By Bill Pollock, Strategies for Growth
The strategic services planning process typically begins with seven (7) principal guidelines for optimum success. These are essentially the basic criteria upon which an organization should model itself to ensure that:
- Its services planning goals and objectives are well defined,
- Its ongoing performance can be measured over time, and
- Its plan implementation and execution process will be well-managed.
… that is, post-COVID-19 pandemic:
For the strategic service marketing plan to be successfully introduced and implemented throughout the organization, a sense of corporate leadership must also accompany management commitment. Senior management should be both personally and visibly involved in the planning process. Through their leadership, the importance of quality, its values, and its benefits, should be openly, and articulately, communicated throughout the organization. Responsibilities and accountability for plan development and implementation must be clearly articulated as well for the process to remain under control. It will be management's responsibility to ensure that all of the required planning resources are available and that all implementation managers are accountable.
2. Information And Analysis
The organization should also have clearly defined criteria for the ongoing measurement of service performance. Systems should be in place to evaluate the scope, reliability, accuracy, and accessibility of data that is required to manage services operations, and to determine the appropriate means for assessing performance. The organization should also have access to reliable competitive and benchmark data to have the capability of assessing its overall market position with respect to both customer needs and requirements and competitive positioning. It is critical, however, that management always can transform its collected market, competitive and customer data into actionable plans for new business development, increasing market penetration, improving customer satisfaction, and, ultimately, improving its "bottom line". To ensure this key capability, the organization should systematically evaluate and assess its analytical capabilities and processes for measuring performance and identifying specific areas for improvement.
3. Strategic Quality Planning
As is required in any business planning effort, the organization should use a structured process to set the appropriate services improvement goals. The goals should focus on key issues including customer requirements, process capabilities, competitive and benchmark data, and supplier/partner capabilities. The plan, once developed, should be widely communicated and periodically reviewed against actual performance. As a general rule of thumb, in the past, operational plans typically focused on a one- to two-year time frame, while strategic (i.e., sustainability) business plans were designed to address a longer planning horizon of roughly 3 to 5 years. However, as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the short-term “survival” plan should focus on a time frame roughly mirroring “now” through three, six, nine and 12 months; while the longer-term “sustainability” plan should focus on everything from one year and beyond. In any event, as part of the overall planning effort company goals, performance and projections should be continually monitored against both customer requirements and competitive performance.
4. Human Resource Development And Management
The strategic planning process will not work unless it is fully supported by the organization's employees. That is why human resources development and management is so important. The organization should have formal plans in place for the hiring, staffing, selection, training, and empowerment of personnel. Further, employee contributions to the planning process should be both encouraged and acted upon. New employees should receive new hire training and current employees should have a structured and ongoing education and training curriculum available to them as well. The effectiveness of quality education and training should be measured on a systematic basis, and there should be programs in place that reward employees, at all levels, for achieving services quality goals and objectives.
5. Management Of The Planning Process
The most effective way to manage process performance is to look at the customers' needs and requirements. New and improved products and services should be designed based primarily on evolving customer needs, and the overall design process should be systematically evaluated on an ongoing basis to ensure Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI). The organization should define and communicate its performance quality requirements to all key suppliers and partners as well. All preventive and corrective processes should be well documented and assessments, or audits, of services quality systems, processes and the products/services themselves should be conducted regularly.
6. Quality And Operational Results
In the U.S., the Baldrige Award criteria suggest that a company should show both steady and measurable improvement over three years and that data should be available to reflect Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) in all key areas. The state of quality in all operational areas within the organization should also be measured over time, with the quality and operational results compared against other major competitors. Just as importantly, the quality of the organization's suppliers' products and services should also be evaluated regularly.
7. Customer Focus And Satisfaction
Customer focus and satisfaction should represent the principal area of self-assessment in any planning, marketing, or quality effort. Accordingly, the organization should incorporate the most important customer needs and requirements factors into its internal strategic services plan. To ensure that it is always kept well on target, the organization should also proactively solicit customer input and feedback and respond as required. The organization should regularly measure and evaluate customer satisfaction and build the results of its findings directly into the planning process. It should be properly organized and structured to provide the required levels of products, services, and customer service to its market base. All customer contact personnel within the organization should be properly trained in customer service; not just the Customer Service Representatives (CSRs).
Each of the seven (7) services planning self-assessment guidelines, as described above, are clearly defined, logical, and critical to the eventual success of any organization that wishes to maintain and grow a successful services operation (i.e., once again, “sustainability”). However, each guideline contributes to the overall services planning process.