The theory of constraints says that every business system, regardless of the industry, has at least one limiting factor affecting optimal performance. It goes on to include a process that helps a business identify and eliminate its most significant bottleneck by restructuring work flow processes and procedures. Although in the past the theory of constraints was mainly applied in the manufacturing industry, it can be applied just as effectively in payroll services, Internet service providers, call centers or any other service organization.
Defining Service Quality
Before the theory of constraints can identify and work to correct a serious bottleneck, the organization must first define high service quality. This can, for some service organizations, be a difficult task, as many agree it’s the customer rather than the organization that ultimately makes this rather subjective determination. Some organizations might define service quality as a judgment the customer makes when comparing expectations to a perception of the service or services the customer received. A similar definition might be to define service quality as the degree to which the organization’s services meet or exceed customer expectations.
Identifying Service Quality Bottlenecks
After defining service quality, the next step is to measure how well a service organization is doing at meeting service quality expectations. Customer surveys, focus groups and personal interviews commonly are used to measure service quality tangibles, such as whether the organization’s facilities and equipment are up-to-date, as well as customer perception relating to reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy. Flowcharts, process analysis via storyboarding and team-oriented brainstorming sessions can then be used to identify and prioritize bottlenecks such as outdated technology, faulty customer service training or inefficiencies procedures that cause delays in fulfilling customer expectations.
Managing the Most Serious Constraint
The theory of constraints allows for working on only one constraint at a time. Prioritization will determine the most serious constraint, allowing the business to then begin developing ways to unblock the bottleneck and solve its most serious service problem. Solutions for managing a constraint vary depending on the underlying issues behind the problem. Examples include reorganizing work flow procedures, implementing a formal customer service or customer relationship management training program, replacing manual systems with electronic versions or updating the business’s computer system.
Implemented Solution Performance Evaluation
It’s essential to allow enough time to fully evaluate whether implemented solutions are working before moving on to dealing with another service constraint. The evaluation period will vary depending on the implemented solution. If an evaluation determine the solution isn’t sufficient and still is negatively affecting overall service performance, go back and brainstorm an alternative solution. If the solution is effective and has solved the problem, begin the process once again with another service constraint.