AIM-Parasuraman Centre for Service Excellence
Centre’s Vision and Objectives
The aspirational vision for the Centre is to serve as a catalyst for bringing together and facilitating interac tions among academic scholars, companies and students (who are would-be managers and/or scholars down the road) with the goal of promoting and nurturing service excellence in multiple areas. This Centre can be envisioned as a three-pillared structure, with the Centre’s vision atop the structure and supported by three interlinked pillars: (a) research scholars from academic institutions, (b) practitioners from various sectors and (c) students being trained at academic institutions.
The overall aim of the Centre is to serve as a catalyst for making significant contributions relating to service excellence in three intertwined areas – research scholarship, managerial insights and pedagogy. Consistent with the three-pillared structure supporting its vision, the Centre’s broad objectives are three-fold, focusing on knowledge creation, knowledge dissemination and knowledge implementation in the service-excellence domain:
Foster ongoing research that leads to new theoretical, managerial and pedagogical insights pertaining to service excellence (knowledge creation);
Propagate those insights through publications, presentations, press releases, etc. (knowledge dissemination); and
Enable application of those insights to (a) stimulate further scholarly discourse and research (e.g., through research symposia and conferences); (b) improve managerial practice in various organizations (e.g., through consulting assignments and practitioner forums); and (c) enhance student learning (e.g., through case studies and class projects) (knowledge implementation).
An Illustration of the Centre’s Potential Contributions: The iSEI
The types of contributions the Centre is capable of making along the aforementioned lines are embodied in the pilot version of the Index of Service Excellence in India (iSEI) that was released on 26th July 2019 under the auspices of the IFIM B-School in conjunction with the announcement of the formation of this Centre. The iSEI is a robust and rigorous benchmarking tool for making within-sector and across-sector comparisons of companies vis-à-vis their extent of service excellence. The underlying theoretical foundation for the iSEI is the well-established SERVQUAL methodology for measuring service quality along the dimensions of tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance and empathy in the form of “gaps” between what customers believe true service excellence represents in a given sector and the level of service they believe a given company actually delivers on each of the dimensions. The dimension-level gap scores are weighted by the relative importance of the five dimensions (as assessed by the customers) and then aggregated to derive an overall 100-point index score.
The pilot version of the iSEI covered just two metro areas (Bengaluru and Mumbai) and two sectors (e-commerce and retail banking), with five companies in each. Nevertheless, despite the pilot version’s limited scope, the overall index values and the patterns of underlying gap scores for the ten companies revealed several interesting patterns that raise intriguing questions for researchers, managers and students. For instance, across both sectors and all ten companies:
The under-30 age group consistently rated the service as being worse (i.e., they had significantly more negative gap scores) than did the 31-45 and over-45 age groups. Why? Do millennials have higher service expectations than the others?
Customers with longer associations with the companies (greater than six months) generally rated the service as being worse than did newer customers. Why? Are companies paying more attention to customer acquisition and newer customers at the expense of customer retention and longer-term customers?
Intriguing questions such as the above can (a) provide issues for further research by academic scholars, (b) prompt companies to take a more in-depth look at their customer service efforts, and (c) serve as pedagogical aids for stimulating in-class discussions by students.
Institutional and Corporate Memberships of the Centre
The Centre will actively pursue an outreach program to partner with major educational and research institutions interested in service excellence. An important component of the Centre’s aspirational vision is to become an overarching catalyst for connecting like-minded academic institutions so as to create a country-wide consortium of research scholars and educators who can help accelerate the creation and dissemination of new knowledge as well novel pedagogical approaches pertaining to service excellence. A proposed two-tiered fee structure for institutional members is as follows:
Lifetime Members: Lifetime institutional members of the Centre will pay a one-time sponsorship fee.
Regular Members: Regular institutional members of the Centre will pay an annual membership fee. A similar two-tiered fee structure is proposed for corporate sponsorships:
Founding Corporate Sponsors: The center encourages leading companies within each vertical to provide “founding corporate sponsorships” by paying a one-time sponsorship fee.
Regular Corporate Sponsors: Other companies within various verticals will be invited to become regular corporate sponsors for an annual sponsorship fee.
The two levels of institutional and corporate sponsors will be appropriately acknowledged in the Centre’s website as well as in printed brochures, etc.
Centre’s Proposed Products/Services:
The Centre will offer a variety of products and services such as the ones listed below (some of them – e.g., the first two items – will be made available in the public domain free of charge, while others will be fee-based and/or provided as part of the membership benefits to institutional and corporate members).
iSEI Benchmarking Reports: These reports, published on a regular basis (say, semi-annually) and released to the business press, will provide overall service excellence scores for companies in all major sectors and offer a comparative discussion of those scores within and across sectors. Companies can make use of this publically available information as a starting point to conduct deeper, within-company analyses to diagnose service shortfalls and develop corrective actions to enhance their customers’ service experience.
State-of-the-Field Reports: The Centre will publish periodic reports on the latest developments and findings on service excellence and create a community of researchers and practitioners to advance adoption of best practices for achieving service excellence.
Customised Reports: The Centre will provide customised reports to individual companies that seek the Centre’s assistance in addressing specific questions that can be researched with the help of data generated for computing the index scores.
Customised Research and Consulting: The Centre will also provide customised research and consulting services to organizations wanting to bridge gaps and build excellence in their service delivery. The iSEI methodology can be adapted and customised to suit a variety of business needs, such as providing data-driven insights to enhance service designs and processes, to improve the customer experience journey, and to develop service-based strategies for achieving and sustaining competitive advantage.
Conferences Focused on Service Excellence: These will be knowledge-sharing events that will bring together academics and practitioners to share research findings, engage in panel discussions, present real-world exemplars of service excellence, etc. The first of such conferences – tentatively titled “Service Excellence: Theory and Practice” – is already being planned for mid-2020 and will be hosted by the IFIM Business School.
Symposia on Service Excellence: The Centre plans to organize regular research symposia, aimed primarily at academics, for advancing new knowledge in the service-excellence domain (e.g., by generating research priorities), for promoting cross-disciplinary collaboration and research on service excellence, etc. The Centre will work closely with its institutional members and encourage their active participation in setting the agendas for these symposia so as to do full justice the notion of creating a truly effective consortium of research institutions that are committed to knowledge-creation and knowledge-dissemination in the service-excellence domain. While the Centre will serve as the focal point for organizing these symposia, it will also encourage its institutional members to take turns in hosting the symposia.
Journal of Service Excellence: After the Centre garners a critical mass of support, and gains sufficient visibility and stature through its various offerings such as the aforementioned ones, it will consider launching a high-quality journal that is academically rigorous and managerially impactful. At such time it will also consider other publication-related projects (e.g., serving as catalyst for generating and publishing cases and other pedagogical aids pertaining to service excellence).