After having attained the desired service level, the next great challenge faced by service providers is to maintain service standards at levels of excellence. This is as important, and as tough, as establishing service standards and attaining to them in the first place.
There are basically two approaches that any organization can have towards maintaining service standards â€“ a proactive approach or a reactive approach.
Proactive: A proactive approach entails actively reaching out to customers and trying to gather their feedback on service quality and suggested areas of improvement. This can be done by way of
Surveys and administering questionnaires
Gap Analysis, and
Surveys and questionnaires: Such an approach helps a brand to anticipate customer demands and expectations and align its service offering accordingly. Also, the findings of such surveys can help to identify common issues and demands of customers hence helping a company to customize its service offering.
Gap Analysis: Another approach that is adopted for analyzing service quality is that of the gap analysis. The company has an ideal service standard that it would like to offer to its customers. This is contrasted with the current level of service being offered. The gap thus identified serves both as a measure and as a basis for planning a future course of action to improve the service offering.
Staff Training: Another crucial aspect of the proactive approach is staff training. Companies nowadays spend generously on training their personnel to adequately handle customer queries and/or complaints. This is particularly true if a company is changing its service offering or going in for a price hike of its existing services. For example, when a fast food chain increases the price of its existing products, the staff has to handle multiple customer queries regarding the hike. Lack of a satisfactory explanation would signify poor service standards and lead to customer dissatisfaction.
Reactive: A reactive approach basically consists of resorting to a predetermined service recovery mechanism once a customer complains about poor service quality. It usually starts with apologizing to the customer and then taking steps to redeem the situation. The fundamental flaw with this approach is that, here the customer has already had a bad experience of the brandâ€™s service.
Measuring Service Quality
Another crucial element to be kept in mind while seeking to maintain service quality is to have in place a metric for â€˜measuringâ€™ quality. The particular parameters selected would depend on the type of business, service model and the customer expectations. For example: at a customer service call center of a telecom provider, the metric for measuring service quality could be the average time taken for handling a call or rectifying a complaint. For a fast food outlet, the metrics for measuring service quality of the sales staff could be the number of bills generated as a percentage of total customer footfalls or the increase in sales month on month.
Once a system is put in place for measuring quality, a standard can then be mandated for the service standard the organization is seeking to maintain.