Improve service by looking beyond own industry

Look at other industries' examples to gain deeper insights to improve service standards and processes, but initiatives to innovate should start small, panelists say.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Companies need to look outside their own industries to gain deeper insights on ways to improve their own services, according to market players.

Speaking at a panel discussion at the IBM-organized Smarter Industries Symposium here Tuesday, Liak Teng Lit, CEO of Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, called on companies to "think big" and look outside the industries they operate in to glean ideas on how they can improve existing services. They should also pay more attention in understanding customers' needs, he urged.

Within the healthcare industry, one such need is to improve communication and collaboration among doctors. He noted that there are many areas of specializations, which then cause complications as the various domain knowledge experts may not talk to each other even though they might be treating the same patient.

The current assembly-line method is not helpful and time-consuming as the patient is shuffled from one specialist to another, said Liak.

As such, the hospital is hoping to drive service innovation by transforming itself to become "an F1 pit stop" in which the different specialists can come together to give the patients the treatment they need within an hour, he stated.

In the banking and financial services arena, providing optimal customer experience is vital, said Paul Cobban, managing director of customer experience and operational excellence at DBS Bank, who was a panelist with Liak.

Historically, the industry had not put much thought on its customers and the various customer touchpoints such as through Web sites or the ATM (automated teller machine), choosing instead to focus on developing and marketing financial products, the executive noted.

DBS, in order to differentiate itself from its competitors, has since paid more attention to these touchpoints and are looking to fulfill customers' needs by delivering services in a "timely, accurate and secure manner", said Cobban.

Start small
That said, both stressed that companies should not be too ambitious and overreach in their efforts to improve service standards.

Liak said organizations should "start small" as doing otherwise might turn the project into a big obstacle that needs to be overcome.

Cobban agreed, saying that it is harder to achieve grandiose, "breakthrough" innovations than it is to initiate incremental change.

The CEO added that it is critical organizations take stock of where they are in terms of service processes before embarking on any project and measure their progress.

"It is very important to measure...If you don't, you won't know if you are making progress," Liak said.

Foong Sew Bun, CTO of IBM Singapore, who was also a panelist, noted that here is where technology can play a part. Having charted out its goals for the project, companies can utilize data analytics tools to discover the areas in which they can innovate, he explained.

After all, he said service innovation is "an attempt to use existing and new technology to improve productivity" to achieve breakthrough in services.

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