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Service process design ﬂexibility and customer waiting time
Chwen Sheu and Roger McHaney
Department of Management, College of Business Administration, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA, and
Process design ﬂexibility
Department of Information Technology and Operations Management, College of Business, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, USA
Keywords Service operations, Waiting lists, Simulation, Service control, Service industries Abstract Customer waiting is regarded as one of the most critical aspects of service quality. Research has suggested various approaches to reduce the negative impact of waiting. This article investigates the waiting time performance of alternative service process designs that consist of two operations, order taking and order preparation. The research premise is that no single service process design is the best in all operating conditions. Managers should build ﬂexibility into service process design by using alternative designs in combination. Several break-even models are developed to examine the contingent nature of the performance of alternative designs. The results point to the need for building ﬂexibility into service process designs by demonstrating that waiting time performance can only be optimized if design strategies are altered in response to ongoing changes in service system input parameters.
Introduction Consumers today are more constrained by time than ever before. In an intensely competitive world the pressure, expectation and need to accomplish more in less time is unlikely to diminish. Service providers understand the premium that consumers place on time they view as wasted while waiting for the delivery of services. A customer waiting in line for service is potentially a lost customer. Studies show that up to 27 percent of customers who can not get through on the telephone will likely take their business elsewhere (Fitzsimmons and Fitzsimmons, 2000). As such, managers of service operations constantly strive to shorten customer waiting time during service delivery (Durrande-Moreau, 1999; Jones and Peppiatt, 1996). Firms across a variety of industries have introduced numerous peripheral service elements to the service package experience of their customers, in an attempt to shorten customer waiting times. Such efforts are best illustrated by retail stores that have check-out registers which automatically print the date, amount and name of
The authors wish to thank Dr Brett DePaola (Kansas State University, USA) for his valuable suggestions in preparing this paper.
International Journal of Operations & Production Management Vol. 23 No. 8, 2003 pp. 901-917 q MCB UP Limited 0144-3577 DOI 10.1108/01443570310486347
payee on the cheques customers use when making payment. Other examples include hotels that slip the printed bill under the customer’s door on the morning of departure, and car rental companies that expeditiously send returning cars on their way by closing the rental transaction at the car as it pulls up in the airport parking area. More recently, new technology offers even more opportunities to improve service process and thus customer service in various industries. For instance, the practice of “e-ticketing” in the airline business has deﬁnitely made a huge impact on ticket purchasing as well as airport check-in processes. Other examples include electronic check-in and check-out systems in the hotel industry, automatic toll booths in transportation, collating copy machines, electronic funds transfer in ﬁnancial services, wireless order from waiters to the kitchen in restaurants, optical checkout scanners and self-service checkout in supermarkets and telephone