One of the most useful concepts of the TQM movement in manufacturing is the application of poka-yoke, or fail-safe, methods to prevent human errors from becoming defects in the end product. Here the authors argue that these methods apply equally well to services and provide a framework for systematically applying poka-yokes to service encounters. They suggest that actions of the system, the server, and the customer can be fail-safed, and provide numerous examples to stimulate service managers to think in fail-safe terms.
1. We believe that fail-safing has decided advantages over the other logical choice for service process control, statistical process control (SPC). This is due to the humanistic nature of services, which makes them particularly prone to human error. As a statistical method, SPC is designed to ignore random variation and signal statistically significant events. Human error is, however, a random event and thus will be ignored by SPC. (In SPC terminology, human error will become part of the common cause variation.) Therefore, if SPC cannot detect human error, then it will not be able to control its effect on the service process.
2. R. Hall, Attaining Manufacturing Excellence (Homewood, Illinois: Dow Jones-Irwin, 1987).
3. S. Shingo, Zero Quality Control: Source Inspection and the Poka-yoke System, trans. A.P. Dillon (Cambridge Massachusetts: Productivity Press, 1986).
4. A.G. Robinson and D.M. Schroeder, “The Limited Role of Statistical Quality Control in a Zero Defect Environment,” Production and Inventory Management Journal 31 (1990): 60–65.
5. T. Levitt, “Production-line Approach to Service,” Harvard Business Review, September-October 1972, pp. 41–52. Levitt reveals how, to keep its surrounding property clean, McDonald’s placed numerous conspicuously colored trash cans throughout the parking lots. The assumption was that customers would not litter while looking at an obvious trash can only steps away.
6. A. Parasuraman, B. Zeithaml, and L. Berry, “SERVQUAL: A Multiple-Item Scale for Measuring Customer Perceptions of Service Quality,” Journal of Retailing, Spring 1988, pp. 12–40.
7. SERVQUAL is primarily a measurement tool, and, although its dimensions represent important aspects of the service in the eyes of the customer, they do not directly relate to the activities of the server. This is because the SERVQUAL dimensions were obtained by disaggregating a perceptual construct, service quality, into factors that best explained different perceived levels of quality, rather than by grouping the fundamental observed components of the service delivery system into larger more homogenous categories.
8. K. Anderson and R. Zemke, Delivering Knock Your Socks Off Services (New York: AMACOM, 1991).
9. C. Sewell and P.B. Brown, Customers for Life (New York: Doubleday, 1990).
10. F. Luthans and T. Davis, “Applying Behavioral Management Techniques in Service Organizations,” Service Management Effectiveness, ed. D. Bowen et al. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990), pp. 177–209.
11. R.E. Yates, “Lawyers not Exempt from Quality Crusade,” Recrafting America (Chicago: Chicago Tribune Company, 1991).
12. J. Edelson, “The Food Service Industry: Examples in Products and Services” (Los Angeles: University of Southern California, Failsafe Project Report, June 1989).
13. Andersen and Zemke (1991).
14. R. Caplan, Why There Are No Locks on the Bathroom Doors in Hotel Louis XIV and Other Object Lessons (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1984).
15. J. Kingman-Brundage, “The ABCs of Service System Blueprinting,” Designing a Winning Service Strategy, ed. M.J. Bitner and L.A. Crosby (Chicago: American Marketing Association, 1989).
16. Sewell and Brown (1990).
17. Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun/Factory Magazine, ed., Poka-Yoke: Improving Product Quality by Preventing Defects (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Productivity Press, 1988), p. 100.
18. Sewell and Brown (1990).
20. Services could benefit from a compendium of poka-yoke examples similar to those compiled for manufacturing in:
Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun/Factory Magazine (1988).