Today’s business landscape is incredibly cutthroat, and the competition will only get more intense as time passes. Every company has its own game plan in this paradigm, but there is one thing that all of them must implement to be successful: an exceptional customer service strategy.
The way you interact with potential customers — from their first contact with your brand to the time they become loyal, happy customers — will determine your standing in the market today and in the coming years.
So while you should pay close attention to product development or your marketing efforts, do not lose sight of customer satisfaction. We have outlined the steps you need to take, but before we get to this, let us take a closer look at what customer service strategy is and why you should implement it this year and beyond.
What is Customer Service Strategy?
A customer service strategy is a holistic plan on how a business should manage all customer interactions and touchpoints. It comes from the top and is cascaded all the way down to each staff member, not just the customer-facing teams.
If implemented properly, it will help you provide a positive customer experience (CX) consistently, giving you a higher chance of converting visitors and prospects into loyal patrons.
Aside from determining the steps you need to take, your customer service strategy must also define clearly what your goals are. Do you want to increase sales by meeting customer needs or reduce costs by addressing customer issues? This decision will depend on what your unique business goals are.
Why is Customer Service Strategy Important?
Based on research done by Microsoft on customer engagement, 96% of the respondents say that exceptional customer service is a big factor when they look for a brand to support.
Businesses capable of delivering a highly personalized and contextual interaction from the start to the end of the customer journey have a higher chance of edging out the competition.
It is not just the consumers who see the importance of customer service experience. Naturally, businesses are also taking notice.
Dimension Data is a world leader in intelligent technology. Based on a report they published, 92% of companies that invest in customer experience see an increase in customer loyalty, 84% report an uptick in revenue, and 79% are able to cut related costs.
We could go on and on, but all you have to do is look at your personal experience. Whether you are an employee, a business owner, or anywhere in between, you have tried getting in touch with a company to find out more about a product or calling someone to provide customer feedback.
Did you have to wait long to get a response? How easy or hard was it to contact them? The answers to these simple questions probably had an impact on whether you bought their product again or not.
Still, while most businesses know how important customer experience is, only 10% can say with confidence that their strategy is robust enough. Clearly, the problem is not recognizing the significance of having a great customer service strategy but finding the right way to get it done.
One of the challenges facing organizations all over the world is how to implement it effectively using digital platforms, which is the gold standard in this day and age. Around half of them either do not have a strategy in place or are still in the process of creating one.
If you have the same problems, you are missing out on a lot of opportunities to grow your business.
The Qualities of an Effective Customer Service Strategy
Before we get to our step-by-step guide, we must first understand the elements that make a good customer service strategy. It should:
- Have a long-term strategic plan that meets evolving business goals and customer expectations
- Map out the entire customer journey from first contact to purchase
- Involve the whole organization from top to bottom, not just the customer-facing teams
- Be focused on the customer or target consumer
- Include feedback from staff and customers so the strategy is comprehensive
- Ensure accountability of all stakeholders
- Keep track of relevant metrics by monitoring the right key performance indicators
For your strategy to work, it must focus on your target consumers. Eliminate or reduce the guesswork when it comes to their needs and wants using various tools like market research, surveys using social media or other platforms, and focus groups. That way, you get a clear idea of what your customers really want from you.
Also, your strategy must include metrics that will help determine its success or failure. This will help you keep track of your progress and identify which areas you need to improve as you implement your plan.
Make sure that this information is available to all stakeholders and that everyone is clear on the roles that they play.
Things You Should Avoid While Developing a Customer Service Strategy
On the flip side, there are things that you must steer clear of as you develop your customer service strategy.
- Neglecting your existing customer base to pursue new customers
- Not investing to improve your team’s capabilities
- Not recognizing the real situation
- Not paying attention to areas of improvement
- Investing in technology too soon
- Giving up when it gets tough
First, you must not neglect your current customers just to pursue new customers. Landing a new client is five times more expensive than nurturing existing customer relationships, which means that the latter is more cost-effective.
Also, be honest about the current status or situation of your customer strategy service. It is the only way that you can identify your pain points, which allows you to come up with the most appropriate plan. It will also allow you to identify what areas you need to improve.
As mentioned before, customer expectations evolve, which means that your team must constantly update its skillset. Finally, make sure that you have a good idea of what your customer strategy looks like so you can identify the appropriate technology to invest in.
Developing an Effective Customer Service Strategy (Step-by-Step)
No two businesses are the same, so what works for one supermarket, for instance, won’t necessarily work for another. Having said that, there are a few things that all successful strategies have in common, and you can take inspiration from them.
Here’s how you can develop an effective customer service strategy in eight steps.
1. Set your goals and make them known to all
Before you begin drafting your strategy, you must be clear about what you want to accomplish. More importantly, customer service vision must be known to the operations, marketing, product designers, and other members of the organization.
The customer-centric mindset is something that your company should adopt across the board, not just your customer service team. This way, information can flow more quickly, making your customer care efforts more efficient.
2. Map out your customer interactions
Once you have set your goals, identify all your points of contact with your customers. How soon do they get in touch with you after buying your product? What channels or platforms do they use?
As you answer these and other relevant questions, you will gradually map out the path that your customer takes from being a prospect to being a paying client. You can use this information to predict their needs, allowing you to meet or even exceed their expectations, be it by improving your products based on their feedback or addressing specific customer complaints.
3. Fine-tune your customer service goals
While you have initially identified your overall objective, you should come up with more defined goals after mapping out your customer’s purchasing journey. These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.
To illustrate, you could start with a vision of improving customer retention or increasing customer satisfaction. After identifying all your touchpoints, you could break down the big picture into specific areas, like increasing your Net Promoter Score (NPS) by 17% in 12 months or reducing the average handling time (AHT) for a specific customer issue by 10 minutes within six months.
4. Identify the key metrics to help monitor performance
It is important that you determine how to monitor your progress, so you know whether you are on track to achieve your goals. The best way to do this is by identifying Key Performance Indicators or KPIs.
KPIs are quantifiable measures that give you the opportunity to make critical adjustments as you implement your plan, helping you achieve your targets faster. We will talk more about KPIs in the next section.
5. Designate customer care champions
While your whole organization must adopt a customer-driven culture, you should still identify managers and employees who will keep a close eye on your KPIs and make sure that all the other team members remain motivated by sharing current best practices and identifying the training needs.
When selecting your customer care champions, look for desirable traits like an internal drive, self-awareness, adaptability, service skills, and a positive attitude.
6. Empower your customer service team with the right tools
When customers get in touch with you, they expect their problems to be solved right away. In this situation, your front line team must not only be ready but have omnichannel accessibility, including live chat, voice call, and email.
You should also consider investing in VoIP technology and chatbots or setting up self-service pages on your website to augment your call center services.
7. Set up a rewards and recognition scheme
Creating and implementing a winning customer service strategy is a continuous cycle of improvement. Customer expectations evolve over time, which means that your job is never finished.
To keep your organization motivated in this long journey, you must recognize and reward individuals that make significant contributions to your cause. Celebrate milestones along the way and give your teams a chance to recharge from time to time.
You could also empower your reps by allowing them to make decisions on their own, like awarding discounts to solve an issue and prevent a customer from switching to another brand.
8. Keep track of your progress
Revisit your KPIs every week, month, quarter, or year, depending on your timeframe to reach a target. How frequently you measure a KPI would also depend to some extent on its nature.
For instance, if the software you use generates weekly findings on customer satisfaction based on the feedback users leave on your website, this could influence your decision. However, keep in mind that monitoring your KPIs too frequently may not be cost-effective.
How to Measure Customer Service Strategy
There are core KPIs that every successful customer service strategy keeps track of. Some of these customer service standards are based on concrete measures like average handling time or resolution time, while others are harder to evaluate, like how a customer feels about certain interactions.
Below is a list of KPIs that you should consider including in your strategy.
- Customer Satisfaction Score or CSAT measures customer sentiment about your product
- Customer Effort Score or CES measures the amount of effort a customer needs to solve a problem
- Employee Satisfaction Score or ESAT
- Volume by Channel tracks what channels your customers use the most to contact you
- First Response Time or FRT measures the amount of time it takes for your support team to respond initially to a ticket
- Average Handling Time or AHT is the total time it takes for you to resolve customer issues
- Cost per Resolution is the cost of resolving each ticket
- Net Promoter Score or NPS is the probability that your customer will recommend your brand to other consumers
- Customer Retention tracks customer loyalty based on repeat purchases
- Top Performing Agents allows you to recognize your best reps
Examples of an Effective Customer Service Strategy
Consider two different situations that demonstrate how going the extra mile with strong customer service can delight clients and inspire loyalty from them.
Case #1: Going the extra mile
While shopping for a certain product, a customer asks a salesperson if there is a way to lower the price. The salesperson says that there is, but that the client has to meet certain conditions.
The customer returns to the store at a later time, along with the required documentation. The salesperson then checks the system, but they find out that the conditions were not met. The salesperson consulted with a customer service rep, and they decided to override the system then went ahead and gave the customer the discount anyway.
Delighted by their action, the customer gave the store a positive review online and through word of mouth.
This is an example of an organization empowering its reps to make quick decisions on the ground to meet customer needs, which is Step 7.
Case #2: Enhancing customer experience
A company that provides online class management software solutions initially uses email for internal communication and ticket management. Needless to say, there was limited visibility when a ticket was handed from one agent to another during shift changes, delaying its resolution.
To solve the problem, they decided to integrate customer support software into their process that allows them to include images and videos into their tickets. It streamlined communications between agents, helping them reduce their ticket response time to under an hour.
This shows how enabling your reps with the right tools (Step 6) can make them more productive in helping unhappy customers.
Final Thoughts on Investing in the Right Customer Service Strategy
Your success as a business will depend on how satisfied your customers are with your brand. That is why you need to create and implement the right customer service strategy. It is the best way to separate yourself from the pack and future-proof your business in the face of evolving customer expectations.
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