Service standards or service excellence?

Partnership iStock 000006695073XSmall 146x219Service standards could have the effect of lowering expectations of excellence when we should be raising them instead, writes Geoff Wild.

As lawyers, we're used to having 'service standards' to measure our performance. By this we mean the expected level of service for a given task or process. The aim is to document a checklist for managers or clients to be able to confirm that minimum service levels have been attained. But are we too focused on putting ticks in boxes?

What sometimes happens is that service standards become the only measure applied to assess the standards of performance being achieved and can obscure the fact that less than outstanding help and co-operation is being provided. One of the deficiencies of having too structured a management process is that service standards might actually permit and even encourage average performances - individual flair and creativity, the things that result in levels of service above and beyond the specification, can be stifled and discouraged.

Within all of us there is usually a streak of individualism. Whilst service standards have their place, this should not be at the expense of creative problem solving or the application of emotional intelligence. Yes, service standards should always be adhered to, but not slavishly followed to the exclusion of all else. There should be equal consideration given to the outputs of the creative process and all lawyers encouraged to use their individualism and enthusiasm to drive service standards way beyond those written into the contract.

As lawyers, we should strive to deliver excellence. In this context, service standards could have the effect of lowering expectations of excellence when we should be raising them instead. If just delivering ‘compliant’ legal services is all your clients want, then carry on ticking the boxes – but if you want to deliver ‘service excellence’, encourage individual flair and creativity and create time to imagine how good the services you provide could be.

Geoff Wild is chief executive of Invicta Law.

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