Leveraging the power of three

Sourav Sengupta, an avid musician and researcher, loves the number three.

While playing the tabla, his favourite taal is ‘Rupak’, which is divided into three parts.

And, as a research scholar with the IITB-Monash Research Academy, Sourav has chosen to study the Service Triad—the tripartite relationship between client, service provider, and customer.

These days, most organisations outsource their customer services to a third party service provider. “The relationships between the client, service provider, and customer,” explains Sourav, “often exhibit tension. The complexities that arise out of the interdependence, the conflicts of interest, and the information asymmetries among the three entities, make effective risk management strategies in service triads critical for success.”

Established in 2008, IITB-Monash Research Academy is an important collaboration between Australia and India. It offers graduate research scholars like Sourav the opportunity to study for a dually-badged PhD from both IIT Bombay in India and Monash University in Australia, spending time in both countries over the course of their research.

The services sector has become extremely important for economies around the world, both in developed and developing countries, with over 60 per cent of trade in the world being accounted for by this sector. And this is only set to grow. However, the substantial growth of this sector over the years has opened up various concerns and questions. These require an approach with a strong inter-disciplinary focus—as they have implications for the success of service organisations, the well-being of society, and the quality of livelihood around the world.

Says Sourav, “Dyad level studies (such as studies on client-provider relationships) are insufficient to capture the dynamics of relationships in triads (such as client-provider-customer/client-provider-provider relationships) or networks that exist in reality. A triad is the smallest unit of a network arrangement that indicates how a node affects another node, and a link affects another link. By contrast, a dyad only indicates how a node affects another node, and not how a link affects another link. In a service triad, for example, the link between the provider and the customer affects the link between the client and its customer or/and the client and its provider. Outsourcing-related risks have been studied in client-provider dyads, but they are not translatable to service triads, where the provider directly services the customers on behalf of the client organisation. This makes the study of triads exciting and challenging.”

The services sector is not in as advanced a stage of quality and performance management as manufacturing. The reason is simple—manufacturing firms can achieve superior performance through effective supply chain management (SCM) practices, while the service industry requires specific service management tools and approaches in order to optimise efficiency.

There is a paucity of research on the risks, stability and performance issues specific to triads that would support managerial decision-making and reduce service failure, especially in the Indian context, where the economic growth largely depends on the services sector, says Sourav. His research project, under the supervision of Prof TT Niranjan and Prof Mohan Krishnamoorthy, investigates the roots of such service failures and seeks to develop and uses management theories to strategise effective risk management mechanisms.

Says Prof Murali Sastry, CEO, IITB-Monash Research Academy, “Service triads will form a very critical part of India’s future. With approximately 65 per cent of the population under the age of 35, India is eying to become the ‘world’s human resource capital’. There is, therefore, a large scope for Indian workers and organisations to service the customers from the US and other economies who are looking for more and more contingent employees and third party firms to meet their requirement.”

Among other things, Sourav plans to develop a client-centric risk based taxonomy of service triads, which will help managers assess the different triad configurations and identify and mitigate the associated risks.

Three cheers to that!

Research scholar: Sourav Sengupta, IITB-Monash Research Academy

Project title: A Study of Service Triads

Supervisors: Prof T.T. Niranjan (IIT) and Prof Mohan Krishnamoorthy (Monash)

Contact details: sengupta.sourav@iitb.ac.in

This story was written by Mr Krishna Warrier based on inputs from the research student, his supervisors and IITB-Monash Research Academy. Copyright IITB-Monash Research Academy.