Identify potential standards right for your service operation, through the lens of seven aspects of customer service. Hear example standards and supporting metrics in each of the seven categories, and see the impact quality standards can have on strategic value.
- Establishing the right quality standards for your service operation is vital. They enable you to focus on what's important to your customers and they help you gauge the effectiveness of the service operation itself. But, how do you determine where to set standards? What kinds of things should they cover? Here's a proven framework for determining where to establish quality standards. And here, I'm referring to quality standards for the operation as a whole, not for individuals. There are seven key aspects of customer service at the operational level that build on each other and provide insight into where standards should have impact.
They're ordered from the most tactical to the most strategic, and I'll summarize them in that order here. The first is anticipating customer workload. If you don't have an accurate prediction of how many customers you'll be serving and what kind of work that represents, it's going to be very difficult to deliver high-quality service. That's true for any kind of operation. From a small grocery store to a large multi-site contact center. So, the standard for the service operation would be an accurate workload forecast down to the hour interval, maybe even tighter, because workload varies in customer service.
An example of a supporting metric would be tracking the variance of forecast to actual. How well are you actually meeting that standard? The standard should be as specific as necessary to be concrete. For example, a larger organization might specify our forecast will be accurate within, plus or minus, 5% of actual workload, 90% of the time. The next key aspect of customer service is resource planning and management. You've anticipated the workload, now it's important to anticipate the staff, technology, and other resources required to handle it.
The principle's simple. You know that on Saturday evenings, your restaurant requires a head chef, a sous chef, three cooks, and a dozen waiters. If you're short in the kitchen, or you're down waiters, customers will wait, and mistakes for getting that extra dressing are more likely. So, the standard would be the right resources, staff, technology, and other, in the right places at the right times. A supporting metric would be the variance of actual, to planned, schedules.
A resort rental shop for bikes and skis was creating unhappy customers and losing business recently by not accurately staffing for fluctuations around holidays and weekends. That's when their customers were there. That's when the demand was. Standards on predicting workload, and matching it with the right resources, has made all the difference. The next aspect of customer service is managing wait times, or service levels use the term in some environments. This is really just an outcome of the first two aspects of customer service.
Predicting workloads and getting the right resources in place at the right times to handle them. A good way to think about this standard is how accessible your operation is to serve your customers. Supporting metrics can provide actual wait times. Next is the quality of interactions, and this is what most of us think of when we're thinking of customer service. What actually happens at the point of service delivery. This is where you can build relationships, and where your brand can really shine through.
It's also where you ensure you're accomplishing what needs to happen internally, such as capture and acquire information data, is actually happening. Most of the quality standards you establish for individuals will happen here. At the operational level, the standard is customers receive service that meets, or exceeds, their expectations. The supporting metrics can be both internal quality scores and customer input from surveys. Next is employee engagement.
I've observed in many organizations that when they have a good handle on workload, when their matching that with the right resources, when customers can access the service they need, and when high-quality service is happening interaction by interaction, the environment works. It's fun. And that's usually reflected in employee engagement. By engagement, I mean the degree to which your employees are committed to your mission and the work that they do. Studies resoundingly show that engaged employees provide better service.
The standard is, employees are engaged and committed to their work. And we can measure that through engagement surveys and scores, and in things like turnover. A common measurement approach is Gallup's Employee Engagement Survey, and the resource guide provides more information. The next category is customer satisfaction and loyalty. You want customers to be happy with individual interactions, but that's not all. You want loyal customers who are ambassadors for your brand. They trust your organization.
They like your service. They come back and they recommend your brand to others. The supporting metric can be a net promoter score, customer effort score, or similar. You can also measure repeat business, market share, and other aspects of loyalty. Finally, a high leverage, high value aspect of customer service, is strategic value. The contribution your service operation makes to the broader organization. Every day, customer-facing services have visibility on the organization's products, services, and processes.
The standard is, insight and data produced in delivering customer service, is shared with, and used by, the broader organization. Supporting metrics are samples of innovations and improvements that come from this effort. By way of example, Intuit has built accounting software packages around the needs of specific types of businesses based on what they learn from customers and supporting their needs. Amazon views customer service as research and development.
They use insight from customer service in building, and improving, their self-service platform. This is an ongoing initiative. These seven aspects of customer service at the operational level, are a great starting place for establishing quality standards for the service operation. There's a worksheet in the exercise files that provides a place for you to identify standards and supporting metrics for your environment. I often find that two or three aspects of customer service are missing in quality standards.
So, for many organizations, ensuring that all seven areas are represented, is a significant opportunity.
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.
- Defining quality
- Ensuring standards count
- Measuring individual performance
- Coaching customer service professionals
- Creating quality standards for the service organization