Business Information

Customer service standards - it's what customers want

A written set of customer service standards will not only provide an organization with a set of goals, it will set benchmarks that can be used to monitor and improve service standards.

Written standards can be a valuable training resource, and can help ensure that service is not only high, but also uniform across an organization.

Service standards can also form a valuable part of marketing material, whether in print or web form. They let customers know the quality of service they can expect and provide avenues for customer feedback, so that service can be continuously improved.

Customer service policies generally include phone and fax numbers, and email addresses.

Customer service standards will vary according to the product or service that is being provided. For example, a public library might make a commitment to respond to faxes within 24 hours. A retail store might offer to replace all defective goods within a certain time.

Good service standards are based on a thorough understanding of the market. Who are the customers and what do they need and/or expect from a product or service?

Market research surveys can identify the service standards that customers are used to from competitors. They can determine how satisfied customers are with those standards.

Standards need to be high and they need to be measurable. For example, a call center might specify that phone calls need to be answered within four rings. A retail store might require employees to greet every customer. It's easy to measure whether such standards are being met.

Once standards are set, they need to be assessed. In the case of retailers, for example, assessors can pose as customers.

Putting service standards in writing can help ensure that employees know what is expected of them. But service standards should not be framed in a way that constitutes any kind of employment contract. Likewise, organizations should be clear about when their service standards make legally binding commitments to the public.

Service standards not only set goals for employees, they provide limits that protect them. For example, they could set the point at which a difficult customer complaint should be escalated to a manager. They can also specify when particularly difficult customers can be politely sent to a competitor.

Internal manuals will provide employees with detailed information on service standards. But published customer service policies should be very simple and direct.

A pizza company, for example, may guarantee friendly service and meal within a certain time. A hotel could offer to refund money if there are any problems with the room. That's all the detail a customer is likely to want.

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Business Roadmap provides practical business advice for small to medium sized businesses that are trying to overcome problems, or are trying to achieve their vision and full potential. Visit the Business Roadmap website for further information.

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