.

With your time being in high demand, juggling personal time with family time is more than likely a difficult task. If you can take just a few minutes while having your morning coffee or relaxing after dinner to research physicians’ answering services online there would be one less stress in your hectic day. Perhaps you have a few minutes in between patients to check your computer for the answering service that best suites your individual needs.

No longer will there be a need to worry about those days when a receptionist must call in sick and no replacement can be found on short notice. Physician answering medical receptionists are highly trained and capable of screening all your calls. They will understand which calls are urgent and must be relayed immediately and which calls can wait until you call in. You can be reassured that all your patients calls will be answered promptly and professionally.

Your time as a medical specialist is as valuable as your personal time spent with family and friends. A good balance between the two is essential if you are to continue providing the best possible care to all your patients. The best online physicians answering service will go a long way in helping you achieve that much needed and deserved balance.

It only takes a few minutes on your laptop to research physicians’ answering services and the rewards will be indispensable.

Physician answering Services in Medicine

Research shows that there are many companies that provide highly efficient and professional answering services for a variety of businesses. However if you run a medical practice it is important that you narrow your search to ones that provide physician answering services in medicine. In a medical practice, it is not enough to have your calls dealt with by generally trained receptionists. It is vital for your patients to be able to speak with a professional who has specialized training in your field. You want to ensure that the person answering your patients calls will be able to discern the difference between a situation that can wait and one that requires your immediate attention.

You have worked hard and many long hours to build your practice to what it is today and want your patients to feel secure that when they call with a concern they will be dealt with in a professional and caring manner. If you operate as a specialist in a specific area of medicine, your hours are most likely erratic and seldom fall between regular business hours. Many of your patients may have serious occurrences at times that you may not be close to your office phone. Most physician answering services in medicine provide their clients with an 800 number allowing you to receive calls from your patients or other general practitioners no matter what time of day or night it may be. This type of service also allows you to receive only the calls of the most urgent matters, that you can pre-determine, allowing you manage your time more efficiently.

Even during regular business hours, it is often impossible for your staff to field all the calls as they come in. Utilizing physician answering services in medicine at such times will allow your staff to eliminate the precious time wasted each day listening to messages on a machine and then having to take the time to screen, prioritize and then make the return calls all the while accumulating even more messages that will have to be dealt with later.

As a physician, your time is limited and in demand. It is important that you and your staff are proficient in time management. Doing a little research now into physician answering services in medicine will ensure that your office is running in peak efficiency and that your patients concerns are being dealt with in a professional and caring manner. The quality of care you provide your patients with, depends a great deal on the balance you are able to maintain between your professional and personal life. Take the important step of looking into the physician answering services in medicine that will best suit your needs and help you maintain that all important balance. Enjoy your precious leisure time more and stress free knowing that your patients are being taken care of in the same manner as you would care for them. Your office will run more efficiently and your patients will feel secure knowing that their calls will be received by a caring and knowledgeable professional no matter what time of day or night they may need to call.

Medical Answering Services

You’ve worked hard to build your medical practice to what it is today. You’ve probably given up countless weekends to ensure your patients are well cared for and their needs met. But isn’t it true that many of the calls you’ve received over the years could have been taken care of by a professional medical receptionist. This is exactly what the right physicians answering service could be providing you with.

You are a dedicated professional and have acquired a reputation for being there for your patients when they need you. What has this cost you in your personal life? Could you have provided the same level of service and still maintained a better balance between your career and your family? The answer is most definitely! If you can spare a few minutes before you retire for the evening and simply research some medical answering services online you will be able to find some of that much-deserved balance.

If your evenings are just to busy then a few minutes while sipping your morning coffee and browsing online to find just the right medical answering services could free up much of your valuable time in the long run. Time that could be spent relaxing with your family or visiting with friends.

No one can be “on-call” 24 hours a day, 7days a week and still function indefinitely at the high professional level one is accustomed to providing. Although a noble and passionate career, running your own medical practice is after all a business. All business owners want their customers to be happy and have that business flourish. Making sure that your clients can speak to a professional whenever they need to is an important way to ensure the successful growth of your business. The best way to do this is by taking a few minutes to find the best physicians answering services available.

By taking just a little bit of your time now you can maintain the highest level of service that your patients have been used to while affording yourself the opportunity to pursue other interests. medical answering services employ high caliber staff trained specifically in medical reception. You will have the satisfaction of knowing that a qualified staff person and not a machine will answer all your patients’ calls no matter what time of the day or night it may be. Rest assured in the knowledge that you will be contacted immediately when a situation arises that requires your personal attention.

It is certainly in the best interest of your business to employ the best and most qualified employees, as they are the first person your patients come in contact with. Taking care of your clients’ medical well being is what you as a professional have been trained to do. It makes good business sense to leave the administration of your office to the professionals who have been trained in this field. The right physicians answering service will do just that.

So, you have built a successful medical practice delivering babies! We all know that babies, even before they are born do not adhere to a pre-defined schedule. Your time is spent between your regular office appointments and delivering babies either at the local hospital or perhaps in your patient’s home. This leaves you out of touch with a patient that you may need to deal with right away. A physician’s answering service can easily take care of these situations for you. All their staff is highly trained in your field of practice and knows when you must be contacted right away. In just a few clicks on your computer you can find the right specialized answering service your practice requires.

What about those days when your own receptionist has had to call in sick, who will answer your phones while you are busy tending to your patients? You need the peace of mind that a professionally trained medical receptionist will answer all your calls Your patients often don’t have the time to wait through a long message explaining that you are not available and a list of after-hours numbers for them to call. They need to speak to someone who is trained in your field. This is where a medical answering services comes in. All it takes is a few minutes of your time to go online to choose the answering service that is best suited for your particular practice.

Take some time to find the right physicians answering service to provide your patients with this essential product. medical answering services receptionists are highly trained and can handle any medical situation. They have sensitivity for all your patient’s concerns and understand the difference between a patient who needs a prescription refill and a woman who is well into labour.

Wouldn’t it do both you and your secretary a world of good if both of you could just get out of the office to grab a salad and a coffee without having to worry about missing important phone calls. Once you are back at the office refreshed and ready to work, is your secretary wasting time listening to messages that could have been handled by a medical answering services ?

Let your clients know that you care enough about their individual questions or concerns by allowing them to speak to a medical professional anytime of day or night. Your time is precious with not much left over for your personal interests or to just sit back and relax once in a while. Just a few minutes with your laptop sitting in front of the fire will be enough to find the perfect online medical answering services.

You’ve worked hard and taken care of all the other details needed to run your office, let the medically trained staff of a physician’s answering service do the rest. You deserve the peace of mind it will afford you. Both you and your patients will surely reap the benefits.

Physician Answering Services for Your Medical Practice

You have been operating your own medical practice long enough to understand the heavy demands that are constantly being placed on your time. There have no doubt been nights and weekends given up to care for your patients and countless, non-urgent calls, that could probably have waited a day or two when there would have been more time to deal with them more efficiently. Proper time management is essential to running a successful business of any kind. It is well worth the little time it would take to research medical answering services for your medical practice.

Even during regular business hours, it is not always possible for your staff to answer all the calls that come in each day. Specialized answering receptionists are highly trained in the medical field and are able to deal with any questions or concerns that your patients may have. They are professional and understand which calls can wait and which ones require immediate attention. There will be times when your regular staff will need to call in sick and if this happens, it may not be necessary to cancel all your appointments for the day if you know that the calls coming in will be dealt with in a professional and proficient manner. Many doctorsâEUR(TM) offices also feel that it is best for all staff to take a lunch break at the same time and simply turn on a recorded answering machine instructing their patients to call back, leave a message or options of other phone numbers for medical emergencies. The time wasted by the staff having to listen, screen, prioritize and return calls becomes very inefficient.

By choosing the right medical answering services for your medical practice you and your staff will be free to spend more time on the important tasks of running the office. It will also provide your patients with the understanding that you truly care for their well being by having a trained medical professional who can deal with their concerns whether or not they are able to speak with you directly. You will have peace of mind knowing that a qualified medical receptionist, not a machine, will be able to handle your patients calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By utilizing the services of these highly trained professionals you can feel confident that you will be contacted immediately in the event that a situation arises that requires your personal attention.

Caring for the well being of your patients is what you have been trained to do. It just makes sense that the first person they come in contact with when they call your office is a trained professional who understands their concerns and can deal with them as you would. Researching medical answering services for your medical practice will ensure that highly trained and caring professionals are handling the important job of listening to your patients. Knowing that all your calls are being dealt with properly will also provide you with some very important and stress-free leisure time.

Telephone Answering Services

You’re almost done your internship and are making plans to open up your own medical practice. Your most important assets of course will be your patients. It’s vital that they feel you are there for them 24 hours a day. The best way to ensure that they can get through to you is by providing them with a number they can call at any time from anywhere. Taking a little extra time to research answering services specifically geared toward the medical field will do just that.

All it takes is few minutes during a much deserved break from your hectic day to open up your laptop and browse the many telephone answering services available online. They understand how important your patients are to you. Their staff is trained in the field of medical reception.

There is so much to think about and organize while setting up a brand new practice. You cannot afford to lose patients just because they don’t feel they can contact you after hours. You’ve worked hard to achieve the level of confidence it takes to care for clients.

Now that they have put their trust in you as their Physician Answering Services you can keep that level of trust by ensuring they feel you are committed to caring for them. It’s easy to stay in touch with your patients by simply choosing the best telephone answering services available.

It is well worth your time to spend a few minutes in the comfort of your own home to find the telephone answering services that is right for your practice. You deserve the peace of mind knowing that wherever you are, your patients’ calls will be dealt with professionally.

Having the right answering service will also enable you to take time from your practice to be with your family. There is no need to worry about taking a weekend off when you feel confident that you will not be out-of-touch with your clients. You know that they will be taken care of and that you will be immediately notified of any issues that require your attention.

Finding the right staff that is reliable is never easy. What do you do when your receptionist has a family emergency of his/her own? Who will answer your phones when he/she needs to call in sick? By doing a little research online and choosing a telephone answering services that suits your practice you will have one less stress in your hectic life.

No one likes to have their call answered by a machine especially if they are calling about their child who is sick. Make sure your patients can speak to a live professional medical receptionist anytime of day or night. It’s so easy to get started; all you need is a few minutes in the privacy of your own home and your home computer or a laptop. Put your patients first by ensuring they can speak to someone who knows how to handle their call. Find out about the telephone answering services available to help your business grow.

Physician Answering Services for Your New Business

When starting up a business of any type that will be dealing with the public, it is vital that your clients are able to reach you when it is convenient for them. This of course may not always be at a time when you or your staff are available to take calls and often times these calls are well after regular business hours. If your new business happens to be a doctorâEUR(TM)s office it is even more important that all your clients are able to connect to a live person who will be able to handle their questions in a professional and helpful manner. For this reason, it is essential that you have in place specialized Telephone Answering Services for your new business.

Whether you will be operating a general practice or offering services as a specialist it is important that your clients be able to speak to a highly trained professional that can deal with their call. Medical answering receptionists are trained to deal with any concerns and are able to determine whether the call can wait until your return or it is a call that requires immediate attention. Making use of specialized Telephone Answering Services for your new business will ensure that all your patients feel confident that your office is there for them any time of day or night and are able to deal with whatever their concerns are.

As a physician, your time will be in high demand and the success of your practice will depend a great deal on how you are able to manage that time most efficiently. Another area that will contribute to the growth of your business will be how confident your patients feel in you when they understand that they can speak with a knowledgeable professional 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They need to understand that the person they are speaking with truly cares about their concerns as much as you do and feel confident in the knowledge that you will in fact receive their message quickly and accurately.

It takes a great deal of planning to set up a medical office and there are many important factors to consider. When planning your staff, make sure you include research into Telephone Answering Services for your new business. Even during regular business hours it may be necessary to have the physician answering service for your new business take calls for a period of time. There will no doubt be days where your staff need to call in sick or times when you will be called away for emergencies. In these unforeseen instances you can rest assured that your regular patients will be looked after by professionals that have an understanding of their needs.

You have much to be proud of by achieving your dreams of becoming a doctor and caring for the people who look to you for help. There will be much to plan when opening your new practice. It is important that you do not lose touch with your clients simply because you or your staff are not available to take their call at a particular point in time.