Customer experience

Setting Your Service Standard: The Seven Habits of Empowered Frontline Teams.

AskNicely Team

Over the past six years, we’ve worked with thousands of people-powered experience brands around the globe, and conducted deep interviews with the world’s best, like Starbucks, Uber, the Ritz-Carlton and Disney.

Like you, we were curious. What do the big guys have in common?

We’ve learned the best and brightest experience brands all operate under a set of daily habits that drive their success.

We’ve distilled the various practices into seven simple habits that, when put together and applied consistently on a daily basis, create a powerful bond of purpose for each frontline employee that is reinforced by feedback, recognition, coaching and empowerment.

Let’s take a look at habit #1 - Set your service standard.

Put simply, service standards are a set of tangible guidelines that help to define a) what a customer can expect from a service, and b) how the experience should be delivered by the frontline.  

Attempting business without a service standard is like trying to use the maps app with your partner on a road trip (it doesn't work).

Customers don’t know what to expect, frontline staff don’t have a clear sense of direction and awesome customer experiences are very tricky to consistently deliver.

You may think you have a clear idea of what your service standards are, but if an employee of your business was asked, would they have the same answer as you?

What about if your customers were asked?

It’s important that managers, frontline teams and customers are all on the same page, which is exactly what setting your service standards helps to do.

As well as getting everyone on the same page, setting strong service standards means —

  • Customers are clear on the outcomes they’ll receive. 
  • Frontline workers have a strong sense of direction, accountability and motivation. 
  • Management can assess and measure performance against defined targets. 
  • Rewards can be given based on whether standards are reached.
  • Awesome customer experience is consistently delivered.

If you aim at keeping the bar high and working on the standards of service every day, you’ll also build greater customer intimacy. Everyone is at an advantage here: customers who feel appreciated and a frontline team that anticipates customers’ needs, and is empowered through recognition and feedback.

Your promise to your customers should not be in your head, or in a lost Google Drive folder never to see the light of day, it should be everywhere. Understood by you, your customers and most importantly, your frontline team.

It may seem like an obvious practice, but generally it’s not executed well. Research by Gallup found that only 26% of U.S. employees feel their organization consistently delivers on the promises they make to customers. Yes, it’s shockingly low, but perhaps not so surprising because Gallup also found that only half of all employees actually know what’s expected of them at work, meaning they are not clear on the service standards of the company they work for.

The evidence is clear — businesses with clear, well-informed service standards that are widely understood to deliver better customer experiences, and businesses with better customer experiences have higher customer satisfaction rates, reduced customer churn and increased revenues.

Disney, who needs no introduction, is an example of a business with exceptional service standards that are clear, concise and widely understood. They’re also a little bit magical. Their common purpose to “creative happiness by providing the best entertainment for people of all ages everywhere” is defined by four basic standards that help their frontline team to deliver magical experiences;

Safety – every employee is empowered to step in and act on a customer or colleague’s behalf… because when done right, customers probably won’t notice, but gone wrong, your brand could suffer exponentially.

Courtesy – always a non-negotiable for frontline teams! Disney is particularly famous for their friendly employees. Never underestimate the power of a smile and a chat.

The show – add your own element of ‘pizazz’/magic/wow factor...whatever you want to call it – go the extra mile and make the customer feel really special.

Efficiency – always important, but deliberately in last place… and never at the expense of the first three values!

As well as the four key basics, Disney also has seven service guidelines:

  • Be Happy – make eye contact and smile.
  • Be like Sneezy – greet and welcome every customer. Spread the spirit of hospitality. It's contagious!
  • Don't be Bashful – seek out guest contact.
  • Be like Doc – provide immediate service recovery.
  • Don't be Grumpy – display appropriate body language at all times.
  • Be like Sleepy – create dreams and preserve the magical guest experience.
  • Don't be Dopey – thank every Guest!

While your service standards don’t need to be framed around a fairy tale (goals), the key takeaway is that with these guidelines and standards, Disney can train all cast members to share and provide the same level of exceptional service.

Another example of a business absolutely nailing habit #1 is Zoom+Care, who operate over 50 urgent care medical centres across Oregon and Washington. Their mission is to reduce the waste of traditional healthcare and to keep people healthier, happier, sexier and more creative. Zoom+Care promises “twice the health, at half the price, with ten times the delight,” and they back this up with 10 service standards, which are printed on the wall of every clinic (you can’t miss it). It’s a unique, holistic experience that starts with a mobile app for booking appointments, and includes an online chat with doctors and a “Perfect Visit” experience that ensures appointments are always on time.

The bottom line? Service standards are key! They’re the roadmap that all stakeholders of your business should be equipped with. When implemented effectively, you’ll be known to deliver awesome, consistent customer experience. An experience so good that people will come back for more, and tell others about it.

For a practical guide to implementing this habit, as well as a deep dive into the remaining six habits (spoiler alert: you need them all to win on customer experience), check out the Frontline Coaching Playbook here.

AskNicely's Frontline coaching playbook

AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

AskNicely Team
About the author

AskNicely Team

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