J. Serv. Sci. & Management, 2009, 2: 29-35
Published Online March 2009 in SciRes (www.SciRP.org/journal/jssm)
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
Analysis of Service Processes Characteristics across a
Range of Enterprises
John Maleyeff
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute,
Hartford Campus.
Email: maleyj@rpi.edu
Received November 10
, 2008; revised January 15
, 2009; accepted February 13
, 2009.
The structure of services processes was explored using a database of 168 service processes that existed within a wide
range of enterprises. The results indicate that applications within service science are not limited to the service industry
and that service processes have many similar characteristics. The similarities exist across industry sectors (i.e., manu-
facturing, service), customer types (i.e., internal, external) and enterprise size (large, SME). A few differences exist and
their importance is discussed. It is suggested that an important field within the multidisciplinary umbrella of service
science is organizational behavior.
service science, internal services, service marketing
1. Introduction
Service delivery dominates activities performed by the
workforce in the United States and other developed
countries. For example, in July 2008, 79% of the U.S.
workforce was employed in a service enterprise that was
classified as one of the following: retail, government,
education, health services, professional, business services,
hospitality, leisure, or other services. The remaining 21%
of the U.S. workforce was employed in enterprises clas-
sified as farming, manufacturing, construction, or other
goods producing [1]. But, of these “goods producing”
workers, a significant number are also engaged in service
delivery. For example, many workers within manufac-
turing enterprises provide support or aftermarket services
to users of their products (e.g., training, troubleshooting,
or maintenance). Further, and perhaps more significantly,
“goods producing” workers include internal support pro-
viders that deliver value to customers inside the firm.
These workers are positioned in various departments such
as finance, marketing, engineering, human resources, or
information technology.
“Service Science” is an emerging academic discipline
created in response to the need for organizations (busi-
++ness, industry, non-profits, government, healthcare,
etc.) to better understand how to create, manage, and im-
prove services for the benefit of consumers, internal enti-
ties, and external partners [2]. The research reported in
this article was an effort to contribute to the field of ser-
vice science by studying the structure of services from a
process-oriented perspective derived from lean manage-
ment principles. Using a database created by the analysis
of 168 service processes, the goal was to determine the
similarities and differences among service processes that:
1) offer various types of services, 2) deliver value to in-
ternal versus external customers, 3) exist within a large
versus a small or medium enterprise (SME), 4) consist of
transformations that are informational versus not infor-
mational, and 5) exist within manufacturing versus ser-
vice industries.
The results of this research should be useful to manag-
ers in both manufacturing and service enterprises, and
academic researchers who are concerned with service
improvement and service innovation. In the remainder of
this article, background is provided that includes results
from prior research and recent publications that address a
variety of topics within service science, including the
classification of services, the management of services for
internal customers, and the analysis of service process
characteristics. After the research methodology is ex-
plained and the resulting data are tabulated, results are
described. A discussion follows that places the results in
a context appropriate for management decision makers.
The paper concludes with recommendations on future
research directions.
2. Background
Although this research does not set out to create a new
classification of services, similar services are combined
for purpose of analysis and therefore a review of the
relevant literature is warranted. Perhaps the most popular
classification scheme was offered by Schmenner [3]. This
classification separates services into four types based on
two characteristics: 1) the level of customer interaction
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
and customization, and 2) the degree of labor intensity.
The resulting classification includes the following four
sets of service processes (the level of interaction & cus-
tomization, and the level of labor intensity is indicated
for each): the service factory (low, low), the service shop
(high, low), the mass service (low, high), and the profes-
sional service (high, high). Fitzsimmons and Fitzsimmons
[4] provide a set of challenges that would need to be ad-
dressed by managers within each class.
Examples of other classification schemes and related
efforts to provide typologies for services have focused on
the level of direct customer contact [5], the amount of
customer involvement [6], customers’ perceptions of
services [7], and the amount of customization in the service
output [8]. A thorough list of articles that address the classi-
fication of services is provided by Cunningham et al. [7].
Whether or not any of the various service classification
schemes have enhanced the management of services is an
open question. For example, Verma [9] shows that only 4
of 22 important management challenges are affected by
the differences in Schmenner’s classification scheme.
Then again, Silvestro et al. [10] argued that service strat-
egy, control, and performance measurement would differ
for professional services, service shops, and mass ser-
vices. The transition from tangible goods to intangible
equivalents, such as maps, videotapes, and newspapers,
has also impacted the usefulness of traditional classifica-
tion schemes [11].
Because the majority of the service processes studied
in this research would be classified as an internal service,
a review of the relevant literature is warranted. Davis [12]
defined internal service operations as “behind-the-scenes
routines, procedures, and activities that provide the nec-
essary support to the company’s more visible functions.”
With effects that are often hidden from the view of senior
managers, internal services are often the first to be affected
by downsizing or outsourcing [13]. The fact that internal
service departments sometimes display an attitude that
suggests superiority or independence can make them un-
sympathetic victims within the corporate structure [14].
Research has shown that external customer satisfaction
is enhanced by improved internal customer satisfaction
[15]. It has been suggested, however, that many organi-
zations are not equipped to understand how to deal with
the challenges associated with internal service manage-
ment [16]. Without a common understanding of how an
internal service operates, mistakes are common. For ex-
ample, technology is often implemented without an un-
derstanding of the associated implications [17]. Similarly,
an accountant may create budgets that motivate subopti-
mal behavior due to arbitrary cost allocation schemes
[18]. Johnston [15] argues that inadequate attention on
internal services. He reported that, in the three major ser-
vice journals between 1996 and 2006, only 8% of articles
dealt with research into internal services.
The majority of the services analyzed in this research
would be classified as a professional service based on
Schmenner’s scheme. But, it has been suggested that lit-
tle agreement exists regarding the definition of a profes-
sional service [19]. A definition suggested by Harte and
Dale [20], who define a professional service as consisting
of “intangible outputs, with qualitative rather than quan-
titative criteria being the main measures for customer
satisfaction, high buyer-interaction levels and lack of
heterogeneity,” would appear to characterize professional
services studied in this research. Professional services are
also commonly associated with characteristics such as
“specialist knowledge, autonomy, altruism, self-regulation,
and a high degree of participation and customization” [21].
Laing and Lian [22] suggest a classification of profes-
sional services based on the level of inter-organizational
relationships, ranging from almost transactional to a fully
integrated. Hausman [23] showed that customer relation-
ships were more important than the professional compe-
tence of service providers. Similarly, Day and Barksdale
[24] suggest that service providers’ understanding of
client needs and their communication skills are the main
determinants of quality for clients of architectural and
engineering firms. And, Ojasalo [25] provides a list of
ten characteristics of a professional service based on an
extensive literature review. Characteristics such as “a
high degree of customer uncertainty” and “affected by
characteristics of information”, as well as “a prob-
lem-solving approach” are notably present in the list.
Finally, various mechanisms that weaken customer rela-
tionships in professional services have been studied by
kerlund [26].
In this research, the approach to organizing service
processes to explore their underlying characteristics made
use of lean management principles [27]. In particular,
each transaction within the process is described as being
value-added (a task that the customer cannot do or wishes
not to do) or non-value-added (other tasks or activities
such as inspecting work, moving documents from one
department not to another, or various forms of delays).
All non-value-added activities would be inherently
wasteful, although some may be necessary in the short
term due to the structure of the service process (e.g., a
delay caused by moving documents from one department
to another is necessary if the departments are not
The use of a lean management approach is motivated
by a desire to organize service processes so that groups
are created that are likely to make use of similar im-
provement or innovation approaches. To make an anal-
ogy to manufacturing, an effort to reduce the setup time
for a drilling process may not be concerned with the
overall volume of production. Similarly, in a service, an
effort to reduce errors during an information handoff may
not be concerned with the whether or not the service offering
was standard or customized. An example that illustrates the
benefits of this approach is a hospital trauma team that
learned how to improve the treatment of emergency patients
by studying pit crews at automobile races [28].
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
A qualitative study concluded that services delivered
by organizations whose customers were other businesses
were similar in structure to those services delivered by
organizations whose customers were consumers [15]. But
important differences have been reported between ser-
vices for internal customers and those for external cus-
tomers. These differences include the lack of choice pro-
vided to internal customers [29], limited empathy be-
tween service providers and internal customers [30], and
inter-departmental dynamics that often lead to misunder-
standings of priorities [31].
3. Methodology
A total of 168 service systems were included in this study.
Each service system was analyzed by a professional em-
ployee of the organization who was very familiar with the
activities associated with the delivery of the service and
had access to customers of the service. Most of the ser-
vices were primarily for internal customers, but many
served primarily external customers, and some served
both internal and external customers in about equal
measure. No single analyst studied more than one service.
All of the analysts were enrolled in a part-time graduate
management program on the Hartford, Connecticut cam-
pus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in a three-credit
course called Service Operations Management.
The 168 service systems did not constitute a random
sample nor were they carefully selected in a controlled
experiment. However, the range of firms represented and
the services chosen was broad, albeit biased due to the
disproportionate number of scientists and engineers in the
student body. Sixty-three different enterprises were rep-
resented. One large corporation dominated the group,
constituting 52 of the 168 services.
For each service system, the analyst was asked to per-
form a comprehensive study of its structure (by creating a
process map or flowchart to illustrate how the various
activities interact to provide the service), identify cus-
tomers as either internal or external (or both), ask several
customers to list strengths and weaknesses of the process,
and list key performance dimensions important to cus-
tomers. The resulting reports followed a standard tem-
plate that allowed for easy tabulation of key results.
A database was created to capture important data re-
lated to each service process. It includes, for each service:
the name of the enterprise within which the service took
place (these data were not available for 8 services), the
size of the enterprise (classified as a large enterprise or a
SME), the type of enterprise-manufacturing or service
(these data were not available for 10 services), a brief
description of the process, the number of employees di-
rectly involved with service delivery (these data were not
available for 104 services), the number of departments or
functions directly involved with service delivery, the
primary type of customer (classified as internal, external,
or both), and an indication of whether or not information
was the key service transformation. The data were placed
into a MINITAB worksheet in preparation for tabulation
and statistical analysis.
4. Service Process Types
While studying the 168 reports, it became apparent that a
finite number of specific types of value-added activities
took place, most involving informational transformations.
While listing these activities, it was clear that many seem-
ingly dissimilar service possesses consisted of similar sets
of transformations (e.g., an audit to determine if a worker
is following standard protocol and the testing of a material
to determine if it meets specifications both involve evalua-
tion of actual performance and comparison to a standard).
An exhaustive qualitative analysis of the 168 service
processes resulted in the classification of six service
process types. This set should not be considered compre-
hensive because the sample of services was not random.
It would, however, serve to create an effective analysis
structure for this research. Table 1 shows the six service
process types, along with examples of each type and the
number of occurrences of each type in the database.
Most of the service process types would be classified
as a professional service using Schmenner’s classification
scheme, because they have high levels of both customi-
zation and customer contact. In most cases, however,
employees delivering a service did not hold strong alle-
giance to their professions as would, for example, law-
yers or physicians. One type that would not always oper-
ate as a professional service would be “gathering,” the
collection and reporting of information that is often dis-
seminated to a wide variety of customers and not always
customized for each customer’s use. In these cases, the
service would be classified as a mass service. A few other
examples of services that would not be classified as a pro-
fessional service would be found in each type.
Table 1. Service process types
Type Description Examples No.
shooting Solves a customer’s
IT help desk
Parts return
Root cause investigation
Complains handling
(and sub-
Provides instruc
tions or
summarizes informa-
tion for use by others
Installation instructions
Maintenance guidelines
Accounting statements
Accident reporting
Environmental Compliance
Determine whether or
not a specification or a
standard is met
Design change
Laboratory testing
Part inspection
Bill payment
Analysis Determine if re
should be allocated for
a requested purpose
Proposal writing
Sales quoting
Data analysis
New business analysis
Planning Planning, track
ing, and
controlling pro
other activities
Software integration
Project management
Metric tracking
Employee orientation
tion Provide specific exper-
tise to assist customers
Tool design
Software development
Supplier selection
Logistic support
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
Table 2. Summary of results by service type
Service Type (No.) Internal
Only External
Only Internal &
External Average #
Functions Median #
Troubleshooting (26)
38% 46% 16% 4.6 10.0 85%
Gathering (21) 86% 10% 4% 4.5 10.0 100%
Evaluation (38) 79% 13% 8% 4.8 16.0 100%
Analysis (20) 70% 20% 10% 5.9 14.0 100%
Planning (40) 65% 20% 15% 5.3 20.0 83%
Consultation (23) 56% 30% 14% 5.0 8.0 83%
Overall (168) 66% 23% 11% 5.0 12.0 91%
5. Analysis & Results
Table 2 lists, by type, the percentage of services with
primarily internal customers, the percentage of services
with primarily external customers, the percentage of ser-
vices for both internal and external customers, the aver-
age number of organizational functions (e.g., internal
departments) directly involved with the delivery of the
service, the median number of employees directly in-
volved in the delivery of the service, and the percentage
of services whose transformations were informational.
For the results reported in this section, details on the sta-
tistical routines are included in the Appendix.
5.1 Most Services Served Internal Customers
Table 2 shows that about two-thirds of services had only
internal customers and less than one-fourth of the ser-
vices had only external customers. The prevalence of
services for internal customers was relatively high for all
service types, but there was a significant difference in
their prevalence across service types (p=0.005). Specifi-
cally, the prevalence of services for internal customers
was lower for troubleshooting services. With this cate-
gory removed, no difference was evident across the ser-
vice types in the prevalence of services for internal cus-
tomers (p=0.169).
5.2 Services Consist of Inter-Departmental Proc-
ess Flows
Table 2 shows that the number of functions (i.e., depart-
ments) involved directly with delivering the service av-
eraged 5.0 functions. And, there was no significant dif-
ference in the number of functions across service types
(p=0.684). Similarly, the median number of employees
directly involved with delivering the service was 12.0,
and there was no significantly difference in the number of
employees across service types (p=0.745). Figure 1 pro-
vides the distribution of the number of functions that par-
ticipate in delivering each service. It appears to be very
likely that a service process will cross more than a few
departmental lines within an enterprise.
5.3 Information Transformations were Dominant
Table 2 shows that a predominance of informational
transformations took place, although some variation ex-
isted across service types (p=0.012). The gathering,
evaluation, and analysis service types all consisted exclu-
sively of services that provide information. But, well over
80% of services classified as troubleshooting, planning,
and consultation also consisted of informational trans-
formations. Examples of cases where information was
not the main transformation included the coordination of
part’s receipt from vendors, the repair of a mechanical
device, and the dispensing of drugs by a pharmacy. In all
of these services, however, information was an important
secondary output that needs to be managed effectively.
5.4 Services for Internal Customers are Similar
to Services for External Customers
Table 3 shows that, when comparing services meant for
internal customers with those meant for external custom-
ers, no differences were found in three key characteristics.
First, there was no difference in the number of functions
involved in service delivery (p=0.470). Second, there was
no difference in the number of employees involved in
service delivery (p=0.653). And third, there was no dif-
ference in the prevalence of information related services
Number of Functions
Figure 1. Distribution for number of functions delivering
a service
Table 3. Summary of results by customer
Customer (No.)
Average #
Median #
Internal (111) 5.2 14.0 93%
External (38) 4.6 10.0 87%
Both (19) 4.7 12.0 89%
Overall (168) 5.0 12.0 91%
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
5.5 Manufacturing and Service Enterprises Pro-
vide Similar Services
When comparing services found in manufacturing enter-
prises with those found in service enterprises, the mix of
service types was similar (p=0.663). Table 4 shows that
no differences were evident in four key characteristics.
First, there was no difference in the mix of customers
(p=0.258). Second, there was no difference in the number
of functions involved in service delivery (p=0.124). Third,
there was no difference in the number of employees in-
volved in service delivery (p=0.344). And fourth, there
was no difference in the prevalence of information re-
lated services (p=0.692).
5.6 Large Enterprises and SME’s Provide Ser-
vices with Some Differences
When comparing services found in large enterprises with
those found in a SME, the mix of service types within the
enterprises was similar (p=0.167). Table 5 shows that
services found within large enterprises were more likely
to have primarily internal customers (p=0.003). But,
when comparing services in a large enterprise to services
in a SME, no differences were evident in three other key
characteristics. First, there was no difference in the num-
ber of functions involved in service delivery (p=0.329).
Second, there was no difference in the number of em-
ployees involved in service delivery (p=0.228). And third,
there was no difference in the prevalence of information
related services (p=0.756).
The results of the analysis of enterprise size were re-
peated when analyzing data for the large corporation that
was disproportionately represented in the sample of ser-
vices, with one exception. This exception was that, within
this corporation, more employees were involved with the
delivery of a service (p=0.001). Specifically, the median
number of employees delivering the service was 40 ver-
sus a median of 10 for other organizations. This result
may be of interest, because the large corporation operates
with a rigorous “standard work” policy that could result
in tasks that were easily performed by more than a select
few individuals.
5.7 Services with Information Transformations
May be Similar to Other Services
Table 6 shows that, when comparing the many services
that consisted of an informational transformation with the
few services that consisted of another type of transforma-
tion, no differences were evident in the number of func-
tions involved in service delivery or in the number of
employees involved in service delivery. These results
should not be considered conclusive, because only 15 of
the services involving deliverables other than information.
6. Discussion
The study of services, and in particular the field of ser-
vice science, may have greater relevance than conven-
tional wisdom would dictate. For example, the results
detailed above have implications for managers of both
manufacturing and services enterprises because few
critical differences exist in services found within manu-
facturing and service enterprises. Perhaps Albrecht [30]
was correct in suggesting that the manufacturing-service
distinction is becoming blurred and that “the only real
distinction anymore is the relative proportion of tangible
and intangible value sold and delivered.” In addition,
services delivered to either internal or external customers,
as well as those found in any size organization, possess
more similarities than differences.
Table 4. Summary of results by enterprise focus
Enterprise Focus (No.)
Internal Only
External Only
Internal & External
Average #
Median #
Information Delivery
Manufacturing (87) 71% 17% 12% 5.3 14.5 92%
Services (71) 62% 28% 10% 4.7 10.0 90%
Overall (158) 66% 23% 11% 5.0 12.0 91%
Table 5. Summary of results by enterprise size
Enterprise Size (No.)
Internal Only
External Only
Internal & External
Average #
Median #
Information Delivery
Large (118) 74% 16% 10% 5.2 15.0 92%
Small/Medium (40) 48% 40% 12% 4.8 8.0 90%
Overall (158) 66% 23% 11% 5.0 12.0 91%
Table 6. Summary of results by transformation
Transformation (No.)
Internal Only
External Only
Internal & External
Average # Functions
Median # Employees
Informational (153) 67% 22% 11% 5.0 12.0
Other (15) 53% 33% 14% 4.8 5.0
Overall (168) 66% 23% 11% 5.0 12.0
Copyright © 2009 SciRes JSSM
The results also provide some insight into special or-
ganizationally-based challenges in service improvement
and service innovation. Given the average of 5 functions
per service process, it is likely that change efforts would
be hampered by ownership confusion, lack of commit-
ment, competing reward systems, and other organiza-
tional barriers. Further, an individual manager’s motiva-
tion to improve a service may be affected by the rela-
tively few employees within each department that take
part in the delivery of each service that flows through that
department (roughly 2 employees per department). Strong
leadership is necessary to overcome organizational barri-
ers and bring cross-functional teams together for im-
proving processes.
The predominance of information transformations in
all service types is an important aspect of service im-
provement and innovation. The importance of informa-
tion transformations in internal services has been noted
previously by Maleyeff [32]. He also offered suggestions
on the types of actions that managers should take, in-
cluding a recommendation to focus improvement efforts
on controlling the important information rather than the
physical manifestations of information (documents, blue-
prints, and other tangible forms of service output). The abil-
ity to understand and control information flow would ap-
pear to be an important skill for managers of any service.
7. Conclusions & Future Work
It would be a mistake to consider the applications within
service science to be limited to the service industry. Ser-
vice processes have similar characteristics, regardless of
whether they exist within manufacturing enterprises or
service enterprises, and regardless of whether or not the
customer is internal or external. Further, with the confir-
mation that service processes can be expected to flow
through more than a few departments within an enterprise,
perhaps the most important field within the multidisci-
plinary umbrella of service science is organizational be-
havior. It appears that service processes share a number
of common characteristics that should interest researchers
and practitioners in this field.
Many suggestions may be offered for extending this
research. An improved service classification scheme,
specifically designed to compliment service improvement
and innovation efforts, may be useful. A more thorough
and far reaching analysis of the specific value-added
tasks that make up service processes could lead to a bet-
ter understanding of how to modularize efforts at im-
provement and innovation. That is, perhaps researchers
can help find approaches to solve certain problems that
have universal rather than local application. It would also
be interesting to determine if the results found here would
be repeated within a more robust sample of services. Fi-
nally, studies of how customer satisfaction is affected by
service process characteristics would be helpful. For ex-
ample, for the large corporation that disproportionately
represented the sample studied in this research, does their
“standard work” policy translate to higher levels of satis-
faction compared with similar enterprises that allow for
more flexibility in service delivery?
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Basic statistical tools were incorporated using MINITAB
statistical software and the resulting p-value is included
in the discussion of results. A p-value represents the
probability that random chance alone would have pro-
duced the effects found in the data. Traditionally, when a
p-value is less than 0.05 (5%) the effect is said to be sta-
tistically significant.
For analyses to determine if a certain characteristic
(e.g., enterprise size, service type) affected the number of
functions involved directly in delivering the service, a
one-way ANOVA was used. In all of the cases analyzed
and reported in this article, homogeneity was confirmed
and the resulting residuals were found to be normally
distributed with a common variance. A transformation to
the natural log of the number of functions was necessary
to ensure normality of residuals.
Mood’s median test was used for analyses to determine
if a certain characteristic (e.g., enterprise size, service
type) affected the number of employees involved directly
in delivering the service (a one-way ANOVA was not
used because the distribution of the number of employees
was highly skewed and a few outliers existed). For
analyses to determine if a certain characteristic (e.g., enter-
prise size, service type) affected a binary variable (e.g.,
internal or external customer, informational or not informa-
tional), a two-sample hypothesis test for proportions was
used. Chi-square hypothesis tests were used for analyses to
determine if differences in the service types affected a cer-
tain binary variable (e.g., prevalence of internal customers,
prevalence of informational transformations).
(Edited by Vivian and Ann)