Researchers have been working to quantify the concept of service quality for nearly twenty years. A. Parasuraman’s perennially debated SERVQUAL scale is probably the best known example. It measures the reliability of the service, the responsiveness, assurance and empathy of its frontline personnel and the quality of its tangibles (i.e. touchpoints).
Live|Work has a similar index for what they call “service usability” (borrowing a page from the HCI playbook). Here’s an overview from earlier this year in Business Week:
The index starts with broad questions such as: do customers understand the service’s benefits; is the experience enjoyable, easy to use, and accessible? Then it drills down to assess how the customer experience ranks at every touch point, such as the Web, marketing materials, and call centers, to the service itself, scoring each step.
Measuring an intangible offering is a tricky proposition, and it’s not a substitute for design. But it is a siren song for business so it’s not surprising that service usability consultancies are stepping up to the plate.