Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Developing service standards, part of Managing a Customer Service Team.
- Many companies create service standards to guide their employees. These standards promote consistency when interacting with customers, help define quality customer service and they provide well-documented guidance that makes it easier to train employees. Creating effective standards can be tricky. If you're not careful, they can actually lead to poor service. One way this can happen is when there are too many standards. Let's look at an example from a bank. Here's a list of service standards their bank tellers are expected to follow on every transaction.
As you can see, this particular bank has 15 customer service standards. Customer service employees typically have to meet each standard or they might receive a poor customer service evaluation. That's a daunting task, where there are so many required steps for what's typically a short transaction. And this isn't that uncommon. I've seen companies that have more than 30 standards for their employees to follow. Employees might appear robotic as they try to remember all of the standards they are supposed to meet. Service standards can also create negative situations if they're too inflexible and employees aren't able to adapt to a customer's specific needs.
My local grocery store used to require cashiers to offer carryout assistance on every purchase. One day, I bought a pack of gum. The cashier dutifully asked, "Would you like help out with that?" It was an awkward situation, but I learned that the cashier could have gotten into trouble if she had failed to offer carryout assistance while a mystery shopper or her supervisor was watching. So if we need to have some standards, but having too many standards is bad, how do you find a happy medium? I have a few suggestions for you.
First, create broad guidelines rather than strict standards. This gives employees flexibility within a standard framework to adapt to each customer's unique needs. Next, make sure your customer service guidelines align with your company's brand. It may help to get your marketing department involved for this one. Finally, consider how each guideline impacts your customers. Some ideas sound good in theory, but don't work well when you put them into practice. Let's go back to the bank teller example I showed you earlier.
How could the bank transform their rigid list of 15 standards into flexible guidelines that would result in better service? Here's one example, the bank might do well with just three guidelines. First, make customers feel welcome. This covers appropriate greetings and body language, but it's also flexible enough to allow a teller to adapt their style to a first timer or to a longtime customer who they know on a first-name basis. Second, efficiently serve customer needs. This includes everything from what customers need and helping them as quickly as possible.
It might also cover opportunities to suggest faster alternatives, such as the bank's new mobile banking app. That brings us to the third guideline, look for additional opportunities to serve. This might include upselling to a customer who could earn more interest on their balance or taking a moment to explain an item on a customer's statement. Now it's time for you to try it out. You can use this video to help you create customer service standards for your team or evaluate the standards you already have. Keep in mind that great standards provide your employees with flexibility within a clear framework.
- Clearly defining outstanding service for employees
- Evaluating service quality
- Identifying obstacles to outstanding service
- Aligning resources to optimize service delivery
- Calculating the cost of poor service