The following model - called the 5Ps Service Quality Model - was created by Philip Forrest, and developed as part of a study at Brunel University in London led by Professor Alan Dale.
They set out to identify all the elements impacting service quality. The model has been applied for more than three decades to rationalise all the factors into a number of component elements that help managers and owners understand crucial areas such as performance and issue-analysis.
They're relevant for companies serving consumers (B2C), companies serving other companies (B2B) and the government sector.
At its highest level the model is easy to understand and provides a ready diagnostic tool for broadly analysing service quality performance. Its strength is that it enables managers to either make very rapid assessments across the 5 P’s (e,g, to assess what was good/bad about a restaurant experience or analyse research to see where most issues lie) or to drill down to almost forensic levels of detail, to better understand where improvement can be achieved.
The 5P’s framework is the integral part of the Service Excellence Standard that organisations globally are implementing.
The model has been used successfully by major blue-chip national and international organisations as the platform for service quality management in both the public and private sectors. Together with our “Culture Management” model which provides the map and compass for establishing, managing and measuring corporate culture, the 5P’s has proven very successful across the world and across sectors public and private.
All parts of the model are dynamic according to the reason and channel the customer chooses and therefore must be managed concurrently because the experience that the customer receives will be a function of the performance of the P’s that the transaction requires. In the case of the rising prominence of Processes, primarily driven by online trading it is vital that where there is the potential for Process failure the P’s involved in the recovery process must understand the process sufficiently well to be able to identify at what point the process failed and be able to pick up the next steps from that point.
A bank customer wishes to transfer money from their online account to a supplier. The process fails because one of the security options on the bank’s website is malfunctioning. The customer calls the bank on the telephone. It is unsatisfactory to say or infer that the customer is not operating the system correctly, it is unsatisfactory to tell the customer that the technical department will be asked to check the website.
It is only satisfactory to find a way to transfer the money in the same timescale the customer requires.
The Policy empowers the organisation to manage its service quality effectively, by providing definition, direction and allocation of resources required to achieve set performance standards. The Policy in the 5 P’s model should itself derive wholly or partially from the Culture Management Model which defines the culture of an organisation as “ The behavior that results from the sum and priority of the values as defined by the leader(s) of the organisation” and provides a blueprint for the development and operation of a values led organisation. The outcome experienced by customers may be better or worse dependent upon said sum and priority of the values of the leaders.
The four key operational elements of the 5Ps are Products, Premises, Processes and People.
The first two of these, Products and Premises can be described as the Attractors - those elements which attract customers to an organisation. The final two elements - Processes and People - can be described as the Retainers, those that have a greater influence in retaining loyal customers.
The relative importance of these elements varies from sector to sector according to the structure and service delivery chain of the organisation. For example, organisations trading solely on the internet do not have physical premises which customers visit. But the way they present their products, including the benefits and details of the product, are displayed through their website. This is no less important than a physical shop window in attracting and influencing customers.
Let's look at these four elements in a little more detail.
The Product (or Service) can refer either to the quality of a physical product (e.g. a car, a coat, a can of beans) or the quality of a service (e.g. a bank account, a physiotherapist, a utility company, an internet provider, a government department). In this context Product and Service are interchangeable.
The quality of the product and its fitness for purpose form the platform upon which broader service quality stands. If the product quality fails, there is likely to be damage to both the brand and its relationship with its customers. The extent of this damage is a function of the nature of the failure, and the way the failure was managed (see Processes section).
It is important for the supplier to understand what is acceptable in the eyes of the customer, and what is not. This understanding requires awareness of the value of the purchase from the customer's perspective. In addition to quality, availability is important. Clearly, the performance of all links in the supply chain are critical in this regard.
Products that have a heavy dependence on brand perception are particularly vulnerable to failures, especially if the failure breaches one or more of the brand values on which the brand is built (e.g. a car manufacturer that has a brand built on reliability whose cars suffer mechanical breakdowns).
As well as physical premises, this includes the broader concept of the environment. This includes organisations that do not have physical premises but still create some kind of environment in which service is delivered to the customer (e.g. internet based companies, call centres or transportation companies). In either case, they must be accessible to all kinds of customers. Organisations must make sure that customers can use them safely, effectively, find their way around them easily, and have the things they are seeking presented in a clear, honest, accurate, interesting and customer-friendly manner.
Good housekeeping is important to both physical premises and the broader definitions of environment (airlines, parks and public places etc.), to maintain acceptable standards at all times. In physical buildings, this may include elements such as maintenance routines, decor and signage. In other environments, it may include things such as cleanliness, comfort, temperature noise control, etc. (e.g. a taxi with a blaring radio).
These two elements (Products and Premises) can be very valuable in initially attracting customers to an organisation (e.g. the luxury car displayed in the sophisticated showroom, the beautiful dress displayed in an elegant store, the comfortable train offering swift and easy inter city transportation). Typically, these are the factors that organisations feature in advertising and other promotions.
It can be argued that everything an organisation does is a part of a process. Every time an organisation achieves a high standard of performance, some form of process underpins that achievement. So, it is the function of process management to deliver this high standard consistently.
That doesn't mean that slavish repetition is the key to good customer service. It isn't. Repeating the same formulaic idea forces both those delivering the service and those receiving it into an over-structured and inflexible interaction. The key to success is to develop processes designed to deliver a standard of performance, while understanding where key 'flex points' lie. It must have options built into the system that allow staff to manage differing customer needs at the point of delivery quickly and effectively. The rapid increase in online trading has meant that the role of processes has increased substantiality. Many products and service can now be researched, purchased and delivered and even returned without any human intervention. In such situations it is imperative that the processes are clear, easy to use, and effective and where possible are able to recognise a returning customer (e.g. Amazon owes must of its success to easy to use, purchase and pay processes which recognise both the customer and their preferences and simplify the experience.)
The process in a doctor's surgery should closely manage the patient's progress, from making the appointment to arriving in the operation theatre. At the start, this process can be fairly rigid, but once the patient meets the doctor, the process must be infinitely flexible to allow the doctor to resolve the patient's issues. Clinics therefore have to develop a formal but flexible process based on the optional outcomes (e.g. medication, hospitalisation, physiotherapy or any combination) to deliver the appropriate remedy effectively to a customer base of one.
Process review is a valuable means of eliminating waste. It is a truism that all organisations must have costs, but no organisation need have waste. Customers are often put through very ineffective processes that have become established, formalised and irrelevant over the years. Reviewing the process to eliminate unnecessary steps not only reduces waste, it usually improves service quality too.
In smaller organisations, process flexibility and change is often easier. In larger organisations it may be more difficult as the old ways are often hard-wired into the systems. The fact to bear in mind is that the customer has no obligation to understand the organisation's processes. Organisations are generally free to operate in whatever way they choose, but if the process does not suit the customers, they are free to seek an alternative. Processes designed in the short term to satisfy the financial controllers at the expense of the customers, will usually dissatisfy the accountants in the longer term as customers shut their wallets at the expense of the revenue figures.
Process priority is also important. Many processes are not customer facing, but when examined closely they do have an impact on service quality (the internal production of credit card statements). Other processes such as the complaint management process are more obviously service quality orientated, and as such must be managed as a priority process.
So, for processes to deliver high standards of service quality, they must be designed with the customer in mind. Most organisational processes are vertically driven within operational silos created for the benefit of the organisation. Many customer experiences are cross-organisational - that is, a customer engages with two or more different parts of the organisation. When this happens, it is vital that the service quality delivery process follows the steps the customers need to take, and ensures any cross-organisational handover is properly planned, effectively managed and every department involved has access to all the customer data. For a customer having to repeat their request every time they are transferred to another department is profoundly irritating and a bad customer experience.
Customer needs evolve, competitors do different things, and so processes must also evolve. This evolution should be a formal process in itself. Managers should make changes and improvements based on data from customers and customer facing staff. They must communicate these changes effectively to everyone involved in delivering the new and improved system, and educate staff in the new ways of working. And of course, managers should monitor and measure the new process, to ensure it is being delivered consistently, and to a high standard.
The only dynamic element in the service quality equation is People. The other Ps are inanimate, and without people not much happens in the field of service quality. Like service quality itself, the People management element is a compound skill. Leaders in the organisation must manage - simultaneously - four sub-elements. If they do this professionally, they become the S.T.A.R. of the organisation, more of this within the Employee Happiness chapter later.
S - Skills and Knowledge – knowing what to do and how to do it
T - Teamwork – working with colleagues in the organisation and the supply chain
A - Awareness – seeing every interaction as a potential Happiness Moment
R - Responsiveness – being empowered to take the initiative in every situation
Processes and People are the 2 aspects of the 5Ps in every organisation that customers value the most, the major Happiness Value Moments are typically always to do with People and / or Processes. A huge investment has to be made in recruiting and retaining staff, as does the necessity to ensure processes and procedures are always up to date and staff are made aware of them in detail. From our experience, customer happiness is most affected when staff either do not understand the process or follow the process properly
From a People perspective, those staff in customer facing or customer direct communication roles are the toughest to recruit and train, but in saying that, you cannot underestimate the impact that their role has on the Happiness and overall satisfaction of Customers.
All of the P’s have to managed concurrently as each is interdependent on the others and a failure by one will negatively affect the overall performance of the organisation
P 10 X P 10 X P 10 X P 10 X P 10 = P 100,000
P 10 X P 10 X P 10 X P 10 X P 0 = P 0
There are a three final P’s which support the 5 P’s Model. For the customer to receive an experience that is filled with Happiness Moments requires leaders and managers to be Professional and when they do it well, feel Proud of the Performance of their teams.