How customers are treated is often the difference between organizations that succeed and those that fail. Those organizations that define how their customers are to be treated are giving their employees standards that they can be held accountable for. Service Standards provide the behavioral template that leads to consistent service.
Service Standards are different from organizational values. Values are important and provide a moral compass for the organization, if enforced. For years, Johnson & Johnson was held in such high esteem because they seriously followed their Credo of values in making decisions and running their operations. Typical values found in most organizations include integrity, teamwork, diversity, respect for others, creativity and innovation. While these are important, they are not always measurable and clear in how they are to be performed.
Service Standards are different. They are the non-negotiables in how an employee is to interact with a customer. They help employees know what they are to do and how to behave.
For example, Ritz Carlton, well-known for its world-class customer service, identifies their Gold Standards of Service as:
1. A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest’s name.
2. Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
3. Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.
If employees are not given clear standards, they can make up their own or carry over those that they learned at a previous employment. The lack of clear service standards also increases the chance of inconsistent service. Each employee and every department will choose the level of service they wish to deliver. Have you not dealt with the organization that gives exceptional service in one department, only to receive a very different level of service, perhaps even poor service from another department within the same business? Without Service Standards, there is no seamless experience for the customer in the delivery of the exceptional service.
Research shows that employees who are highly valued and well-trained by their organizations provide a higher level of service to their customers. Therefore, Service Standards should be created to apply both to internal and external customers. For example, Walt Disney World, benchmarked by many organizations for their best practices in customer service, identifies their Service Standards as:
Safety is defined as watching out for their guests, taking precautions, always being aware of what’s going on. Courtesy is being aggressively friendly, smiling and looking happy. Show is recognizing you are “on stage” and staying in character; therefore, your costume and demeanor must always fit the “role” you were hired for. Efficiency is doing your work effectively, without waste, continuously looking for ways to improve.
These same standards can be applied internally between employees who are called “cast members”. As co-workers, Safety is paying attention backstage to ensure safe practices are followed. Being friendly and Courteous to fellow cast members, never saying “that’s not my job” and being helpful. Show is recognizing the work they do to keep the integrity of the setting, costuming and fantasy in tact. Finally, Efficiency applies in how they pass the work they each do onto the next person and complete the tasks they are responsible for.
The development of the Service Standards should be derived from the emotional connection that the organization is wanting to create with their customers. At Ritz-Carlton, they are looking to deliver on the service theme: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen”. At Walt Disney World, they are looking to deliver on the service theme: “We create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages everywhere”. The key is to identify the behaviors that if done consistently will bring that service theme to life. These standards should not change based on the day of the month, the busyness of the operation, the economy, or whatever other situation may come up. They are the same 365 days a year, 24/7.
As a guideline for developing your own Service Standards, keep in mind these three things:
1. Each standard should be unique from every other standard. For example, courtesy and friendliness are too similar. Accuracy and precision are to much the same. Similar standards don’t help employees make service decisions if you are also prioritizing the Service Standards for empowering employees to make decisions.
2. Each standard should be actionable and measurable.
3. The standards must focus on customer service. For example, many organizations want to make “teamwork” a standard. Teamwork is not a service standard, it is an important internal process or value for achieving results.
Once the organization has defined their Service Standards, these standards should be communicated and woven into the fabric of the organization. They should be communicated during the interview and selection process, the on-boarding process, reinforced through recognition, and made a part of the performance appraisal process. Zero tolerance for non-adherence must be practiced if they are truly to become an integral part of the organization culture.
T.A.Yanovitch, Inc. will work with your organization to develop Service Standards and a Service Philosophy so all employees will be working in unison towards a common vision. Contact Teri at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407.788.7765.