Remember the Sears Catalogue? I fondly recall flipping through the toy section of the Christmas catalogue (which came in the summer!) and dropping hints to my parents in the form of dog eared pages and circles drawn in felt markers around the items I wanted. Nowadays I suppose kids Snapchat their parents with links to Amazon.com… Their parents probably don’t get the snaps because … what is Snapchat?
Service catalogues let clients and customers know what their service options are and may also include the costs of those services. They are not common in universities and colleges, although one could argue that the academic calendar (or catalog for my American readers) may be a form of a service catalogue. My office has gone through some recent experiences that have led me to create a service catalogue for the Registrar’s Office. We have entered into a couple of new agreements with organizations which could make use of our services. It turns out we can include them in what we already do with a relatively minor cost through our economies of scale, but in the negotiation process they needed to know what we could do for them. A service catalogue which would make this clear seemed to be a good idea.
Of course, when negotiating about service provision it comes down to the details. Also of course, money is always the biggest “detail.” What services will we provide at what cost? How do we factor the costs for some of our work? Why do we want to do this?
In the process of creating a service catalogue, we kept the following points in the forefront.
- We believe in the principle of transparency of process. This means the client should be able to look at what we do and make a good, informed choice based on what is visible.
- We believe in being accountable for what we do.
- We believe that the concept of a service catalogue can remind our senior leaders and clients of the ways in which we provide valuable services to the university in general, to students, to ancillary services and to clients, vendors and other third parties.
- We are non-profit.
Service catalogues work best when they itemize bounded services, but become less useful when we are talking about services that overlap or have fuzzy edges. They can undermine the concepts of quid pro quo and good will when the services are set up to feel contractual. However, good leadership and solid management that believes relationships must be based on trust can help establish strong levels of service and assist in the inevitable negotiations for the fuzzy services (by fuzzy, I am not referring to dirty deeds done dirt cheap – I mean the slightly unclear lengths to which we will go to provide a service such as course registration).
Do you have a service catalogue?