Fine-tuning Your Service Expectations and Your Consistent Delivery of Service Behaviors

We’ve all had it happen. As customers, we’ve encountered a service provider who unfortunately chose to attend to something of interest to them instead of attending to our needs. As a result of their self-preoccupation, we were left to feel like we were intruding on their text messaging session, their online purchase, or interrupting their workplace gossip.

If you run a business involving human service delivery, you certainly want to set service expectations that help your people focus on the customer’s needs– every customer, every time.

So, what’s the best way to make your expectations as a leader clear and consistent?

Well here’s an example worthy of study. At a restaurant not far from me, the owners “require” their employees to sign a service behavior contract which among other things states that their employees will pay a “fine” if they have their phone out during working hours. The price for the first offense is $2.00, the second transgression $5.00, and the third $10.00. Similarly, employees are asked to agree to pay $1.00 each time they don’t say hello or goodbye to a customer.

Ok, I said that was an example worthy of study – not that it was an example worthy of emulation. In fact, the restaurant’s contract is more about controlling staff behavior in a wide variety of ways and not just ways that “might” improve the life of a customer. For example, the contract also has a cost saving clause which makes staff pay a fine if they give a straw to a customer unless the customer specifically asks for one.

Lest you think, I am exaggerating the nature of the restaurant’s contract check it out for yourself here. While I am not sure how well the contract is working, I do know an employee who claims they were fired for not signing the agreement has made the contract a very well shared internet phenomena.

As an alternative to fining your employees. Let me offer a more tried and true approach to setting service expectations and driving consistent execution:

  • Write down your service expectations.
  • Highlight the “vital few”, “the nice to haves” and the “we can’t tolerate” behaviors.
  • Let prospects know what you expect for service before you hire them.
  • Look for the behaviors you desire in prospects while you’re hiring them (during formal interviews and informal interactions).
  • Remind people of your service expectations during orientation and onboarding.
  • Consistently demonstrate the service behaviors yourself.
  • Continually train and coach to your desired behaviors.
  • Catch people doing those behaviors well and recognize them for their authentic execution.
  • After you’ve exerted considerable coaching effort, let team members go when they are not coachable or can’t perform consistently with expectations (it is for their good – they need to find something they are better suited for – and it is for the good of your service culture).

While behavioral contracts like the one deployed by our restaurant example can work for the short-term customer service is a matter of culture. It is the way things get done every day in every action. As such you can’t “fine” your way to a fine service culture – you have to select for, train to, live by, and reward actions in keeping with the service behaviors you seek.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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