5 Questions to Assess your Call Center Service Standards

Service Standards

Colin Taylor
It is essential for all organizations to assess and then define the standards of service they will deliver to their clients and customers. These standards set the expectations in the customers mind as well as in that of the organizations staff. This post sets out the rationale and framework for establishing service standards within any organization.

A recent TARP survey indicated “that 30% of Customer dissatisfaction was caused by incorrect customer expectations and a further 30% by Marketing setting improper expectations”. According to a recent YouGov survey 46% of customers who had called a contact center are dissatisfied with the service they received. So it may be unfair to lay the blame for all customer dissatisfaction at the doorstep of the call center. In some cases they are just the messenger. Regardless of the source, customer expectations will drive calls to the call center. The customer will hold up their expectations to their own experience and then voice their objections at any (real or perceived) deficiency.

Service Standards can be powerful tools in setting customer expectations, through advertising. We are all familiar with the following advertising tag-lines that impact on customer expectations;
· “Quality is Job 1”,
· “When it absolutely, positively has to get there”,
· “Satisfaction guaranteed or your money refunded”,
· “We try harder”,

Each of these advertising tag lines tells you that the company will live up to these expectations. But what if your Ford is always in the shop or if in your opinion the counter staff at Avis didn’t try harder? Well the next step is often a call to the company contact center to complain.

Companies must look long and hard at the expectations they are setting when they make commitments. This is not only true of advertising but in each and every customer interaction. Many companies know the damage they can inflict upon themselves by not living up to the promises they have made. Failure to live up to customers expectations is frequently cited as one of the top reasons for customer defection.

So how can companies keep themselves clear of this potentially dangerous situation? Well firstly they must acknowledge that no company can control all expectations a customer may hold as they are based upon not only statements made by the company but also by the customers’ perception of those statements. Secondly they must know and prove to you that you can and will meet these expectations.

FedEx tracks all service contacts (calls, pick ups, deliveries etc.) they has set an acceptable failure rate of 1 failure per million interactions. This they believe equates to and supports their advertised tag line. Lastly you must regularly test and retest your own performance to ensure that you are meeting your own metrics.

The following guidelines will provide some parameters for use in developing or re-assessing service standards;

1. Test your current performance,
2. Identify variations that impact on the performance
3. Compare current performance to established Goals/Targets,
4. Revise performance standards if they are not meeting goals/targets,
5. Reassess every 6 to 12 months.

It is better to have no defined Service standards than it is to have ones that are not delivered. The failure to meet an identified service standard not only dissatisfies the customer who was expecting better because you told him to, but also communicates a very dangerous message to your staff…”we don’t have to do what we said we would do.” The impact on morale and performance can suffer greatly under such thinking. “Why should any employee go above and beyond the call if the company won’t?”

Under this thinking you can see why a high service standard that is missed by 10% is much more dangerous than a lower standard met every time.

So in what areas should you look to set service standards? The following is a list of possible service standard objectives and measures;
1. Access and availability – ease of access when you want it
2. Reliability or accuracy – consistency of service each time
3. Knowledge and competence – those providing service are well informed and competent
4. Courtesy and helpfulness – the manner of how dealing and contacts are handled is satisfactory
5. Promptness and efficiency – the transaction is handled speedily and efficiently
6. Responsiveness and resourcefulness – willingness to adapt service to needs
7. Price and value for money – when the service is paid for
Different organizations in different industries will have different service standards but each will share two key attributes;
1. They will define a key element of service that is important to their customers.
2. The Standard will be easy to understand and easy for customers (and staff) to measure. The Standard(s) must be kept simple and straightforward to ensure that you keep track and understand the results that are being achieved.

The establishment and attainment of defined and meaningful service standards that can be consistently and profitably met will support improved customer satisfaction, improved customer loyalty and reduced customer churn which are all hallmarks of successful and growing companies.

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