We all agree that standards exist for a reason: it’s a proven methodology, a long-standing process that is in place to help address how a company operates as to ensure everyone’s alignment in specific areas of the business.
This is true for product development, engineering, customer services and many other sectors and business operations.
Standards are also useful as a benchmarking tool and a proof to customers that you are or can become a valuable and trustworthy partner for their business.
Having said that, applying standards blindly only ever leads to one thing: operational mayhem… which in turn creates customer DISsatisfaction!
And by “customer” I do not just mean the end-consumer. To me, a customer is anyone who has contact with a given team.
In the customer services industry for instance, the term “customer” does not just apply to the end-consumer: Sales staff , consultants, third-party providers and development teams, to name but a few, are all customers.
Let me give you a concrete example: I am sure you have heard of the ITIL, which is a internationally accepted approach to IT service management. It works. Well, it should, and ultimately it will if implemented correctly.
However, for this implementation to be a success, companies need to ask themselves some key questions prior to even rolling out such a standard:
- Who are my customers (internally and externally)?
- What are they going to gain from the new process?
- What are they trying to achieve and is it therefore the right process for them?
I found that by asking some simple questions, ITIL (which was implemented for a software company I was working with) was not the right solution for the needs of the Very Important Customers. In fact it had exactly the opposite effect from what was intended!
When it came to the VICs, it could not be applied for one very simple reason: VICs expected a customer service which made them feel special, unique, listened to.
So alongside the core team, which allowed for large volumes of recurring questions (“How do I reset my password…?”) to be handled quickly, I reorganised part of it to provide just that: a dedicated customer service for our VICs. This “sub team” was using processes and tools to help them perform, but was a dedicated track and contact for the special customers.
Of course, tweaking standards is not as straightforward as it may seem and requires more refined changes in organisation, tools and processes – and choosing the right people for the job.
However rewards can be great: we achieved a 60% reduction in tickets within 3 months, the team working in a serene environment instead of being in a constant panic, and, most importantly, VICs feeling special again.
So, are standards THE solution? Yes – provided they are relevant to ALL customers.