Is lack of an universal ‘ Services ’ standards framework stifling the Services Economy ?

The history of development of ‘Industrial age’ offers interesting insights on how the growth of standards and specification helped expand the markets/development of ecosystems and competitiveness for manufactured products.

While competing for markets through innovation in products – the need for standards in manufacturing came from imperatives of development of an ecosystem for ancillary providers to provide components at scale and bring down costs. Interoperability was also seen as a way to improve customer adoption since uniform standards helped open global markets.

Standard bodies – national /international came up eg ISO,etc, that addressed these needs well and matured over time. Independent quality audit and assessment practices got built to assess and certify product and related services.

Consumers would have an assurance of certified products conforming to practices that met laid out standards of quality processes during production.

Subsequently ‘Service’ standards also developed ( ISO 9000 series ) that laid out quality management guidelines for producing quality goods and services like structured internal management review processes for leadership, customer focus, evidence-based decision making, continuous improvement, etc.

Standards for ‘Software’ as a services product got defined under ISO 25000 series. These are being used for determining the software product quality. BPO and some sectoral standards developed specific to them (eg COPC – Customer Operations Performance Center ,etc).

So, while service economy has become to emerge from last 70 years, the needs and advantages that a standards framework can provide for this burgeoning economy has been slow to develop and few that have are sectoral focused.

My analysis on why this has happened is the ‘intangible’ aspects of ‘Services economy’ and the lack of awareness for benefits that can accrue to all stakeholders, as it happened for the manufacturing sector.

Let me give a few examples to illustrate the same:

  • Lack of standards for customer support assistance help lines has meant customers having to struggle with deciphering the support protocols for each product they own.
  • Imagine if the protocol were consistent, for reaching out for a query, requesting for any service or logging of a complaint – then intuitively the consumer will know what to do whenever he needs any support, whatever may be the product that he is owning.
  • The support provider will have access to standard solutions for handling various needs of the customer – rather than custom designing for each client.
  • Cost of support setup for an organisation will come down and a common backend provider can be emerge for each service vertical.
  • Customer education and communication are simplified, and overall experience of the consumer is enhanced.

The need for creating a differentiation in ‘Service Products’ so as to outcompete the others may have prevented organisations to accept ‘standardization’. However, this is no different from product differentiation that still gets created on the back of common standards for interoperable parts of the product design.

So the argument for not accepting standardization in services is a fallacy in the mind of leadership.

Since cost, quality and time are the three vectors of quality and experience for product and services – defining standards that can enlarge the overall market size is in the interest of all stakeholders.

Grasping the opportunity that standardization can present has to be driven by the international standard bodies that need to set up internal working groups focused on service products and bring forth the benefits that each sector can derive, as well as the benefits that can accrue to consumers.

Customer Experience Leaders in each sector also need to put their thinking caps on and work in their peer group forums to evolve the standards that will help build ’customer experience’ outside of any competitive fears.

A CX maturity assessment/certification framework can then be created by the international standard bodies to allow a transparent evaluation and rating system to help customers make informed choices while buying services.

That such a framework does not exist till now is an awning gap of the ‘Service economy’ age…. Crying for attention!!!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Call Now Button