Service Industry at Cross Roads

No one would have ever imagined fifty years ago that the service sector would become a major contributor to the economy world over. Surprising but true, that in America as well as in India or in UK, service industry has grown beyond our imagination and continues to grow. Globalization and the advancement of technology has brought about a revolution in all of the service sectors be it hotel, airline or in software services. In fact service sector today employs the highest number of semi skilled and skilled manpower resources all over the world.

When you think of service, the picture that easily comes to your mind could be the McDonalds or Pizza-hut or the next best picture would be that of an airline. Our life has been made easier thanks to the service industry. Customers are pampered with the best quality service making them demand more and more in terms of quality of services.

Services as we all know offers intangibles and can be qualified through the experience delivered to the customer. Service industry in the past few years has gone places. Automation and technology have helped standardize and bring in efficiency in service. Service Organizations not only excel in offering timely and standardized service, they have gone one step ahead in offering personalized service to the customers too. Today every customer is recognized individually by the hotel or the airline he visits. The hotel knows the customer’s preferences and likes and are prepared to give him the best of customized service and engaging him in a relationship.

In a bid to offer the best of customized services and maintain the market share, service organizations have aggressively pursued various strategies internally. From Business process re-engineering, standard operating procedures, outsourcing and quality programs as well as all of the operational efficiency programs have been adopted and pursued aggressively in order to deliver faster and cheaper customer service performance. In the bargain to stay ahead of competition and increase their sales revenues, the companies have pursued marketing strategies more akin to that of product companies. The question that each of the companies have to ask themselves today is whether all of these have helped them become ‘Market Leaders’. Companies may be operationally efficient and give the best service at the best price, but that hardly gives them the competitive edge over the others to lead the pack.

Take the case of Southwest airlines and Bank of America who have looked different from their competitors in their respective segments. Bank of America literally monopolized the American market with their fastest processing and delivery times for credit cards along with the best of customer service. South west airline managed to position themselves differently from the rest of the airlines in terms of value for money and no frills flying. While the rest of the competitors spent thousands of dollars in re-engineering processes and bringing in operational efficiencies to become profitable, this airline simply positioned itself differently.

What makes Southwest airlines as well as the other market leaders such as Wal-Mart, IKEA and Mc-Donald’s is that they look at doing their business differently from the rest of the competition. When service offering is duplicated easily and every competitor is able to offer the same service at cheaper cost, it calls for service companies to think differently in order to retain their market leadership.

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