Service Standards are the Key to Becoming Like
the Businesses You Love
By Marsha Lindquist
service standards are your personal corporate statement about what
your organization does and how it does it, whether you produce
services or products. In other words, it’s a statement of your
business’s service philosophy or attitude. While businesses commonly
state their service standards to their customers and prospects by
posting the standards in public places and in marketing materials, you need to state your standards internally, too, and get full
buy-in from everyone in your organization. If your internal
stakeholders don’t fully understand and practice your service
standards, stating them for external stakeholders will be a
What is a
service standard, exactly? One very successful business’s read:
“We will endeavor to greet people in the way we want to be greeted.
Once they’re with us, we will treat them with respect and the
knowledge that they know our business almost as well as we do. In
return, we will expect to get the kind of feedback that will allow us
to continually improve and change anything that is not working in our
organizations already have service standards, but most don’t
actually practice them even intermittently throughout the
organization. Your service standards need to be a part of the
business’s fabric, and those running the organization need to make
the standards something their people do on a regular basis.
you’re developing your own service standard, it must focus on your
customers and how you want to treat them. You want your customers to
have an expectation that they’re going to be treated a certain way.
Three types of standards exist. Which of the following is most like
your organization? Which would you like to be?
Carpet Standards: Businesses that live and breathe their high
service standards make you feel like an award-winning star at every
turn. When you’re looking for highly-polished, flawless service, you
know you can go to this kind of business, the crème de la crème of
hotels, for example. You know you’ll find real attention to detail,
and that everything will be done well because everyone throughout the
entire organization, from upper management to the people who clean the
brass in the hallways, understands what they’re delivering. They are
there to serve you, first and foremost.
Yellow Brick Road Standards: These kind of
businesses will take you where you need to go, but without the bells
and whistles. They deliver good value, and are efficient at what they
do, but there’s not much attention to detail. It may be a restaurant
that you know you can count on for a consistently good meal, but not
everyone there greets you, and the staff seldom go out of their way to
ensure you a complete dining experience. They take care of business,
and that’s it. If something goes wrong, they’ll take care of it
right away; they’re service standards are to satisfy the customer by
delivering what you ask for, but they rarely go beyond that.
Standards: The philosophy of this sort of business is “We’re
here to get the job done. How you’re treated is really not that
important to us.” People who work in businesses like this may have
personal standards they try to implement, but they are not enforced
uniformly throughout the organization. It’s not uncommon to find
that these businesses have declared themselves to have service
standards, but the people in the organization don’t know what those
standards are, and therefore they don’t know what’s expected of
them. When they’re hired, they are likely to hear: “Get the job
done,” and little else. They’re untrained in how to treat their
customers and give no attention to the value of what they deliver.
Communicate Your Standards Often: When you know where your
organization fits in these three categories, you need to communicate
this internally. Start at the interview process. Make sure each
candidate knows what your service standards are. If you expect them to
deliver the service standard that you set out, then you need to tell
them in the interview process what that is. When you bring them on
board, you can reiterate those standards in their orientation.
frequently remind your people of the organization’s service
standards. This could be in a weekly newsletter where you offer tips
to help employees incorporate these standards into their daily lives
at work. Target the tips to different groups each week, so no one
feels singled out for advice. This practice also reinforces the notion
for everyone in the organization that the standards apply to them all.
reviews offer another opportunity to reiterate the service standards,
but only on an annual basis. So also offer regular training in the
service standard philosophy, giving everyone the opportunity to do
role-playing in which they practice implementing the standards to
option is to post signs that say, “Are you doing XYZ of our service
standards?” or “How have you improved our service standards
today?” This may seem a little silly, but if such materials aren’t around as daily reminders, people get caught up in daily
business and busy-ness and forget.
establish whether your organization’s service standards are being
implemented, you’ll need to be proactive. You are likely to hear
about it promptly from your customers when your people are not
practicing them, but you’ll need to do a bit more legwork to see the
standards in action. In other words, you either patiently wait for the
information to make its way to you through the feedback loop or you
interact with customers and others your organization does business
with and see for yourself. You can then incorporate the information
you get back into your organization.
Have the Kind of Organization You Love to Work With: You can tell instantly when an organization you work with has a
good service standard, and they know it. They make those standards
part of their daily habits, and you can see it in the faces of all of
the people in the organization. As a customer, you get the feeling
that you want to come back, that you want to buy something from this
place or work with them again. You want to be the repeat business they
want you to be! Don’t you want your
customers to feel this way about your
organization? Of course you do! So develop a set of service standards
for everyone to live by, or dust off the ones you’ve relegated to a
sign out front, and do what it takes to get your people to put them
into practice each and every day. By doing so, you’ll quickly see
your company’s profits increase.
Read other articles and learn more
about Marsha Lindquist.
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