Monday, November 9, 2009

Customer Service Performance Standards

Being on par in terms of price and quality only gets you into the game. Service wins the game.
~Tony Alessandra

So many of the businesses that we assist at the Jim Moran Institute have customer service problems. Many of them are related to a lack of awareness of the issues, but so many more are rooted in the absence of performance standards.

It is great to set a goal of having outstanding customer service, but without a way of measuring or evaluating your staff on their performance, how effective could this goal be? With any goal you must be able to measure your progress and whether you have reached it.

Each element of customer service must have a measurable goal to attest to the progress that is being made. For example, the primary elements in customer service are greeting the customer, responding quickly to their requests, fulfilling their orders in a timely manner and dealing with problems. For each of these elements, you must establish a standard – or even a “gold” standard – to ensure that each employee knows both what is required and how their performance will be measured.

When greeting a customer in a physical location, the performance standard might be that each customer should be greeted with a smile within 30 or 60 seconds of their arrival. Making each customer feel welcome in your business is so important, and putting a time stamp on the greeting ensures that this critical element of customer service occurs without delay.

The second standard relates to how quickly your business responds to customers’ requests. Every business must adopt the standard that all customers receive a call-back within eight business hours of their inquiry. If you ever call me, my voicemail message does not say that I will get back with you as soon as possible (terrible customer service); rather, I say I will return your call within four hours. Customers’ emails must be acted upon within the same eight-hour window.

When a customer places an order, the time it takes to process and fulfill that order must be set and monitored. Here the standard might be that 98 percent of all goods ordered must be shipped within 48 hours. Too often I have ordered something over the internet only to have it delivered a month later with no explanation as to the delay.
The final standard involves dealing with customers’ problems. Here we want the issue to be fixed and dealt with in a prescribed way. Nothing drives a customer crazier than having a problem and being unable to get it fixed. I like to think that every business should be grateful for each customer that comes to them with a problem as this allows the business to identify the issue and then fix it. A standard here might be that each customer complaint should be remedied within 48 hours of receiving notice.

The bottom line is that in order to have outstanding customer service, you must have standards in place that will allow you to measure how you are progressing toward your customer service goals. Now go out and make sure that you have established customer service standards at your business.

You can do this!

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