Learn the two types of quality standards for individuals, including foundation (criteria that can be determined by yes/no) and finesse (criteria that are best gauged by a scale). Identify when and how to use each.
- A proven way to consider quality standards for individuals is to categorize them as either foundation or finesse. Foundation standards measure whether something was done and can be assessed with a simple yes or no. For example, the customer service representative verifies required information, enters data correctly, codes the contact correctly. Foundation standards are objective, consistent, and accomplished the same way by every person. Finesse standards measure how something was done, they're more subjective and are typically measured on a three or five point scale.
They allow for style and individuality, and provide room for interpretation. For example, the customer service representative listens carefully. He or she effectively probes for relevant input, and so forth. Think of high diving or figure skating in the Olympics, finesse standards should provide clear guidance on what's expected, but performance happens in degrees. We recommend having a mix of foundation and finesse criteria. I wouldn't worry too much about the ratio, it could be 60/40, or 70/30, or half and half.
The breakdown will vary, and depends on the specifics of your environment and what you want to see replicated across interactions. We also suggest you begin building your suite of standards by first identifying those things that are foundation. What can be assessed by a yes or no? Think of piloting an aircraft as a parallel here. While flying might seem to be a matter of finesse, it's largely based on foundation criteria. Are you at the right air speed? The right altitude? The right radio frequency, or going through the right approach protocol to ensure the landing gear are down? When you identify those things that have to happen when delivering service to your customers, many will fall into this category.
Consistency improves very quickly when you focus on getting foundation criteria in place. Almost all matters of compliance, the steps related to legal requirements, for example, will fall under this designation. Did you verify the customer's identity and so forth? Identify foundation requirements first. Finesse requirements are just as important, particularly in building customer relationships. This is where much of the personality of your brand can shine through. Finesse is where you can really differentiate.
Finesse standards should be backed up by detailed descriptions of the service characteristics you're looking for. They should also be supported by training, coaching, and ongoing calibration to ensure everyone understands the standards the same way, and delivers the same essential components of service consistently. If you're stumped on whether a standard is foundation or finesse, there are some services you can gauge both ways. Southwest Airlines flight attendants cover required information and safety announcements, but they'll often add a humorous twist.
We're about to go over the safety features of this plane, now listen up, there's going to be a quiz; and it gets everybody's attention, makes it fun, and the foundation standard is actually that much more effective. In these cases, it's fine to characterize and measure the same service both ways. The real key is that you have foundation and finesse standards that reflect your brand.
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