When travelling, you know that if you pop in at McDonald’s in New York, the food is going to taste the same as it does in Melbourne. How come? Because of customer service standards.
Without standards, a company will not achieve consistency in their service delivery (think McDonald’s burgers). All of Australia’s top companies have put customer service standards in place, because they know their brand reputation depends on consistently high service experiences. And so does yours.
What Are Customer Service Standards?
Every company needs customer service standards as a guideline on how to do things so that as far as possible, every customer receives the same quality of service. Creating standards ensures consistency because it acts as a guide for employees to follow, in order to achieve the company’s goals.
Standards also form the basis for measuring the performance of the company and its employees. They set a target for companies to meet customer needs through its employees, systems and technology.
In short, documented standards:
- Establish a guide for employees to follow
- Give a clear sense of direction
- Act as a way to measure success.
Avoid developing too many standards, or making them too “tight”, as this can restrict the customer journey because it disempowers employees to make on-the-spot choices that benefit customers.
Steps to Developing and Documenting Service Standards
Step 1: Start With The Most Urgent Processes
Customer service standards can’t be built in a day, so it’s recommended that you start with the areas that would see immediate benefits from implementing standards.
Step 2: Analyse Things As They Are
Before beginning to set up customer service standards, analyse the process as it currently stands. To get input, you may want to consult with employees, management and most importantly, customers.
Extract feedback via:
- Incentivised surveys
- Phone calls
- Suggestion boxes
- Web forms
- Usability tests
- Social listening
After this step, areas that need improvement should begin showing up, and once that happens, you are armed with valuable information to drive a brainstorm session with your team.
Step 3: Set Up a Team Brainstorm Session
Now that you know which processes to start with, and have gathered reliable feedback, set up a brainstorm session with your team who can provide useful input. Start with inviting people who work on the front line, because these are the staff that can offer greater insight, as they know best about what really goes on. Don't overlook your back of house, however. Learn why chefs can no longer turn their back on customer service due to the climate of the industry.
Step 4: At the Brainstorm Session
First consider the brand’s mission, vision and values; the service standards must support those three things, so that it works towards achieving the company’s overall goals.
Put the mission, vision and values in a prominent position for reference purposes. Then clearly display the process that you want to create standards for, and aim towards developing a document with a distinct format.
Customer service standards must be SMART:
Step 5: Get Buy-In
It’s important to get buy-in for any change from all relevant people in the company, otherwise it will be harder driving compliance for any new standards. If you held a brainstorming session with all the relevant parties, that would be the first step to getting buy-in, as people feel involved and as if their contribution matters.
A tip to getting further buy-in is to send a draft of the proposed standards to all relevant parties, asking them to check it, make changes or add to it. The key is to make people feel involved and that their contributions count.
Step 6: Drive Communication and Awareness
Once the document has been finalised, distribute it to all relevant parties, highlighting any changes to the current process. Ensure any changes are adhered to (typically done with the use of employee key performance areas). If necessary, create a campaign for awareness.
Step 7: Make it Accessible to Everyone
There’s no point in going to the trouble of setting up customer service standards if they are not easily accessible to everyone involved. Put the standards on your intranet (if you have one) or somewhere easily accessible and be sure to communicate to everyone where they can be found.
Step 8: Add it to the Induction Program
One of the key benefits to developing customer service standards is that it can be included in Induction Programs for when new hires come onboard.
Step 9: Monitor it For Continual improvement
The one thing we can always be certain of is change. Keep a close check on the process to identify when the standards may need adjustment.
Customer service standards are an essential consideration for any hospitality business, but without great staff to implement them, they’re simply ideas. To discover how BENCHMARQUE can drive the success of your hospitality business with top-quality employees, download our HR Services Fact Sheet below:
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