In the seminal book The Balanced Scorecard: Translating Strategy Into Action, authors Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton highlight the following seven metrics for service quality measurement in service organizations, to indicate defects in internal processes that may cause customer dissatisfaction, undermine customer retention and promote customer attrition over to competitors:
- Long wait times
- Inaccurate information
- Access denied or delayed
- Request or transaction not fulfilled
- Financial loss for customer
- Customer not treated as valued
- Ineffective communication
Alternatively, sophisticated, private (and non-government) clients or customers, such as owners and operators, most probably care about the value of construction services. Service quality very well may be a key competitive differentiator for you and your organization – if it is not on a lump sum, “lowest bid wins” basis, such as for federal, state and local government work, for example. Service quality may be an area for you and your organization to create value, enhance performance and increase profits. In the spirit of generally accepted best practices and standard processes around enterprise quality management, such as Six Sigma and others originating from the Deming Cycle of Plan-Do-Check-Act, service quality may also be an area for you and your organization to continuously improve, region by region, project by project, phase by phase, and person by person.
Accordingly, service quality permeates throughout all levels or tiers of an organization, starting at the home office or head office, with executives, vice presidents and directors. Service quality extends down to the regional offices, and then on to the geographically-distributed field offices and job trailers, with project managers, superintendents, field engineers and foremen, who hold the first-hand responsibility for delivering the work to the customer, in the field and at the point of construction.
At its core, service quality is in the field and at the point of construction, during the construction phase of the project, where services are delivered, work is put in place, and payment is released. Expectations are set between owner and contractor during qualification, on to bid award and then all the way through to pre-construction. However, it is during the construction phase of the project where expectations translate in to actions, where design and specifications translate in to physical work put in place, where lines and notes on drawings translate in to steel and concrete – where service quality comes to fruition, in the field and at the point of construction.
Taking only the first metric listed above - long wait times - how may the following relate to the construction phase of the project, in the field and at the point of construction?
- Are turnaround times valued by your company and your stakeholders?
- Are turnaround times measured within your company, e.g. to close out open work to complete?
- Are turnaround times measured between your company and other project stakeholders?
- How are wait times, turnaround times, lag times and cycle times measured?
- Are all transactions date and time stamped and author stamped?
- Are all transactions recorded and extracted over time for reporting purposes?
- Are deadlines set for turnaround times?
- Are overdue or past due items “red-flagged” for management?
- Are goals and objectives set for turnaround times?
- Are turnaround times compared both within a project and across projects?
- Are trade contractors and subcontractors scored and rewarded for optimal turnaround times?
- Are trade contractors and subcontractors short-listed and selected for turnaround times?
If delivering construction and capital projects is viewed as a service for a customer or client, such as an owner, whether private institution or publicly-traded corporation, operator or developer, for example, how may all of the seven metrics for service quality measurement apply to the construction industry?
Here are seven follow-on questions to begin to incite critical thinking and productive debate about the application of service quality measurement in construction and its value to construction stakeholders:
- Is quality of service important to your clients and customers? If yes, why?
- Is quality of service a key competitive differentiator for your organization? If yes, why?
- Are you measuring quality of service within your organization? If yes, how? At what frequency?
- What metrics do you use to measure and gauge quality of service?
- How does service quality measurement vary across the different levels within your organization?
- How has service quality measurement created value and enhanced performance?
- How does your organization intend to continuously improve on quality of service in the future?
Measuring and Managing Construction Quality with Field Software - a Turner Construction Case Study