“I’m a big believer in starting with high standards and raising them. We make progress only when we push ourselves to the highest level. If we don’t progress, we backslide into bad habits, laziness and poor attitude.”  ~Dan Gable, Olympic Gold Medal Wrestler

Whether you are a small, medium or large size company, if you want to be successful (which I assume you all want to do), then you must set certain goals, values and standards for all employees to be guided by.

When you are first starting out, it may mean a basic Vision or Mission statement, which defines who you are and what you do. As the company grows, so must the objectives and standards, which will help reach those goals.  Setting realistic standards for all to follow will help reduce costs, increase efficiencies and grow market share.

Standards define how your company acts, which in turn produces consistency across your brand, which in turn builds trust and credibility. They can be guidelines for any number of areas including safety, product development, marketing, customer service or accounting practices, to name a few. Or they can govern simple office procedures, such as the maximum amount of time before emails must be responded to or how many rings before the phones are to be answered.

Company standards must align with business objectives and leadership goals, and need to be implemented consistently across the company. When setting these standards, senior management must know where the company is, where they want to go, and who the competition is and what standards they are setting.

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Once company standards are set, it is important to hire and train the right people who will accept, support and promote these standards.  It will be very difficult to maintain the consistency a company values if they are hiring the wrong people who do not buy into the standards that are set. For example, if the dress code is business casual, it will be disruptive if one or two people dress in t-shirts, jeans and flip-flops.

The next step after setting standards and hiring and training the right people, would be to empower your best and brightest employees to up their performance by setting higher standards for themselves. If you want to create an environment that encourages employees to be proactive and raise their own as well as company standards:

  • Explain to employees why it is in their best interest to take initiative and the benefits it will provide to them and the company.
  • Empower employees to make on-the-spot- decisions that will benefit the customer. To begin, set limits (i.e. up to $50 for returns or refunds, anything higher needs a supervisors okay), and once the employee has proven their ability, limits can be extended.
  • Give praise and recognition for their efforts, even if it was not perfect or how you would handle the situation. Make it a learning experience for everyone.
  • Reward any success that benefits either the customer or the company and make sure other employees see that pro-active thinking has it’s own incentives. It could be a gift card, a congratulatory lunch, a pay raise or a few extra vacation days.

Standards are the rules, goals and guidelines you set for your company. If they are aligned with your ideals, vision and leadership, and consistently applied across the brand, they will create confidence and trust amongst your customers and employees.

Paul Rutter is a customer loyalty, repeat business and customer service expert, a keynote speaker, corporate trainer and business author. He has had the unique opportunity to live with his customers and co-workers for months at a time traveling the world, and shares his experiences with land based businesses. For more information on More Than Perfect® Service, contact Paul at Paul@PaulRutterSpeaks.com, follow him on Twitter on @RealPaulRutter or visit him on Facebook/PaulRutterSpeaks.

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