Explore the customer service process, or system of causes, and understand the many components that are part of it. See why much of the leverage in quality improvement is at the process level, and identify examples of working systemwide—for example, through training, tools, information management, and more.
- Customer service involves many variables and components that can leave you wondering where do quality standards fit? Should they be part of an overall quality improvement effort? Customer service is a process operating within a larger process that's the organization. Let's look at what that means for quality standards. In quality terminology, a process is a system of causes, so customer service is a process that involves many variables including customers, employees, systems, policies, staffing, channels, and others.
There's this whole layer of variables underneath each. For customers, there's channel preference, their knowledge, their communication ability, expectations, even their mood's a factor. So, customer service is part of an organization and expansive system of causes, and any specific function within customers service, let's say dialogue with customers in a social channel for a manufacturing company, or handling international tickets for an airline, any of those specific processes are systems of causes that are part of customer service and each interaction comprises a system of causes.
In fact, any one part of an interaction, just entering data, it's a small part of things, that's a process, it involves a system, person, a methodology. Now, consider any aspect of customer service you want to improve, let's say handling service issues correctly the first time so that there's no unnecessary additional work. All these variables have an impact, they're all interrelated. That highlights a principle at the heart of the quality movement. There's little use exhorting employees to improve quality without making improvements to the process they're a part of.
Many of the things that contribute to quality are beyond their direct control. Some managers try to force change by setting strict objectives for individuals. For example, resolve 85% of the issues you handle on first attempt. That's a good intention, but that's not going to improve the underlying processes. In fact, if I'm one of your employees, I might want to transfer more complex issues elsewhere, you know, send them elsewhere so I can comply with this objective, the hot potato scenario.
At the individual level, a better supporting standard would be focused on doing anything I can to help any customer that comes my way. Doing my part might make my stats look less favorable in terms of how many customers I'm serving or how long it takes on average, but I'm contributing to our overall objective. So, you'll want to make sure that individual behaviors support the standards you established for your operation. Another principle of work here is that quality standards are not the same thing as process improvement.
The classic management approach to continuous improvement, you've probably seen it and used it, is Plan, Do, Check, Act, the model popularized by the late Dr. W. Edwards Deming. This cycle involves recognizing improvement opportunities and planning a change, carrying out a small-scale change and testing it, analyzing results, and then taking action. For example, fully implementing the change. So, if the change is successful, you want to incorporate what you've learned into the overall operation.
That may often include establishing or revising a quality standard. So, effective standards are one of the important outcomes of process improvement. Also, as you assess how well you meet your standards, you'll see gaps, so quality standards can be an important tool in the first step of the Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle where you're identifying improvement opportunities. Here's my recommendation, don't view quality standards as a replacement for quality and process improvement, view them as an important part of that effort.
Quality standards ensure your organization delivers consistent high-quality service that reflect your customers' expectations. And if there are others involved in quality management, look for ways to partner with them and work together. Ensure that you're maximizing these opportunities.
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