VUSSC/Content/Tourism/Customer Care/Benchmarking - Deciding on Standards

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"Benchmarking is a practical tool for improving performance by learning from the practices and understanding the processes by which they are achieved." (Citizens' Initiative Benchmarking Initiative)

There are numerous definitions of benchmarking, but essentially it involves

  • learning;
  • sharing information;
  • adopting best practices to bring about step changes in performance or "Improving ourselves by learning from others".

Benchmarking involves four basic steps:

1. Self-assess: to understand your own processes and performance in detail;

2. Analyse: others' successful processes and performance;

3. Compare: your performance with that of others you have analysed;

4. Implement: the necessary changes to close the performance gap.

Benchmarking does not simply mean copying the practices of another organisation/agency. It requires the ability to innovate and adapt what you have learnt from others according to your organisation's specific needs. It is a dynamic process that evolves with growing experience and with application to different organisations and cultural settings.

In practice, benchmarking usually implies

  • regularly comparing aspects of performance with best practitioners;
  • identifying gaps in performance;
  • seeking fresh approaches to bring about improvements in performance;
  • following through with implementing improvements;
  • following up by monitoring progress and reviewing progress.

Benchmarking is an important exercise to undertake as part of the pre-planning phase for a Customer Service Excellence. It will often highlight those areas which would benefit most from an improvement in service quality. These will be the aspects of the present service that do not meet up with customer expectation. Aims and objectives of the plan We have looked at the importance of

  • market research to determine customer requirements;
  • a benchmarking exercise to determine where our organisation falls short of the required quality standards.

It is now possible to determine the aims and objectives of our CSEP. This may undergo a number of stages before the organisation objectives for improving quality are achieved. Each stage will follow a similar plan, learning from and building upon the stage before.

The aims are what an organisation/agency hopes to achieve – delighting customers, good relationship with customers and staff by providing excellent services. The objectives indicate how those aims are to be achieved. In the case of delivering service excellence, the objectives will be decided by converting the customer requirements into measurable objectives for the Customer Service Excellence.

A Customer service Excellence Plan (CSEP) is all about planning a future service in advance and identifying the actions and activities necessary to ensure that quality is built in. It is a written document that outlines your aims and objectives together with how and over what time-scale you plan to achieve these results. The CSEP is produced as soon as the decision has been made to improve to existing services or to introduce new services. It is a living document and should be updated regularly in the light of progress and any unforeseen events. Otherwise it is of no use – it is dead!

Conventions and Standards - Most services have to comply with certain legislative standards and also international conventions. It should never be assumed that personnel know what standards or conventions apply to a particular project. They must always be stated so that personnel are clear on what does and what does not apply.

You can now complete activity 27.

Activity 27

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What standards and conventions must be taken into account if you introduce quality changes in your organisation?

Controlling Change - One aspect of delivering quality is to provide assurance to the customer that the work is being conducted in accordance with the quality systems and/or quality plan. A key method is the retention of documents and records relating to the service/project.