Standards for Services

Israeli innovations include standards for telephone billing and for mass events

Published in ISO Management System, February 2006 by Vered Oren- Spokesperson & Head, Public Relations Unit at SII
Innovatory service standards developed by the Standards Institution of Israel (SII – www.sii.org.il) include ones to make telephone billing transparent and to ensure the safety of mass public events such as concerts. This overview also looks at the positive results achieved by local authorities from implementing ISO 9001:2000.
Until recently, it was clear that a product is a pre-defined object that can therefore be standardized before delivery to the customer. In addition, the more control systems are applied to the product before it is delivered to the customer, the better the product will be.
This led to a situation where if the customer is consulted, his or her needs can be ascertained and incorporated during the design process. Manufacturing by modern means, including process control, achieves a perfected product that meets the needs of the customer and reaches him or her on time. Even if a product is defective or breaks, it is always possible to return or repair it.
In marketing terms, a product is anything that can be offered to a market to satisfy a tangible want or need.
Services are a different matter altogether. According to one definition, they consist of “the activities provided by a person or company to another person or company that are intangible and do not relate to a physical product . . . services have several defining characteristics that distinguish them from products: intangibility, the buyer cannot see the service before it is rendered…” (The Marketing Glossary, ISBN 0971943427, by Mark N. Clemente).
Service is essentially the processes of manufacturing and sales combined. It is performed immediately – on the spot: If it is poorly provided, one can only apologize and provide it anew.
Take, for example, telephone service or a restaurant. If the customer receives discourteous treatment, it is likely the customer will seek another provider. It may be impossible to correct the damage immediately.
In recent years, the world has seen major changes. The rapid pace of life has blurred the distinction between products and services. Today, a service must be seen as a product that is manufactured via special processes – processes whose result, because it cannot be physically examined, needs to incorporate much better manufacturing controls.
A service is innately characterized by the impossibility of testing it before delivery and so service providers must be well trained and solutions created that guarantee successful service.
What happens when a product and a service come together? If in the past we made do with standards for products, today we more and more need standards for services. If for example we make a visit to an amusement park, we will meet up with a carousel, a Ferris wheel and other rides (to which product standards apply). Yet the credit card purchase of entry tickets through the Internet also exposes us to standards of service.
Recent years have made us regard service processes as a product in itself. The emphasis has moved from the product to the service, and the competition is for better service.
The developed countries, including Israel, have begun shifting in recent years from manufacturing to services. Israel, a small and young country, has a modern and developed economy, but has few natural resources. As in other Western countries, much local manufacturing has been replaced by cheap imports from the Far East, leading to significant growth among Israeli organizations that provide services.
Telephone bîlling
At the beginning of December 2005, customers of Orange, one of the large Israeli cellular telephone service providers, received a letter with their monthly statement. The letter, entitled “Explanation of Customer Statement,” describes to customers that the monthly statement will now be clearer, easier to read and more customer friendly.
It states: “As an additional step in our daily efforts to improve the products and services we offer to you and to make them more efficient, we have made changes in the monthly statement to better reflect your needs while maintaining simplicity and clarity.”
This appeal to cellular customers follows a new requirement – effective as of January 2006 – of the Israeli Ministry of Communications. It requires all communications providers to meet the requirements of the new Israel Standard 5262 – Truth in Billing and Proper Disclosure in Telephone Statements.
The new standard sets a benchmark for preparing telephone statements that detail products and services which the communications companies provide. This benchmark ensures that full, accurate and truthful information will be provided on telephone statements. This information will help customers understand all details and data on the statements they receive in order to make informed decisions about their consumption of communication services.

The new standard guarantees that customer statements will apply the following principles:

  • Clarity – the statement will be formatted such that every section will be understood by the customer.
  • Transparency – The statement will be detailed and will include all information relevant to each section.
  • Accuracy and reliability – The statement will be accurate and without errors, and will be based on measuring, monitoring and recording systems that are highly accurate and reliable.

The standard also provides guidelines for contents:
  • The statement will include the customer’s identifying details, the name of the product being charged, consumption quantity, rate, cost of service, details of service broken down into its components.
  • The back of the statement will clearly note the address and telephone number of the company’s customer service department and all other means of communications, including Internet site and e-mail address, through which it is possible to gain further details about the statement.

In a random Internet search I undertook a few weeks ago, I discovered a number of Israeli companies that specialize in checking the accuracy of telephone bills. The companies offered their services primarily to large and medium-sized businesses that have many telephone lines.
These service providers contact the larger companies, offering to help them understand their telephone statements which in the past they have paid without having been able to verify that they had in fact consumed the telephone companies’ services in the quantities for which they had been charged.
The new Israel Standard for telephone billing is expected to significantly improve the awareness of the consumption of the services of Israel’s telecommunications companies.
Mass events
Another standard, now in its final pre-publication stages, is a standard for mass events.
In the summer of 1995, an annual rock music festival took place in Arad, in southern Israel. Thousands of youths arrived in Arad wanting to see and listen to Israel’s best rock music groups. After all the tickets had been sold, the festival’s organizers permitted hundreds of additional youths to enter the very crowded festival grounds.
When the dust settled, three youths had paid with their lives and tens of others had been injured. The festival will forever be ingrained in the memories of anybody who was involved in the event as a tragedy that could have been averted had there been standards for mass events.
The new standard, SI 5688, Safety at Mass Events, defines detailed requirements. The standard is aimed both at the event manager and at those with other roles and relates to matters of health and safety responsibility at events. It has three levels:
Upper level
This includes a system to manage event safety based on an existing standard (SI 18001 – Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems Specification) adapted to the special characteristics of one-time events. Among its detailed aspects are the following:
  • setting of an event’s capacity,
  • full registration of all sites at which mass events are held,
  • setting the event’s limits in terms of place and time, expected numbers of participants,
  • examination of the existence and validity of required permits according to laws and regulations (police, firefighting and others),
  • official designation of those people tasked with safety matters, such as first aid providers,
  • checking of dangerous elements such as buried pipes,
  • a survey of hazards at the site,
  • emergency situation plans,
  • post-event improvement processes, and more.

Middle layer
This includes details of all relevant, specific safety aspects for mass events, and of the existing laws, regulations, standards and requirements with respect to each of them. Among its detailed aspects are the following:
  • fire hazards and prevention of conflagrations,
  • erection of stages and fences,
  • safety of electrical installations,
  • lighting, fireworks, projection screens, emergency exits and more.


Lower level

This calls up all standards for every relevant and specific aspect of safety for mass events.
The standard is meant to serve organizations interested in staging mass events by eliminating non-essential risks and by reducing to the lowest degree possible all remaining dangers to which people taking part in the event, or who are in its vicinity, are exposed. These include direct participants, viewers, contractors, service providers and their employees, and passers.by.
In order to present a complete framework that includes all aspects of mass event safety, an appendix to the standard contains recommendations for other areas of mass event safety, including, among others, requirements of firefighting authorities for fire safety, requirements of the Ministry of Health for food safety per Ministry of Health, and law enforcement requirements for crowd safety.
Quality management and services
Until about a decade ago, when we reviewed the mix of organizations certified by the Standards Institution of Israel (SII) as meeting the ISO 9000 standards for quality management Systems, we found that most of our customers were from industry and manufacturing. Today, some 60 % of our ISO 9001:2000 certifications are service providers
Service organizations have undergone a real revolution in the last few years and their number continues to grow. If we take, for example, the cellular telephone company we discussed earlier and check its Internet site, we will see a real change.
A few years ago, we would have seen on the site’s home page photos of products such as telephones, while today we see the company’s declaration of the great importance it places on quality.
In a quick search of the site, we discovered that the company has in recent years – 2002, 2003 and 2004 – won first place in the competition for customer service held by the Israel Institute of Management. Furthermore, in 2004 the company also won the prize for quality in industry. The company is deservedly proud of its achievements in the field of service.
ISO 9001 and local government
One of the striking examples of improvement in service as a result of applying quality management standards can be seen among Israel’s local authorities – the urban, town and regional councils that run local affairs throughout the country.
A citizen dissatisfied with the service he or she receives from the local authority cannot choose another service as the local authority has no competition. All the citizen can do is move to another area.
Israel’s local authorities are not obliged to be certified to quality management systems such as ISO 9001:2000. However, these local authorities saw the benefit of quality management standards in providing a benchmark by which to measure customer service improvements. Today, they operate as a “business” in all respects, continually improving their systems and processes.
Ra’anana, just north of Tel Aviv, is a small Israeli city that underwent a real revolution in the provision of services to its residents. The city is today certified to ISO 14001 and ISO 9001:2000. What motivates a city to adopt these standards?
Ra’anana’s mayor wants to be chosen over and over again in the municipal elections and he wants to show that he is doing something to warrant the support of the electors. Therefore, it is particularly noteworthy, that in the last round of Israeli municipal elections, all mayors and heads of local councils certified to ISO 9001:2000 were re-elected. Is there a connection? It seems there is.
A few years ago, Israel decided to compensate mayors who succeeded in managing their cities in a quality manner and who also managed well the public funds entrusted to them. This year, Ra’anana won a large cash prize. There are those who attribute this to the city’s adoption of ISO 9001:2000.
Transparency
One of the striking features that comes to the fore when local authorities adopt quality standards is transparency. Public bodies must work hard to define and characterize processes and to make them available to residents – so that residents have the tools by which to measure the authority.
Ra’anana, for example, permits its residents to measure it on every subject dealt with by its call center: How often is trash collected? How quickly does the city attend to a dead animal in the street once it has been alerted? How quickly does it change a spent bulb in the city street lighting? When are tree prunings removed? And more!
Quality management systems in the local authorities permit the local council to examine recurring faults. If, for example, a street light’s bulb was changed on a given day, and after a few days the light is again not working, an analysis can be made to ascertain the nature of the problem.
A publicly available report is prepared for every fault. Satisfaction surveys are undertaken regularly among residents, constituting a wonderful benchmark for dealing with complaints.
In our technological age, municipal authorities have many opportunities to shorten bureaucratic processes. For example, at many authorities today it is possible to register children for school, to pay municipal taxes and enjoy other services through the Internet.
Preventive actions
Mosquitoes are a difficult problem during Israel’s long summer. Responsibility for their extermination lies with the local authorities. If in the past the authority acted every time it received a complaint from residents about mosquitoes in a certain area, today the authority systematically exterminate mosquitoes in those same areas before the residents call to complain. These preventive actions are one of the most important aspects incorporated into municipalities’ quality management standards.
Security of residents has also been upgraded with the adoption of quality management standards. The city examines and documents break-ins in the municipality. As a result, the city augments its security patrols in exactly those areas and times to reduce their occurrence.
Another example is seen in playground equipment. An Israeli Standard defines all child safety concerns with respect to playground equipment and to children using the playground. Local authorities must map all playgrounds and their equipment and prepare a service plan for them.
Every month they must undertake a visual inspection of the equipment and annually have it checked by a certified inspector. Municipalities applying quality management standards provide their residents with a better review and control system on these installations and prevent injuries and even tragedies as a result of the timely repair of defects and replacement of worn parts.
Some municipalities appeal to their residents and say: “Our annual budget is X and the projects that we suggest for the coming year are Y. Please provide your opinion on the projects and rank them according to their importance to you.”
A special example in the municipal sector is the South Sharon Regional Council. A regional council represents a number of types of settlement unique to Israel, which in the South Sharon jurisdiction include the semi-collective kibbutz, the moshav – a type of cooperative rural village – and what are known as “community settlements.”
The South Sharon Regional Council, attempting to find a common reference framework for dealing with all these types of settlement, all of which require the same municipal services, chose to adopt management processes conforming to ISO 9001:2000. Through these processes, the council succeeded in achieving a high level of management of the services it provides to its various customers.
For example, with the adoption of the standard, the council discovered that each of the types of settlement within its jurisdiction had a different kind of street lighting. Older street lighting required more frequent bulb changing while bulbs in the newer types lasted much longer. It also became clear that bulbs for the older systems cost quite a bit more than bulbs for the newer systems. This may sound like like a trivial matter, but is actually very relevant for a council that represents 32 separate communities.
Certification of processes
The Standards Institution of Israel has developed a number of certifications based on ISO Guide 67, Conformity assessment – fundamentals of product certification, for processes that are essentially services.
For example, Israel has a hot climate and a great number of its citizens have air conditioning. Over the years, the number of complaints about noise from air conditioners and about defective operation due to their improper installation has risen substantially.
Accordingly, Israel Standard 994 for the installation of air conditioners was prepared and through it SII certifies air conditioning installers.
A similar system is used with respect to sealing of roofs. Leaking roofs are a common problem during Israel’s winters because most roofs in the country are flat. The Standards Institution of Israel certifies contractors who specialize in sealing flat roofs per Israel Standard 1752. By engaging approved contractors to perform this kind of work, the Israeli consumer receives the best possible service.
Similar certifications exist in the areas of maintenance of fire detection and extinguishing systems, authorization for the installation of vehicle protection systems and more.
Service is essentially the processes of manufacturing and sales combined
The emphasis has moved from the product to the service
The developed countries have begun shifting from manufacturing to services
Today, some 60 % of our ISO 9001:2000 certifications are service providers
Israel’s local authorities need not be certified to QMS standards such as ISO 9001:2000
Local authorities saw the benefit of QM standards as a benchmark for customer service
All mayors and heads of local councils certified to ISO 9001:2000 were re-elected
Municipalities applying QM standards provide their residents with a better review and control system
SII has developed a number of certifications for processes that are essentially services