Quality standards that align with customer experience

Dee Hock, founder and former CEO of the credit card system that became VISA International, once said, “Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behavior. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior.” You’ll see more consistency and higher-quality customer experiences when your employees are equipped with simple, sensible standards aligned to your organization’s vision.

Effective quality standards – those that align with the experiences you want for customers – share several things in common:

1. They flow from your vision. The Walt Disney Company provides a great example of this. When Disneyland first opened, they described their vision, simply, as “We create happiness.” They then developed a simple set of standards to guide “cast members.” Those same four standards are at work today: Safety, Courtesy, Show and Efficiency. Underneath each, 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 more specific criteria and behaviors that support each action. You aren’t likely to find gum wrappers littering the ground—that’s not show ready. You won’t find Cinderella smoking by the backstage door—that’s not in character. And a lengthy manual is not required (and certainly not recommended). Through this simple tiered approach, quality standards flow directly from Disney’s vision.

2. They are within the individual’s control. You want to make sure that the standards are within the team’s or employee’s control. You can’t, for example, expect one person to keep customer wait times at the front counter to a minimum. That’s a matter of forecasting and staffing decisions. You can expect employees to follow schedules, show up, and be available when customers or colleagues need them. You can expect them to rally available resources (calling help to the front counter or noting backlogs in production areas).

3. They are easy to manage. This means several things: your quality standards should be easy to understand and implement; they should be limited to a small, manageable number; and they must be concrete enough to be described and measured fairly. Disney’s four standards can be memorized in the first morning of work. The actions and behaviors underneath each are built out and reinforced over time.

Have you established quality standards that support your customer experience vision? Do those you have need a rethink? This may be a significant opportunity. Quality standards are the bridge between day-to-day performance and your customer experience vision.

Excerpt from Leading the Customer Experience: How to Chart a Course and Deliver Outstanding Results by Brad Cleveland.