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The 10 Commandments of eService

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Old Testament service commandments contain eternal verities such as "Thou shalt adhere to the law of the queue." (I.e., other things being equal, first come-first served should be the rule for selecting customers waiting in line for service.). "Thou shalt have all thy employees who are visible to thy customer working for thy customer." (Maintain a customer focus.) And "Thou shalt challenge every tangible feature of thy service--thy facility, thy signage, thy workers robes, thy written documents--and eliminate those which are schlocky." (Manage the evidence of service.)

The wide use of the Internet, while not vitiating the Old Testament service commandments (I did call them "eternal verities," after all), calls for a new set of principles. These "New Testament commandments" must take into account the lack of the customer's physical presence in the service system and of course, the unique capabilities and limitations of the web. Ten of these new commandments are as follows.

1. THOU SHALT DESIGN THY WEB AS A PLEASANT PATH, NOT A MAZE.

Too many web businesses make navigation through a web site like a trip through a maze--dead ends, endless backtracking, and my personal negative "favorite", the "out the portal" logout. Here, you link to some page and the only way to get back is to quit the web site and start over. Some time this is initiated through a innocent click to a hyperlink, giving rise the psychological malady, "hyperlink hypertension."

2. THOU SHALT RENDER UNTO AOL THAT WHICH IS AOL'S, AND RENDER UNTO SPRINT THAT WHICH IS SPRINT'S.


A fundamental question facing any service business, even dot.com companies, is how much to rely on the Internet and how much to rely on the phone in their customer interactions. You can't develop a good service strategy unless you have resolved this question. The decision should be more than "belt and suspenders" safety. It should be tied into customer segmentation strategy and what makes sense for the customer.


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Richard Chase is the Justin Dart Professor of Operations Management in the Marshall School of Business at USC. Two of his Harvard Business Review articles, "Where Does the Customer Fit in a Service Operation?" and "The Service Factory" have been cited as classics.

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