48 Service specifications

Service specifications

There are many and diverse types of services that an organisation can procure, including such things as:

1.  Transport

2.  Advertising

3.  Payroll administration

4.  Security services

5.  Banking services

6.  Catering

7.  Training

8.  Design services

9.  Management consultancy

Services are different from products in a number of ways. Specifications such as samples and by characteristics are either irrelevant or rarely associated with services. However, the choice of a prescriptive, e.g., detailed technical specification or non-prescriptive, e.g., a performance-based specification remains valid for service specifications.
The difficulty in specifying services

Services are typically more difficult to specify than products. The requirements of many products can be precisely stated, for example, in terms of dimensions, weight, type of materials or energy consumption.

Services, being intangible, are less easy to define. For instance: how clean is a clean building? What is the definition of a good, well-cooked meal? Additionally, there is the difficulty in assessing whether the service has been correctly performed. For example, is an architect at fault if the client does not like the architect’s design?

Nevertheless, service specifications should still be as precise as possible. They should generally be stated in terms of outputs, that is, what is to be achieved through the service. These outputs should be measurable, and formulated in a clear and precise manner. Closely associated with this, is the need to indicate the time frame in which the outputs are to be achieved. The specifications should also state what will occur in the event that these outputs are not achieved in the expected time frame, e.g., cancellation of payment, deductions for reduced performance, penalties, etc.
Variability — the human factor

In the case of products, unless there is a particular defect in materials or workmanship, identical products will perform uniformly. For example, two identical computers will do the same things in the same way.

Services, however, are performed by human beings, and as we all know, everyone is different. The quality of services can therefore be dependent on the particular individual(s) providing them.

Where the capability of the individual(s) providing the service is important, the specification might state which qualifications will be required of the person who will perform the service, e.g., academic background, professional and work experience, etc.). This might be the case with a management consultancy service, for example, to the extent of specifying as a requirement the specific consultant to provide the service.

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