Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are a set of guidelines typically within a manual to help standardise processes and assure quality and consistency within an organisation. The manual contains structured instructions detailing what is to be done, why it needs to be done and by whom. For customer service departments this ensures that all employees are deploying methods of good practice so that all customers are treated fairly and equally.
The manual is generally split into sections, which details each operational task. It should always be easily accessible to all employees so that they can refer back to it whenever they may have a query. In a customer service role it is important that everyone is delivering the same level of service so SOPs can be cross-referenced with other policies and procedures such as complaints, refunds, returns and health and safety.
Each task has a detailed explanation on why it is necessary. This can help customer service representatives understand the importance of their role. Often the standard operating procedure manual is used as a training tool throughout the tenure of the employee starting with their induction. The manual should be updated regularly to include any industry legal requirements or changes to company policies.
This section clearly lays out who will be responsible for each task. It may be that a customer service employee is permitted to offer a replacement to a faulty product but needs the authority of a supervisor to process a refund. Knowing exactly which tasks are within the job role can be empowering for employees while removing mundane tasks from management. An organisation flow chart can be included here to show the order of a procedure such as complaint handling.
Instructions on how to perform the task or process are included in this section and can be used as a checklist for employees. This section details the typical customer journey and the clear path the customer service representative needs to follow. If a customer calls with a complaint or query, the instructions will show exactly what to do to resolve the issue including whom to refer to if need be.
In the case of accidents, injuries, disputes, complaints or investigations, each case needs to be logged as evidence. This creates an audit trail, which can be later used to identify areas of improvement. The standard operating procedures manual will detail what to do to provide accurate data recording and may be used in conjunction with other policies such as health and safety.