I've been writing alot lately about how improved communication from managers can benefit the manager's direct reports as well as how this can have an impact on the collective engagement levels in an organization.
As employees become more engaged in their work, they are more likely to expend their discretionary effort in the performance of their jobs...which increases productivity.
...but what of the impact on service?
No matter how pre-defined service levels may be in an organization, by its very nature, service relies on the consistency-of-energy expenditure of the server. Low-energy expenditure, low quality of service. High-energy expenditure, higher quality of service.
At a macro level, managing service really is an exercise in managing the energy expenditure of service deliverers (regardless of the enterprise). If we assume that (nearly) every service deliverer who shows up for work is ready to expend some level of energy, the challenge for managers of service quality is to consistently maximize both effort and ability expended during a shift.
The importance of this challenge is amplified in settings where service errors can be directly quantified as lost market share, revenue, or Medicare reimbursement (as outlined in the value-based purchasing provisions under healthcare reform).
Service workers that understand their role in the organization also understand the organization's objectives, get clear task direction, consistent and frequent feedback, understand safety procedures, and have a healthy relationship with cooworkers are more likely to be involved in their job at a level approaching 'self identification'.
If your staff would say 'yes' to each of the attributes listed above, you're well on your way to enjoying the benefits of engagement, and so are your customers, as higher-than-market service scores accompany market leaders in employee engagement.
...so when you've arrived at this lofty plateau, your challenge is sustaining it!
It's not as daunting a task as it might appear, but it does require consistent focus and determination to remain in your leadership position. Regular organization-wide engagement surveys are a good way to keep this focus, and at the same time signalling to the staff that this is a priority.
Best practice is to punctuate annual surveys with periodic 'hot spot' surveys, to assure that performance improvement plans are being carried-out effectively.