Learn how to define quality in customer service, and learn the role of quality standards. Identify the three major sources of input for establishing standards, including customer expectations; the organization’s mission, vision, and values; and stakeholders and the larger operating environment.
- What does quality mean in customer service? What are standards and where do they come from? Here, we'll explore these questions and make recommendations on how you can establish standards that are right for your customers and organization. We've probably all heard or used the term quality in a general sense. I need some quality sports headphones or their service team does a quality job every time. What we really mean is high quality or exceptional quality. Quality is simply the attributes of a product or service.
So to define what great quality means, we need a point of reference. That's where standards come in. Standards are for the requirements, the specifications, guidelines or characteristics established for customer service. They should reflect and provide guidance on what needs to happen, what we want to apply or replicate across all customer interactions. They should provide a template that leads to consistent service. There are three major sources of input for establishing quality standards.
One is customer expectations. With service, unlike manufacturing, there's no tangible product so there are many ways to approach quality in this context, but researchers and practitioners alike agree that customer expectations must form the basis for defining quality standards and customer service. Accordingly, we can define service quality as the customer's perception of how well our services meet his or her expectations. Both the services we deliver and the expectations we help to create are important aspects of quality.
A second source of input for establishing quality standards is the organization's mission, vision and values. Every organization in any industry, whether small or large, public or private, has a unique personality. That personality should be reflected in quality standards. The century-old financial services company, Northwestern Mutual, has built a brand of safety and stability. Formal effective professionalism matching this image is integral to their services.
Moo.com, a London-based print on demand company, encourages their team to, in their words, be passionate, lovely and ambitious. Their mantra is, we're not happy until you're happy and their quality standards lead to services that, like the company name, are more playful than those in many other firms. In both examples, quality standards create effective services that are right for these organizations' brands. The company's mission, vision, and values are not standards per se, they're generally not specific enough, but when direction values are inculcated into a culture, when they're reinforced at every level, they powerfully guide decisions and behavior.
They inform that the development of quality standards and make them far easier to implement. A third source of input the quality standards are stakeholders. Stakeholder refers broadly to anyone or any group that has an interest or concern in an organization. Employees, shareholders, suppliers, government, industry associations, and the broader community are all stakeholders. This source of input shapes many of the quality standards we need to establish are a way to do compliance.
Those things we have to get right. For example, various governmental agencies administer privacy and security regulations in finance, healthcare, and other sectors. These requirements must be built in the internal standards given the risks of noncompliance. In another example, evaluation sources in the travel sector, such as Michelin and Forbes, rate hotels typically up to five stars. The Forbes Travel Guide uses 800 standards as part of their assessment.
Many are very specific. For a five star rating for example, arriving guests must be greeted and provided assistance within 60 seconds, phone calls are not to be left on hold for longer than 30 seconds without offering a callback. Since ratings significantly influence a hotel's marketing and revenue, quality standards should reflect requirements aligned with the appropriate level of service. It's important to remember your agents are also stakeholders. They have incredible insight into what customers need and why because they spend time with them every day.
So the more involved they are in establishing quality standards, the better the standards will be and the greater the likelihood they'll buy into and support them. The fact that quality standards bring together and reflect input from all three of these sources; customer expectations, the organization's mission, vision and stakeholders. Your quality standards will be unique because they reflect your brand and your customers.
Watch and learn how to establish quality standards in customer service, and improve loyalty, revenue, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement. Brad Cleveland divides the lessons into three chapters, covering quality and customer service definitions, quality standards for individuals, and quality standards for the overall organization. Along the way, he shows how to implement a process, measure progress, and effectively coach employees.
- Recall three sources of input when developing quality standards.
- Recognize recommended practices used to set quality standards.
- Summarize three elements to keep in mind when developing standards for individuals.
- Determine the meaning of calibration.
- Identify the characteristics that define four aspects of customer service.
- Identify the most important factor observed in organizations with effective quality standards.