Develop Service Standards in Four Simple Steps

The key to developing efficient customer service standards is organizing the process into bite-sized pieces. Here are four steps for developing efficient customer service standards.

Step 1: Define your service sequences

Viewing your business as a series of separate but connected interactions can help you define and understand service sequences.

Service sequences are to your business what chapters are to a book. They’re a way of conveniently subdividing the aspects of your service so you can discover specific customer encounters that require standards. For example, if you’re in the hotel business, your basic service sequence may go something like this:

  • Reservations

  • Check in

  • Use the room

  • Check out

Step 2: Map out the steps

After you break your business services up into various chapters, choose one area that needs improvement (as indicated by customer feedback). You need to map out the major steps that make up that particular customer encounter chronologically (like the paragraphs within a chapter). For example, the check-in sequence for a hotel includes the following steps:

  1. Guest approaches the front desk.

  2. Desk clerk asks for the guest’s name.

  3. Desk clerk pulls the guest’s reservation from the file (hopefully).

  4. Desk clerk asks what form of payment the guest will use.

  5. Guest is given a room key and directions to the elevator.

In this encounter, no value is added to the basic interaction. It simply is an accurate, step-by-step process that probably reflects how every hotel in the world checks in a guest. Thus to be able to add value to the guest’s experience of staying at this particular hotel, you need to define key experience enhancers.

Step 3: Determine your experience enhancers

For each individual step of your service sequences, ask yourself:

What general service qualities will enhance the customer’s experience of doing business with my company during this step?

As your guest approaches the front desk in the first step of the check-in sequence, your actions are critical, because they make an immediate first impression on the guest. Two of the most important general service qualities at this point are being friendly and attentive to the guest.

Make sure you carry out this same procedure for each step of each service sequence you want to improve until you determine the key experience-enhancing qualities for each step.

Step 4: Convert your experience enhancers into standards

After discovering how you can enhance the quality of service in a given sequence, you can then rewrite the step-by-step interaction by converting your general service qualities into the three types of service standards: personal, product, and procedural. In the hotel example, you can rewrite the sequence for checking in a guest to reflect these important standards:

  • Promptness: When more than three people are waiting in line, call the desk supervisor for assistance.

  • Friendliness: Smile at the customer as he or she approaches the front desk, make direct eye contact, and say “Good morning,” “Good afternoon,” or “Good evening.”

  • Recognition and attentiveness: Use the guest’s name as soon as you know it.

  • Initiative: Ask the guest whether he or she would like a wake-up call in the morning.

  • Quality assurance: Call the guest within 15 minutes of checking in to make sure that everything in the room is satisfactory.

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