As a business owner you understand the importance of client service, but does every other person in your business understand it? Have you clearly stated your expectations of them, no matter what their title or job? Do they understand your values?
If you haven’t, then based on the Law of Averages, you have lost business with at least one client, as every interaction with a client, regardless of who in your business they interact with, is a Moment of Truth for your business. Each experience will impact the trajectory of your relationship with the client, either in a positive direction, or a negative direction. Too many negatives will cost you business; it’s as simple as that.
The good news is that you can take positive steps to help ensure the next Moment of Truth is a positive one for your clients. A ‘Moment of Truth’ is any episode in which the client comes into contact with some aspect of your business and gets an impression of the quality of its service
Most Moments of Truth take place far beyond the immediate sight of management. Since managers cannot be there to influence them, they must learn to influence and manage them indirectly through the adoption and promotion of business values. By creating a client-oriented business, a client-friendly system, and a work environment that reinforces your values and the concept of putting the client first.
When the Moments of Truth go unmanaged, the quality of service regresses to mediocrity.
There are many steps you can take but in this article we focus on values of Service Excellence Standards.
A service standard is a level of performance that is critical to achieving a broader goal. Establishing service standards can be beneficial for both the client and your staff. Clients are aware of what they should expect from your business, how services will be delivered, and what clients can do when services they receive are not acceptable. Standards are easier to measure when staff is aware of them.
Develop service standards according to the needs of your clients and within the realm of funding and available resources. A service standard should include a description of the service, and a service pledge. They may also include delivery targets and a complaint and redress mechanism.
Developing Service Standards
An important area to develop standards is in the area of communicating with the client. When a client raises an issue, it is important that you value and acknowledge each client’s concerns in a timely manner. Use complaints as gifts – think of them as free input into how you are delivering your services. Respond to each in a meaningful and respectful way.
Checklist for Service Excellence Standards
- Do we want to provide a standard service or a customised service? Do our services remain the same from one client to the next or do they alter for each client?
- Do we have monitoring procedures to assess performance against our service standards?
- Are your staff and clients aware of and involved in the development of service standards?
To get you started in developing your own Service Excellence Standards, we have provided an extract from ones we have developed in conjunction with one of our clients. Keep in mind that the plan is to publish these standards to your staff AND also your clients. This clearly ‘puts a stake in the ground’ in terms of how your business will service its clients. Everyone is on notice; there are no more excuses for poor service.
Sample Service Excellence Standards
A relationship that hopes for any degree of longevity must have respect at its centre.
Respect for our Clients
- We acknowledge that you ,made a choice when you selected us, AND
- We will not take this decision for granted.
- We will deliver on our commitments, and hopefully exceed your expectation.
- We encourage your feedback – both good and indifferent
- Your problems are our problems and we want to hear about them.
- We have a culture of learning from our mistakes and of not making the same mistake twice
- We don’t take shortcuts
- They only encourage short-term relationships
- You will have a dedicated Account Relationship manager
- Our Account Managers understand we will not take this decision for granted.
- You gain access to the significant industry-specific experience of our entire team – our resources become your resources
- Your problems are our problems
- Our experience and depth of resources are on-call to help you in any way we can
If we don’t measure, how do we gauge our improvement?
How we Measure our Client Service
- Do our services add value to our client’s business & deliver tangible benefits?
- Are our frontline staff consistent in their service delivery?
- Ease of doing business with us
- Are we flexible, attentive to their needs & easy to deal with on any matter?
- Do we look for ways to automate processes for our clients?
- Do we value our reputation and work hard to continually deliver on our commitments;
- Are our staff committed to the success of our client’s business?
- Do we learn from our mistakes?
- Do we focus on continuous improvement in everything we do?
- Do we deliver services relevant to the evolving needs of our clients?
- Do we have an increasing % of our clients using our Integrated Services?
- Management Focus
- Do we have a strong management team with solid experience in their area of responsibility?
- Are they readily accessible to both clients and staff?
- Do they actively seek out and eliminate barriers that inhibit the success of our clients and staff?
- Long term relationship is a partnership
- Do we have client relationships that are based on trust & mutual respect?
- Do we have we the type of relationship with our clients where they consider us as part of their future plans?
- Referral source
- Do our clients happily refer us to their business associates?
We actively monitor and assess our performance.
How we assess our Client Service
- We listen and actively seek frontline feedback
- Everyone from our Area Managers to our Service Team and even our receptionist look for ways to improve what we do and keep an ear open to identify issues before they become problems
- Team of experienced account managers
- You will receive regular visits; Our management want to personally touch base with you to get your views on our service and our company. We will also take the opportunity to share our plans for the future, and hopefully get to hear you thoughts on this as well.
- Our service management conduct regular client site visits
- All feedback from our ‘listening’ activities go to our Account Managers
- They are responsible for initiating corrective action when necessary
- Must know their clients and have the relationship that picks up any negative signal coming from our clients
- Regular 3rd party surveys
- We send out an annual client survey that is administered by a 3rd party.
- Monitor client retention rates
- The ultimate gauge of our effectiveness is whether our clients will recommend us to their business associates and other companies.