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Measuring And Improving Service Processes With Six Sigma

Jul 14, 2008
They are a major part of the company's operating margins. The measurement, design and improvement of these processes are equally important parts of the Six Sigma initiative.

Defects and Metrics

The Six Sigma metrics used in the manufacturing industries are equally useful for the service sector. The metrics will change as per the service processes. The appropriate selection of the process, qualitative as well as quantitative, in the use of Six Sigma is necessary.

For example, while developing a website, certain factors like site design, color schemes, user interaction and easy navigation need to be kept in mind. When Six Sigma concepts are applied to the site development process, all these variables will be examined for their effect on the customer - and the ones that need improvement will be determined. It is a bit like carrying out a simple improvement in the manufacturing process.

Defects in the service sector can be defined as the problem in the process that leads to low customer satisfaction. Thee defects can be characterized as qualitative and quantitative. When a defect is measured quantitatively, it should also be converted into equivalent qualitative measures and vice versa.

For example, if the customer satisfaction for a service is being measured qualitatively, then it should also be converted to quantitative as "satisfaction level" on a scale of 10. Below a certain level, the process needs improvement.

Another example is defining defects in quantitative measures, such as delivery services. For example, newspaper delivery has to happen before a certain time to be effective.

Measurements of Service Processes

Level of measurement: Using the appropriate level of measurement is very important for it to be useful and meaningful. For example, there may be 20 percent processes, which may be taking 80 percent of the total time of the project. When analyzing the qualitative measures, 20 percent of the customers may account for 80 percent of customer dissatisfaction (i.e. defects).

The measurement of key areas, in contrast to detailed study, is necessary to get the larger picture of the process defects.

Accounting for variations: In service processes there are large numbers of variations that may arise, depending upon the complexity of the given task. The measurement of the typical task has to be done, as well as for special cases or situations that arise.

Emphasize quantitative as well as qualitative measures: A proper mix of the qualitative and the quantitative measures is very important to get useful results. A retailer's process, which has more personal customer contact, needs to measure the qualitative steps of the process.

A company that provides services where speed is relevant needs to concentrate more on the study of quantitative measures.

Emphasize management communication and support: In a service-based industry such as insurance, the claims process may have to be measured. There are different groups of people affected by the process who may resist any change.

Management should communicate the relevance and effect of Six Sigma with the people involved to achieve the support for it.

As Six Sigma in service processes are linked to customer satisfaction ultimately leading to increase in sales, the need to measure and improve these processes is important.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for six sigma professionals including, lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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