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1. AbstractFor pure service industries such as education, services, though not tangible or customized, need to be provided with the customer’s expectations in mind. As such, a preschool needs to facilitate an environment that provides successful, pleasant, and safe experiences for students, parents, and the staff. They, therefore, need to have in place a customer service and communication plan that would allow the development of such an environment. To improve their customer service operations, Village Little Preschool needs to design its service process with the desired service experience in mind for both the customer and the staff. The Service Design Process that begins with a service concept and defines the targeted customer and their expectations, and ends with service delivery specifications that outline steps required in the delivery of the service, is just the process that can help the preschool reach its optimal service plans.
2. Facility overviewThe business, Village Little Preschool Center, is a small, non-profit, church-housed Christian preschool and daycare. It is overseen and sponsored by the Abundant Life Assembly of God Church. The school, located in Cupertino, California, is a State licensed facility and was also accredited by the Better Business Bureau in March 2012. The school is a part of the $50 billion U.S. preschool and daycare services industry that caters to families looking for child care and early start education programs. The industry mainly caters to families where both parents are working, and also to single parents who seek child care.
Village Little Preschool serves the child care and preschool education needs of working families in the Cupertino area. A large part of its enrollment comes from families that are looking for a preschool that also imparts Christian values and education. The facility currently provides full-time and part-time programs for the families to choose from when enrolling. The tuition is set at competitive rates, and includes snacks and hot lunches for the kids. Along with a well balanced academic curriculum, the facility also offers extracurricular activities such as gymnastics and soccer programs that can be enrolled in for an additional fee. The facility currently employs 10 teachers, a cook, and a person for grounds maintenance. The student teacher ratio per class is set at 2:15.
3. Analyses of the processFor pure service industries such as education, services, though not tangible or customized, need to be provided with the customer’s expectations in mind. As such, a preschool needs to facilitate an environment that provides successful, pleasant, and safe experiences for students, parents, and the staff. They, therefore, need to have in place a customer service and communication plan that would allow the development of such an environment. According to a recent market research report by IBIS World (Oct’12), though there are no companies with a dominant market share in the industry, the competition is keen amongst preschools for a piece of the pie. Similarly, Village Little Preschool faces much competition from the many other preschools in its area of operation. Since, most day cares and preschools provide the same basic services and offer similar learning environments, what sets a preschool apart from the others is the quality of its customer service. Currently, the school, although striving to provide a good customer service, still lacks the basic framework of service design. The management does not have any plans or specifications for the staff to follow while delivering a service. Most of what the management wants the staff to do regarding parent communications and interaction is advised to the staff verbally during scheduled
monthly meetings. Any change in the verbal policy is communicated through office memos, which the staff is required to acknowledge. Although the facility staff is very polite and courteous, and meet most of the dimensions of quality required of a service facility, they lack the most essential ones- completeness, consistency, and accuracy. The staff/teachers need to be trained and educated about the service concept that the facility has defined for itself, and they need to have guidelines that facilitate the deliverance of proper service. Since, communication between parents, teachers, and students is the most important, the quality of such contact and its ramifications are of the utmost importance. 4. Recommendation for improvementTo improve their customer service operations, Village Little Preschool needs to design its service process with the desired service experience in mind for both the customer and the staff. The Service Design Process begins with a service concept that defines the targeted customer and their expectations, and ends with service delivery specifications that outline steps required in the delivery of the service. Service concept- The school needs to identify its targeted customers, its market share, its core values and strengths, and its desired relationship with the community, in order to come up with a concept of what they want their customer experience to be like and how this experience will compete with that offered by competitors. Service Package- From the above developed service concept, the school can create a service package that consists of a mixture of physical items (example: a welcome packet for new enrollments with a new school bag), sensual benefits (example: a coffee machine in the sign-in room), and psychological benefits (example: referring to each student and parent by their names instead of “X’s mommy”). Any effective service design will need to recognize and define “all” the components of a service package. A service package may need many trails to arrive at a satisfactory package combination.
Performance specifications- these specify and outline expectations and requirements for general and specific customers. For example, they may recognize certain customers or customer groups as more difficult than others to deal with and hence the performance specifications for them may differ from the general customers. Design specifications- The design specifications must describe the guidelines and skill requirements for service providers (here, staff), as well as, the time and cost associated with the desired service experience. Here the facility would need to define the communications protocols that are to be used in various situations and provide proper documentation and training in their use. At this stage, the facility may also choose to prototype their experience by engaging in situation enactments, and language and documentation testing. They could also use “service blueprinting” flow charts to designate what can and cannot be seen by the customer, or what happens backstage. Delivery specifications- the delivery specifications will outline the steps required in the service delivery, including persons responsible, locations to be used for service, and the resources required to complete the delivery. 5. Implementation and Managerial ImplicationsIn order to successfully design and implement the above described service design, the management will need to research and understand their customers and his/her goals and needs. They will also need to get the staff on board and involved in the service design process. The staff’s voice is important in the design stage since they know better than anyone what the service environment is like. To make it easier to evaluate whether the service plan meets the requirements of a good service, the management may check its components against the dimensions of quality for services that are given below: Dimensions of quality for Services: • Time and timeliness
• • • • • •
Completeness Courtesy Consistency Accessibility and convenience Accuracy Responsiveness The managerial implications of designing customer service requirements for the preschool
will be immense. The management will have a better control over the quality of service the facility imparts and its periodic monitoring. The facility will have a better set of tools, guidelines and documents that help and enable the staff in efficient and courteous communication with the families. Designing and implementing a service plan will enable the facility to compete with its neighboring preschools in a market that’s clogged with day cares and preschools of all types. Giving the customers an experience of high quality keeps them coming back for more and also makes the customers the brand ambassadors for the preschool. Some lessons that can be learnt from this facility’s customer service analysis, are that since services are intangible, service defects are sometimes difficult to figure out and even more difficult to correct. Also, other facilities like this can learn the importance of customer care and service from this project. Service companies lose more customers because either their service is poor, or their competitor’s is better. 6. SurprisesOne thing that surprised me about this facility that I did not know before was that though their hiring and firing is handled by the director of the preschool, the rest of the human resources functions of remuneration and policies falls in the hands of the Church that manages the school.
7. References and Citations:
• • Village Little Preschool: website- http://www.villagelittlepreschool.com/#! "Day Care in the US: Market Research Report." Day Care in the US Market Research.
N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2012. <http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/default.aspx?indid=1618>. • "Day Care Services in the U.S. Generate $58 Billion and Are Always In Demand - Even in
Recessions." Day Care Services in the U.S. Generate $58 Billion and Are Always In Demand Even in Recessions. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2012. <http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/06/prweb4090444.htm>. • Russell, Roberta S., and Bernard W. Taylor. "Service Design." Operations Management:
Creating Value along the Supply Chain. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. 189-225. Print.
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