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Corporate standards of customer service

To make a customer more loyal or committed, companies often organize different target program and PR-activities, but without a certain system of customer service, they do not always justify their tasks. Meanwhile, one of the most effective tools designed to develop customer loyalty, is now the corporate standards of customer service.

Simulator: a slice of life concerning the theme ...

1st situation in the trading floor:
Client: "Tell me, please, do you have DVD-players with a ‘karaoke’?"

Seller: "All the goods are in front of you! Look closely, it should be written "karaoke" on it.”

2nd situation in the trading floor:

Client: "Tell me, please, do you have DVD-players with a ‘karaoke’?"

Seller: "Hello! Yes, in your shop the DVD-players with a "karaoke" are presented by several manufacturers. Please come closer to the showcase, and I'll tell you about them in more detail... ".

Let's think in which of the above situations it is most likely that the client will continue to communicate with the seller and make a purchase, and will not leave the store with frustrated expectations and negative emotions? The situation will most likely develop successfully in the second case. And what is the difference between these situations?

• The characters are the same

• The behavior of the client has not changed

• Shop person in both cases does not ignore the question of the buyer, and offers him a definite decision.

The difference, of course, exists, and it is determined by the quality of customer service and by respect to a client from the company’s employee (in this case, attitude of the seller, serving a buyer in the store). If the customer, coming to the company, sees a friendly attitude, high quality of the goods or services, as well as a high level of maintenance and service, he gets happy and satisfied. But such a satisfaction of a customer, which arose after the contact with the company, does not mean he would come to the company again, and will not look later in the direction of competitors. Customer satisfaction is formed on the principle "here and now" and it implies a lack of involvement and emotional attachment to a particular company or brand: in this situation the customer can often come to the company, use its services, but he can easily switch to another company's proposal.

To prevent such situations and to increase a number of regular customers, you should not only ensure customer satisfaction but also build their loyalty to the company.

Unlike satisfied customer, the loyal one is really characterized by the following behavior with respect to the company:

• He regularly comes to the company to purchase goods or certain service

• He proactively recommends the company (its products and services) to their colleagues, partners, and friends

• He always forgives some errors in the work, or small gaps in service if they are random, but do not turn into a new "standard" of work

• He is not very sensitive to promotions and other sales promotion activities conducted by the competitors

• He is emotionally attached, committed to the company

To develop customer loyalty or commitment, companies often organize different target program and PR-activities, but, acting out a certain system of working with clients, they do not always justify their tasks.

Meanwhile, one of the most effective tools designed to develop customer loyalty, are now the corporate standards of customer service. Experience of modern Russian and foreign companies proves that the corporate standards operating in the company form an atmosphere of respect, kindness and professionalism in relations with clients, create a system of quality service, and provide a significant competitive advantage to the company.

There are several key features that indicate that it is the time to the company to think about the formation of standards of customer service, as follows:

• The increase in the number of claims and complaints about the quality of customer service

• Regular customers can leave the company due to faults in the service system (customer interaction)

• In the market it is growing a number of companies with a similar set of products and services, offers  on price and quality of the offered goods and services are aligned and, therefore, the competition moves into the area of quality service and maintenance

• The company has no uniform corporate style of working with clients as each employee communicates with customers based on their experience and guided by their own individual methods, work styles convenient and clear to them only.

• Different sales divisions of one network vary widely in style and level of service, which hinders the formation of a holistic positive image of the company

• The company has, but did not approve specific rules of working with clients that are not always met people who are working with clients

• The company has not developed criteria, consistent and understandable to all employees for assessing the quality of customer service

If the question of implementation of the standards becomes actual for the company, then proceeding with their development, it is important to first determine what exactly the company is going to regulate by implementing these standards. For example, some companies develop standards that apply only to the frontline personnel (salespeople, cashiers, sales managers) and do not apply to employees of other divisions (accountants, secretaries, warehouse workers, etc.), which also interact with customers, but to a lesser degree than the frontline staff. In this case, the sale can be made perfect, and its maintenance or after-sales service will leave a lot to be desired.

A good illustration is the example of a company that specializes in the installation of plastic windows. The sales managers of this company, perfectly observing corporate policies and technologies of interaction with the client, made a perfect sale, and then the customer service team in an unclean footwear and clothing of not the first freshness came to the client apartment to install windows, and threw building debris after their work and left without saying goodbye (apparently, taking French standards of leaving). As a result, there have been complaints about the quality of service, regularly reporting from customers to the company's management.

Therefore, at the initial stage of the development of standards it is important to decide what and how much effect on the quality of customer service in the company, to identify all the actors of interaction with customers, and to establish standards taking into account all the necessary conditions.

The very same process of development and implementation of standards of customer service is a project which is being implemented within the company and its most important stages in terms of a successful outcome are as follows:

Identify objectives and key conditions for the development and introduction of corporate standards of customer service. At this stage, the company top management must answer the following questions: Why do we need standards of customer service? How should the work of employees and of the company as a whole be changed after the introduction of standards? How will the process of implementation of the standards be realized, and how then their compliance will be monitored? How the company will motivate employees to comply with the standards?

Formation of a working group to develop standards. It is extremely important that the standards not be handed down, but developed with the participation of the employees for whom they then will work. This allows, firstly, to further analyze both standard and complex situations of interaction with customers, and, secondly, to reduce potential resistance of employees during the standards implementation process (after all, you see, it is difficult to reject that you have created yourself).

The optimal composition of the working group for the project might look as follows:

• The company top management representatives;

• Representatives of the managers of units the standards are developed for;

• Representatives of the personnel of the units, the standards are developed for;

• The company HR-service employees involved in the project.

Internal PR of the project in order to implement the standards. To ensure the developed standards were adopted by the company’s employees, it is necessary not later than 1-2 months before the start of the project to inform the team about the standards of customer service that will be implemented, and the work will be carried out in accordance with them. This will allow to prepare in advance the employees for the upcoming changes, as well as to involve them in the process of formation of standards, by soliciting their opinions and suggestions concerning the form and content of future standards.

Assessment of the current state of the system and the quality of customer service. This stage is the starting point in the development of the standards content. The evaluation can bring an understanding of what needs to be carefully spelled out in the standards, which situations of customers service should be classified as "typical" ones, "difficult negotiations", "conflict" ones, as the standards will subsequently prescribe the most effective technologies (algorithms) of action and communication in such situations. Evaluation of the current state of the system and the quality of customer service allows also identify the stages of work with clients where the system which currently exists in the company is "stalled". And such information will be very useful both for the development of standards, and to improve existing techniques of customer service. The most effective methods of evaluation in this case will be:

• monitoring and subsequent analysis of the real situations of the customer service;

• diagnostic interviews with the frontline personnel and employees working in other  units interacting with customers;

• assessment of the system and quality of service (customer interaction) by «Mystery Shopper» or «Mystery Customer"

Identify difficult situations that arise in the process of working with clients. Such information can be obtained from the employees themselves, working with clients. During interviews with employees it is important to identify and discuss those situations which currently cause the greatest difficulties in the process of customer service. Next, you need to identify the most effective actions that will resolve these difficult situations as they arise, and then fix it in the standards. Thus, the introduction of standards will allow to employees to receive certain tools that will make them as much prepared as possible and enable to act more confidently and successfully in complex situations when working with clients.

The development of the structure and content of the standards of customer service (Corporate Rules). In planning the structure and content of the standards it is important to understand that, depending on the specifics of the company’s activity they will be different. For example, if the company works with end users (b2c), the standards of customer service can be set in sufficient details, up to specific speech standards in certain situations of interaction with clients. If the company operates, for example, in b2b sales sector, in this case, it is more appropriate to prescribe the standards specific technologies (or algorithms) of interaction with clients at each stage of sale, with speech standards prescribed for the most difficult stages or situations . For example, in service centers that serve cars of the famous German Auto Group, one of the rules that describe the standards of customer service, looks as follows: ‘Foreman who accompanies your vehicle maintenance, should come along to the client in the process of waiting every 15 to 20 minutes. He can tell how his car repair is going, offer coffee or keep the conversation "about the problems of motorist...’ It helps feeling that they care not only about your car, but also about you personally, the waiting time becomes more enjoyable and comfortable, despite the problems with your vehicle, and the company business becomes more human. Satisfaction and the favor in the eyes of customer, earned by the company due to especially developed standards, is unconsciously transferred to the customer perception of the company and, buying the next car or advising their friends, promotes the relevant decision: choose (recommend) this company!

Implementation of corporate standards of customer service to the company’s activity. This is one of the key stages of the project. Effectively planned system of introduction of the standards of customer service is directly related to future life of the company and directly impact on the system of customer service as a whole. The most effective approach to the introduction of standards is to conduct training programs for employees working with customers on the basis of the developed standards, both at their launch and thereafter during the training of new employees, as well as when existing rules and techniques of customer service will be modified. However, we realize that employees will not suddenly become client-oriented, only because the company adopted the customer service standards. In this case, every employee who works with customers should understand that the quality of their work with customers directly impact results of their work and the company success. Therefore, to ensure standards be really effective, you need not only to associate them with the training system, but also with the system of motivation and evaluation of the personnel activities.

Recently, an increasing number of Russian companies build a system of customer service on the basis of relevant corporate standards. The experience of these companies evidence that the effective standards of customer service contribute not only to the quality of customer service, but they also make more effective the system of managing the sales and customer service process in the company. This is because if the company elaborated standards properly formulated, operating and monitored, the employees working with clients have a clear understanding of which their actions are needed to ensure that work is carried out at a high level and how to evaluate the quality of customer service in the company. The top managers, in turn, have at their disposal relevant indicators to monitor and evaluate the quality of customer service that have been made at company level and promote more effective management of the sales and customer service process in the company. Due to all these factors, the company not just exists in the market among many similar enterprises but successfully develop, promote its positive branding and stand out from its competition.

Thus, the effective use of corporate standards of customer service allows to the company to maintain a high quality of customer service, ensures the successful positions in the market, creates a favorable environment for the company's employees, and most importantly, generates loyalty, respect and commitment to their customers!