International Standards & Certification bodies –   Are they falling short in guidance and frameworks to support the Service Economy?

International Standard & Certification bodies have done well for the ‘industrial phase’ of the economy. They have laid down specifications to increase manufacturing process efficiencies, helped reduce waste, improved interoperability, and created certification frameworks. These actions allowed buyers to have confidence that the products they are buying conform to quality standards, providing them with assurance of performance reliability of the product they have bought. It made sense for all manufacturers to seek to adopt and conform to these standards, since it opened out larger markets for them across all boundaries wherever the standards were practiced.

International Certification and Standard bodies further brought in a few service elements in the ISO standards by having a structured voice of customer brought into management review systems. However, there has been no comprehensive evaluation to develop and design standards and certification frameworks for ‘services’ when offered as a product. Such frameworks can offer consumers assurance of key elements of an efficient service delivery system and a ubiquitously defined redressal/escalation processes, in the event of shortfall.

In a few domains of the Service Industry, some standards and certification have come about. For example, the BPO industry has a COPC (Customer Operation Performance Center) framework that defines key elements and levels of maturity of Call Centers. This makes it easy for any customer to make an assessment of what to expect when they sign up with such BPO service providers. Given the criticality of ‘software’ as a service, which is driving every aspect of today’s economy, there are a number of standards that have been developed and are in use. These include ISO 12207/IEC15288 (for software development and software life cycle processes), ISO 15939 (for software measure processes), ISO 14143 (for Software Measurement – Functional Size Measurement), and ISO 90003 for applying ISO 9001:2015 to their software application, etc.

COPC standards were developed by a private company in 1996 for certification of call centers to assess if structured processes and measurement were being followed in BPO’s and later expanded to other customer experience operation centres. However, since COPC was not an institutional body, the creation of similar frameworks for services and service products by international/national standard bodies has not happened. This leaves a void that, if filled, will bring in tremendous relief to consumers.

Why can’t the basic structure of toll-free numbering, IVRS tree designs, website complaint/query handling architectures, etc., be made to a defined standard? This would allow developers to make systems that are more universal, reducing costs for organizations. Also, for consumers, it becomes intuitive when they are seeking support across various products that they will be using. Today, a consumer has to learn these afresh support protocols whenever he buys a new product.

The opportunity to develop category-wise backend handling solutions opens up if service handling protocols are standardized. It will bring about significant gains for all service providers in terms of costs, deployment time, and new business opportunity for solution developers.

The question is, how do you get standards and certification bodies to bridge this gap? Amplification of the need gap by industry/CX leaders as well as academia can definitely stir up the pot. Why should the ‘Service’ economy not benefit in the same manner as the ‘Industrial’ economy continues to do?

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