Purpose – The aim of this paper is to explore and empirically investigate the characteristics and contingencies of service delivery system design. Design/methodology/approach – Informed by the service strategy triad, a single embedded case study was designed to explore empirical data on four target markets, four service concepts, and on the design characteristics of the corresponding four service delivery systems. Data were collected in a market‐leading organisation in the business‐to‐business sector within the power industry. The service delivery systems comprise processes that sell electricity contracts and processes that bill against those contracts. Findings – First, the findings indicate what design characteristics are contingent upon the degree of customisation of the service concept. The authors show how this contingency has implications for the extents of employee skills, employee discretion, task routineness, automation, and for front office (FO)‐back office (BO) configurations. Second, the authors challenge the consensus that low customer‐contact processes are designed for the purpose of efficiency. Third, the findings contradict Metters and Vargas who state that it is not possible to have different FO‐BO configurations in a single organisation. Research limitations/implications – While there are major interactions between the four service delivery systems supporting each individual service concept, this paper does not examine the trade‐offs between the various possible designs of these service delivery systems. Practical implications – The paper emphasises the importance of considering the complexity of the service offering, the customer relationship strategy, and of taking a process‐orientation to address service delivery system design. Originality/value – This paper extends current understanding of service delivery system design characteristics and contingencies. The authors show how design characteristics are contingent on the service concept. Research propositions are formulated to emphasise this contingency. Additionally, we report findings which challenge existing FO‐BO design theory.
International Journal of Operations & Production Management – Emerald Publishing
Published: Feb 22, 2011
Keywords: Service levels; Service delivery systems; Strategic alignment
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