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One Service that has a lot of Customer Variability is teaching

at XLRI. What are these and how should they be managed?
An insight into Customer Variability
There is a famous scene in the 1970 movie Five Easy Pieces in which a
young and surly Jack Nicholson is stymied in his effort to get a side order
of plain wheat toast at a roadside diner. Told by the waitress that the diner
doesn't serve plain toast (it's not on the menu), he asks her whether he
can get a chicken sandwich on wheat toast. When she says yes, Jack says
OK then, bring him a chicken sandwich on wheat toast no mayonnaise,
no butter, no lettuce, and then adds now hold the chicken.
According to Francis Freis article, Breaking the Trade Off between
Efficiency and Service, dealing with customer variability is a necessary
challenge in making a service offering profitable. Its never advisable to
drive out variability as customer judge the quality of the service offering
with the customisability of the service and how much are their variabilitys
are accommodated.
Let us introduce the 5 types of Variability in the context of XLRI and
explore possible solutions in the above context;
A). Arrival Variability: Customers do not necessarily want the services at
the same time according to the convenience of the company, but would
like to influence the time of service themselves. Applying this to XLRIs
context, we feel this could possibly mean students not wanting the lectures
to be delivered at the same time. In other words, there might possibly be
students whore morning people and would want their courses to be
clustered in the mornings and similarly people whod want their courses
clustered in the evening.
Possible Management Opportunity: Though its a difficult customer
variability to control, one possible solution could be the division of elective
courses on Morning and Evening classes instead of the current way of
division on the section wise basis.
B). Request Variability: The example quoted at the start of an answer is
an example of Request Variability. It is when the customer wants a
particular service and would not compromise on the nature of his demand
with a substitute. This could mean that a student expecting a certain level
of learning (though learning as discussed in class is a difficult to define,
subjective measurable), would not be satisfied with the level of service
until his expectations from the course are fulfilled, or the assurance of

learnings in the course outline are adhered to.

Possible Management Opportunity: A dynamic feedback system
instead of a post semester feedback one. Possibly basic pointers on the
evaluation of the assurance of learning after every 5 sessions might be a
good step to control Request Variability among the customers.
C). Capability Variability: Some customers require more handholding
than other customers. This means their might be students who have
interest in learning, but take time to grasp the subject. There are always a
major capability variability in a service like Education.
Possible Management Opportunity: The possibility of reducing
Capability variability is to dependent largely on the course instructor. The
course pedagogy needs to interesting and detailed so as to not lose the
interest of the sharper customers (students), while it cannot be so
intensive so as to demoralize the lesser equipped customers. Personal
touch and gradual increase in course complexities can be a possible
solution to the problem.
D). Effort Variability: Service interaction involves extracting effort out of
the customer too; now whether or not a customer apply effort for this
service interaction is dependent on the customer. In the XL, this is simply
the difference between the sincere / interested students and those that
merely sit in the class for attendance. How does one ensure less variability
in overall performance of the class and reduce outliers is the question?
Possible Management Opportunity: While some answers can involve
OB related nuances of motivation etc, those can be considered outside the
scope of this course. In a services management context, the subject should
be above the accepted service level of the class and in the Zone of
Tolerance. Ensuring participation through risk / reward benefit, well defined
pedagogy, as well as well construed and extremely relevant course
material / hand-outs can probably reduce the extreme outliers.
D). Subject Preference Variability: One likes chocolate for its taste, one
for its smoothness, one because it relieves tension and one because he
prefers something sweet after every meal. The product is the same, a
chocolate, but the subject preference is different for each customer.
Possible Management Opportunity: This is possibly the most difficult
customer variability as it involves personal handling of each customer.
Knowing each student and what drives / motivates them might be a good
start to understanding their preferences. Again the answer might border on

OB, but subject preference variability reduction is again that might change
from instructor to instructor due to the nature of the instructor and their
class demeanour and method of teaching.