Use customer service standards to engage customers and employees

A while ago I was engaged to do a customer service seminar for a city. One of the things they wanted to talk about was establishing customer service standards. So I began a search for other cities that had already established customer service standards to see what their experience had been.

My first search in Google was: “customer service standards”. The results surprised me.

In the first three pages (98% of users rarely look beyond page 3 of their search results ) there were no for-profit companies listed in Google’s search results. The majority were government. Federal, state and local government web pages occupied 53% of the results. Educational organizations were another 16% and health care/nonprofits grabbed 13%. The balance were informational websites.

I expected the search results to be dominated by companies. But I was completely wrong.

Maybe I assumed many companies have established customer service standards AND they published them. Wrong again. And this begs the question, why? How come more companies do not create and publish standards of service for all the world to see. If they did, they’d have more loyal customers.

Here’s why.

Your customer service standards are not just for your customer service staff of department. They are a tool for your entire company to perform better. The best customer service standards actually define your brand and give customers a reason for doing business with you.

Your customer service standards tell your customers what you’ll do for them, how you will treat them and what they should expect from you. They are a way of planting your flag and telling the world why your company is different (and better) than any other. They show your company how you will do something for them that no other company will.

You can see, well-crafted and publicized customer service standards can be a valuable marketing resource.

They can also help you manage your business better.

Well-designed customer service standards make it clear to your employees what they are expected to do. It shows them what experience they are accountable to deliver to their customers. And, the customers are expecting that same experience (because they know what your customer service standards are). Finally, management knows exactly what they need to empower employees to do. Your customer service standards tell them.

Your customer service standards come from your customers based on what they want. It also comes from management and employees based on what the company does best. All three groups should play a role in developing your customer service standards because they are critically important to all three.

Do everything you can to share your customer service standards with these three groups. Post them in your store, on your web site, on your business cards, in your ads and anywhere else your employees, management and customers will see them. Some companies put these on signs in their stores. Others include them in billing statements each month. Some put them on the shirts employees wear.

When management, customers and employees are all aligned and in agreement with your customer service standards then you have a powerful tool to help you communicate and collaborate. Customers can offer more useful feedback because it can be framed in terms of your customer service standards. Same for employees. You’re all speaking the same language so you’ll communicate better.

And, as these three groups communicate better, you’ll be better able to understand any service gaps that develop. A service gap exists whenever your customers experience is different than what they want. Your improved communication among customers, employees and management will surface these gaps more effectively. And you’ll find more creative solutions to deal with them.

Use your customer service standards as a full-blown management tool. Make it a top priority and it will help you serve your customers better so they come back more often and they bring their friends with them.

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz