At one point in our professional lives, we have heard the term “corporate standards.” Whether it is a standard of appearance, conduct or product, we have all had to adhere to a corporate standard in order to succeed in our position.
I understand the need for a set of standards within an organization. Focus on the delivery of a culture as well as a consistent product is the main purpose of enacting an organization’s corporate standards. Everyone has a different perspective of the world, and what might be appropriate for one person may be completely inappropriate to another.
Consistent delivery of service was always something that was stressed throughout my career in the hospitality industry. The goal was to provide each guest with the same level of service in the same manner each time. Early in my career, I worked as a reservationist for a national hotel chain. Our standard operating procedure in service delivery was extremely strict, right down to the words we used when answering the phone. We spent two intense weeks of training in order to perfect our prowess on the reservation system as well as the exact script we were to use when speaking with a guest. This is a scenario when a corporate standard was imperative. When a guest wanted to make a reservation, there was a very specific dialogue that needed to take place; we needed to obtain information from the guest, and they typically had many questions for us. In addition to obtaining the correct information, we also needed to complete the call as quickly as possible. Without these standards, we would not have been able to effectively assist the guests.
How do you think a customer feels about a standard operating procedure? Most likely they don’t actively think about it until something goes wrong with their experience. This thought occurred to me while checking in to a hotel recently. The front desk associate was very pleasant during the check in process, going through an explanation of the services and amenities of the hotel. As a consumer, I have always taken note of the “information dump” that service personnel must bestow on the customer. I always get a laugh out of organizations who give their employees a list of specific information they must provide to the guest, and do not train them how to convey this information in a natural way. Without this training, you end up listening to a recitation that puts you in mind of the most boring class you have ever been forced to sit through. In this situation, the front desk associate handled this beautifully. She went through the process of checking us in, but did so in a very friendly conversational way. I learned what I needed about the hotel without feeling as if I was being lectured.
How much latitude do we give our team members when it comes to a corporate standard? Obviously when a standard applies to the safety and security of your customers, you cannot budge on this. Do we allow a standard operating procedure to take the humanity out of our teams? How do we still deliver the same high level of service while allowing our team members to use their best judgment to serve their customers instead of sounding like a pre-programmed robot?