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To be effective, the quality standards you establish for customer service employees must meet three key requirements.
The first is that they must flow directly from your organization's mission, vision and values. The Walt Disney Company provides a longstanding example of this principle. When Disneyland opened in 1955, they described their vision, simply, as "We create happiness." They developed a simple set of standards to operationalize the role of employees or, in their terminology, "cast members."
Those same four standards are at work today. They are:
Underneath each standard, Disney itemizes two or three key actions. Under show, for example, are the actions "I stay in character" and "I keep my area show-ready." They then describe the behaviors that support each action.
You aren't likely to find gum wrappers littering the ground or Cinderella using inappropriate language off stage. Through this simple tiered approach, quality standards flow directly from Disney's mission. See Disney's Four Keys to a Great Guest Experience.
REI, the successful outdoor clothing and equipment retailer, builds their quality standards around their core purpose, which they describe this way: "We inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventures." Think of the clarity that simple statement provides to employees before a customer calls or walks in the door.
A second requirement is that the standards must be within the control of the individual. You can't, for example, expect an individual to keep customer wait times to a minimum. That's a matter of forecasting and scheduling at a team- or function-wide level. But you can expect individuals to adhere to their schedules. You can establish an understanding of timing and the importance of being there at the right times for customers.
Consider another example. Entering data correctly is a common aspect of customer service. It should be reflected in quality standards for employees. But even something so seemingly straightforward can be influenced by other factors. If standards specify that data is repeated back to the customer to ensure accuracy, do they have the time to do so? Or are there competing expectations? It's imperative that standards for individuals be based on the things they can control and be workable in a real operating environment.
A third requirement of standards is that they are clear and easy to manage. This means:
- They must be easy to understand and implement.
- They must be concrete enough to be described, measured, trained to and coached to.
- They should be limited to a manageable number.
Disney's four standards can be memorized in the first morning of employment. The actions and behaviors underneath each — the more detailed version of their standards — are built out through training, coaching, and reinforcement over time. (In another great example from a very different organization: the New South Wales police department's service quality guidelines)
When standards for individuals flow directly from your vision, mission and values; when they are within the control of individuals; and when they are clear and easy to manage, they boost consistency and quality.
And there's an added benefit. They often contribute to higher levels of employee engagement, as employees see the connection between the work they do and the benefit to customers and the organization.