How to create and implement customer service standards within your business
Customer service excellence should be a goal for all business owners and managers. Some would say especially for small businesses, who tend to rely more heavily on customer loyalty than huge corporations.
However - as anyone who has ever made a New Year’s resolution will tell you - having a goal in mind is rarely good enough.
Committing to implementing official customer service standards within your workplace is the only way to show true dedication to the goal and to ensure staff are also on board with your policies. It provides direction and uniformity to day-to-day interactions, while also highlighting to staff and customers that you take this very seriously.
Today we’re going to run through the basics on implementing your very own customer service standards across your business and getting them down in writing.
Step 1: Determine what your customers need
Here at the PrognoStore blog, we’ve been discussing customer service tactics and how to improve customer service within businesses quite a lot lately. One thing that always comes up is the importance of providing feedback opportunities to your customers. If you never ask, how will you know where you can improve?
Step one in developing your customer service standards is the perfect time to run through all the feedback you may have collected, whether it’s from your Facebook page, email, telephone, or even an old fashioned suggestion box.
Some basic things you can survey your customers on (ask them to provide a score of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest):
- Product quality
- Product handling
- In store customer service
- Telephone customer service (including wait times on hold)
- Efficiency in addressing customer complaints
- Delivery times (if you deliver)
- Website functionality
- Website usability
Any area which doesn’t score an average of five points will need your attention. Don’t stress if the results aren’t what you thought - just be thankful for the opportunity to change and improve.
Step 2: Create a vision or mission statement
What do you want your company to be known for? What is the key thing you want to provide? This will be your vision statement. You can word this statement however you like. It is designed to create a culture within the workplace and ensure that you, your employees, and your customers know - and are regularly reminded of - your purpose.
Take these examples from US-based online retail giants:
“Our vision is to be earth's most customer centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”
- One day, 30% of all retail transactions in the US will be online.
- People will buy from the company with the best service and the best selection.
- Zappos.com will be that online store.
Whether it’s superb quality, fast service, huge variety, or amazing customer care, hone in on your top priorities and best qualities in your vision or mission statement. Organise a brainstorm with team members to really get the ideas flowing.
Step 3: Create customer service policies
With your information gathering and mission statement out of the way it’s time to focus on creating policy. Depending on your business, there could be hundreds of potential items to address here. Most companies usually distribute these via an employee handbook to ensure everyone has access to the information.
So, how will you know which kinds of policies to introduce? It’s unique to your business, however, a good place to start is by listing out all the different types of customer interactions that typically take place. For example, a sample list of areas for a retail business may include (There will be more areas to address - these are just some ideas to get you started):
- Managing customer complaints
- Cash handling
- Point-of-sale system training
- Stock ordering
- Ongoing inventory management
Once you have your initial list, create flow charts and guides for how all processes should run. Remember that this is an ongoing process and every time something new comes up, you should add it to your policy guide.
Step 4: Train all employees in relevant customer service policies
As mentioned previously, customer service standards and policies are usually distributed to staff in the form of an employee handbook. While this is best practice for your business, you shouldn’t just leave it there.
An employee who only works the cash register doesn’t really need to know about ordering stock, however, they will need to be carefully trained in all processes relating to their specific job. It’s your responsibility to make sure this happens by introducing proper customer service training in the workplace.
Have you ever written customer service policies? What are your tips to business owners getting started?