What is Customer Service?
Customer service is the process of ensuring customer satisfaction with a product or service. More often, customer service takes place while performing a transaction for the customer, such as making a sale or returning an item. Customer service can take the form of an in-person interaction, a phone call, self-service systems, or by other means. Customer service is an enormously important part of maintaining ongoing client relationships, which are key to continuing revenue. Ideally, customer service should be a one-stop endeavor for the consumer.
Companies must make a commitment to providing up-to-date information to customer service representatives. To avoid complicating an existing problem, employees need to have the latest and most accurate information about products and company policies. Periodic assessment of customer service is essential to running a successful company. Surveys allow customers to provide feedback about the service they receive and to suggest areas for improvement.
Customer service is giving the customer…………………………
WHAT he needs WHEN he needs it and, in the WAY, he needs it.
Fact: “Success in business and customer service go hand in hand.”
- Determines the company’s future,
- Ensures customer satisfaction,
- Facilitates product awareness,
- Tool for feedback,
- Maintains relationships,
- Retains the customer.
This is sort of like asking why doctors have a written list of procedures they follow before performing surgery. Or why the FDA has a written list of procedures for how restaurants can handle food.
Here are just a few of the reasons why your business needs standard operating procedures:
- They save time and money
When the same task is completed in many different ways, it will always take longer to complete. Having a standard operating procedure in place streamlines the process so employees can accomplish more in less time.
- They provide consistency
Having a standard operating procedure in place ensures that regardless of who is working, business processes are being completed the correct way.
- They improve communication
Standard operating procedures make your employees’ jobs easier because no longer do they have to guess as to how they should be performing their jobs. And they don’t have to try to rack their brains to remember what you told them when they were first hired.
- They allow you to hold your employees accountable
How can you evaluate your employees if you don’t have written standards in place? Without standard operating procedures, employee evaluations become a matter of personal opinion, which is hardly fair to your employees.
- They create a safer work environment
When employees perform the same tasks in completely different ways, it is not only inefficient it is actually a liability for your business. Standard operating procedures ensure that employees perform their job functions in a safe and consistent manner.
One of the biggest misconceptions about standard operating procedures is that they will cause businesses to become rigid and inflexible.
Here are five steps to follow when creating your own standard operating procedure:
- Develop a list of your business processes
To get started, have the managers talk to your employees about the duties they perform in their jobs every day. This will allow them to begin creating a detailed list of processes that need standard operating procedures.
From there, you can review the list with your managers and look for any redundancies. This list will serve as a starting point for creating your standard operating procedure.
- Plan the process
In this step, you will need to decide on a format for your process. Do you want it to be a step-by-step guide or a workflow diagram? From there you can create a template. You will also need to decide how your standard operating procedure will be made visible to your employees. Will you have a written copy posted or will a copy be available online?
- Talk with employees
Now that you have your list of processes and you have created your template; you need to talk to your employees. This is important because you can’t fully understand the process unless you have spoken with the people who actually perform it on a daily basis. Only speaking with management is not enough.
- Write and review the process
Once you have spoken with your employees, immediately add your notes to the template. From there you can review your standard operating procedure with employees once again and obtain input from your managers. You should also determine who will be responsible for oversight and maintenance of the standard operating procedure.
Keep in mind that all of your standard operating procedures should read the same way while still distinctly describing the functions of each area of your business.
- Maintain the process
Your work is not finished once the standard operating procedure is written! In order for it to remain relevant and useful, you must maintain and update it at least once per year.
A written standard operating procedure not only lets your employee know how they should be doing their job; it lets them know why. When you explain to employees why tasks are performed in a certain way, they will be more likely to complete them.
Standard operating procedures are time-consuming to create at first, but the benefits are worth it. They will save you a lot of time and frustration down the road.
Standard operating procedures are detailed, written instructions on how to perform a routine business activity. They are easy to read, and they explain every detail of the process being described. It is important to keep in mind that a good standard operating procedure doesn’t focus on what needs to be done but rather how it should be done. A standard operating procedure is an effective tool that every business should have.
Standard operating procedures will give you a better understanding of your business processes and help you decide how to move forward. They will ensure that all employees are performing the business processes in the same way.
Having standard operating procedures in place will also give you the option to scale your business more quickly. This is because standard operating procedures make it easier to replicate these processes across your organization.
What is a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?
Ask yourself why the SOP is required, what problem will it solve and what does it need to achieve. Here are some examples:
- To protect the environment.
- To drive down costs.
- To increase quality.
- To ensure safety and/or reduce risk.
- To provide training reference.
Step 2 – Consider your audience
Ensure that the audience size and shape, language skills, and prior knowledge of the subject are taken into account when writing the SOP. It may be that one area of the SOP has to cater for a different type of audience than another and may therefore benefit from a different layout. Pictures versus words for example.
Step 3 – Ensure effective format and layout
There are no ‘silver bullet’ answers on how to layout or present your SOP, but there are some simple points to consider:
- Is there a pre-existing format in use that is working? – If it isn’t broken don’t fix it.
- If there are many routes through the process, then it may lend itself to flowchart layout. – Research shows that 83% of human learning occurs visually.
- Is the process very long? – Then it may be better to have hierarchical steps, giving a list of main steps with sub steps underneath to help give clarity.
- Is it a simple routine with few steps? – Then a simple list may be the most effective way.
Step 4 – Appropriate authors need to be engaged
It may go without saying, however in order to write a SOP, you need to have the necessary knowledge. Whilst you may have been tasked to create, and even own this SOP, always bear in mind that you may not be the best person to write it. Ensure that experts in the relevant areas are brought into the authorizing process.
Step 5 – Provide relevant structure and content
There may be different needs for different scenarios, however the following are examples of basic details that need to be included in the SOP:
- Scope of SOP.
- The procedure itself.
- Any Health and Safety considerations.
- Any equipment needs.
- Glossary of terms and Hints and Tips
Step 6 – Use a suitable writing style
- Ensure any text in the document is clear and concise otherwise the audience will find it difficult to follow and use as a reference.
- Try not to use any reference to the person (You, He, She, Him, Her).
- Ensure steps are clearly referenced in order to help with ease of reference and ease of maintenance in the future.
- Break up large chunks of texts with diagrams and flowcharts; remember a picture paints a thousand words.
Step 7 – SOP testing
Ensure the SOP is tested by the people who will use it, and ensure comments are taken onboard and updated within the SOP wherever possible
Step 8 – Ensure the SOP is available in a known location
Most organizations have a standard repository location for SOP. Most commonly used is a SharePoint site either at department or organization level.
Step 9 – Ensure the SOP is distributed and read
Whilst a repository is required, simply placing your SOP on SharePoint will not be enough. Once a SOP is updated or put in place it is imperative that all the relevant user groups read the document. In many compliance situations it will be mandatory by legislation to have confirmation that SOP has been read and understood.
Step 10 – Ensure comprehension
Just asking staff to confirm they have read the SOP will not usually be enough to ensure understanding. There is a need to ensure staff have understood what is meant by the SOP. Setting a test to be passed when the audience reads the SOP is a good way to achieve this
When training does not mirror documented policies and procedures, the scope and specifics of this training are open to reinterpretation by each new person who passes along the information. And, it is difficult to hold people accountable when they have been poorly trained or are not familiar with what they are supposed to do and how, much less why.
Procedural training should be viewed as a central, and not peripheral, part of the organization’s work. SOPs provide a solid foundation for this training:
- Because SOPs are written, both supervisor and employee have a reliable reference for how tasks need to be done. This avoids the problem of a staffer being trained by Bob to do things Bob’s way and then being “corrected” by Sara, who prefers different methods.
- A new staff person can refer to their copy of the SOPs for a “refresher” on how to perform a task whenever needed instead of having to find someone to ask for help or deciding to wing it.
- By being trained using SOPs, staff learn from their first days with the agency that the organization is serious about following SOPs, and that the staff person is expected to continue following them.
Each staff member should have a copy of the SOP manual with a master copy (that is kept current) in a central location. Staff need to read the entire document and then review the sections that relate to their job one-on-one with their supervisor before training starts.
In addition, all supervisors should be required to complete minimum training requirements themselves. This will help to ensure that the training that supervisors provide to staff members is consistent with the SOPs.
- Spelling out the expectations of every employee,
- Training supervisory staff to implement the expectations appropriately, and
- Requiring accountability at all levels.
The implementation of a system for ensuring that all staff are knowledgeable of? And held accountable for? Following policies and procedures is essential. In performance reviews, SOPs provide an impartial standard for evaluating performance. Using SOPs makes it easier to be consistent about expectations for every employee and to determine whether performance meets, exceeds, or falls short of expectations.