While standards won't substitute for passionate commitment to service excellence, they do encourage consistent behavior that satisfies customers. That's why Holy Cross Hospital, in Chicago, outlines standards of performance for each department and the entire organization.

The list includes eight areas in which standards are set for the entire organization:
1) phone etiquette (answer within three rings, ask for permission and wait for a response before placing a caller on hold);
2) providing directions (walk individual to destination instead of pointing, offer assistance to people who look confused);
3) personal and environmental appearance (wear name tag in an easily visible location, follow detailed rules developed by employees on clothing and grooming);
4) customer education and information (fully explain what will happen before, during, and after a procedure);
5) customer waiting (less than 10 minutes, or provide status reports at 10-minute intervals);
6) call lights (acknowledge in three minutes);
7) privacy (don't discuss patients in public areas); and
8) attitude (acknowledge people with a friendly smile and eye contact).

An employee team sets measurable standards and helps integrate them into the everyday behavior of the hospital's 1,700 employees. Each month, one standard is reviewed in department meetings. Every day, employees wear "Ask Me" buttons to engage people in conversations about standards. Mystery shopping is used to assess compliance. In addition, as a learning tool, all employees take written competency tests on these standards. Department leaders use the test results to coach individuals in areas of weakness and to decide which standards to reinforce.