customer service strategy, customer service excellence

Customer Service Strategy

We all know that stellar customer experience is the key differentiator for companies. In 2018, PWC research showed that customers are willing to pay a 16% price premium for better customer experiences. The secret to stellar customer experience is an outstanding customer service strategy.

To put it another way: customer service is integral to a broader customer experience approach and strategy. No business can afford not to have a solid customer service strategy – 82% of consumers consider discarding a brand after a negative or rude experience.

On the other hand, the benefits of outstanding customer service can’t be ignored:

  • Increased customer loyalty and retention
  • Improved sales
  • Higher average order value
  • More customer recommendations
  • Positive online reviews
  • Customer brand advocates
  • Lower marketing cost
  • Improved customer relationships

What is a customer service strategy?

A customer service strategy is a plan of action to deliver top service that ensures customer delight. The focus is on customer satisfaction throughout the customer journey.

A customer service strategy is built on understanding what customers expect from the business and finding a way to align those expectations with the goals and purpose of the business.

What stops companies from developing and implementing a customer service strategy?

Company leaders don’t want to improve customer service standards because they expect it to be costly. But as you can imagine, it’s actually dissatisfied customers that are costly.

The fact is, appeasing a disgruntled customer takes time, effort, and negotiation skills, in addition to the monetary expense of replacing defective products or performing repeat services. Then factor in repackaging and shipping costs, not to mention the almost irreparable cost of damage to the company’s reputation bleeding onto online forums and review sites.

It’s imperative to have a customer service strategy that will win, please, and retain customers. 

Steps to implement a customer service strategy 

  1. Promote a customer-centric approach throughout the organization

Quality customer service needs to permeate throughout the entire organization, from the top to employees in every department. Every employee, whether they interact with customers directly or indirectly, should know that they must put customers first in everything they do.

Customers have various reasons to deal with different departments, from the accounting department for billing queries to shipping about deliveries.

Every customer interaction is an opportunity to build a positive relationship that will last, or a relationship that will end instantly. Today’s customers don’t need to hang around if they experience poor service. They can simply consult the internet and try out the next company that pops up on Google.

  1. Make great customer experience part of customer service

Friendly service goes a long way to creating a positive customer experience that people will come back to again and again. In fact, research by PwC found that 42% of customers would spend more if the service is friendly and welcoming. And most (65%) of US customers say a positive experience with a brand is more influential than great advertising.

Consumers who have a good experience with a brand won’t only keep buying from the company, their loyalty extends to the company itself. Things like genuine friendliness, knowing a person by name, and showing interest in the person and not just what their business with your company is, bring a human element that surpasses any advertising promise.

Every interaction that customers have with the people in your organization affects how customers will feel about your workers, your products or services, and the company itself. Keep that awareness in mind throughout all interactions with each and every customer.

  1. Surprise and delight your customers

While it’s good to deliver great service, it’s nothing special. After all, that’s what’s expected. On the other hand, taking service a bit further by giving customers a really pleasant experience when interacting with your brand, is something that will be noticed and remembered.

It doesn’t have to be big or expensive. Anything that shows personal attention will do. For example, sending a personalized email or making a call after a sale may pave the way for the next sale.

  1. Consult your customers

In planning how to improve your customer service, it makes sense to consult your customers since they are at the center of your efforts. Find out from them how you can improve your products and services, and what their pain points are in interactions with your brand. Involve them in your customer service strategy and find a way to reward them if they make valuable suggestions that end up boosting your business.

  1. Create a consistent feedback loop

A customer feedback loop is a customer experience strategy that helps companies improve their products and services based on the feedback and suggestions of customers. Gather feedback from your customers via surveys, polls, social media, online forums, and interactions with your customer service team.

The value of feedback lies in learning from it and acting upon it. A feedback loop is created when the feedback is shared throughout the team and the loop is closed as soon as the customer’s problem has been dealt with successfully. The feedback loop is improved immeasurably if it is also shared among other teams.

  1. Set SMART customer service goals

Apply the same principles to customer service as you apply to company goals. We all know that SMART goals are effective. So, for customer service, also set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

Measure your customer service goals so you know whether you are succeeding and if you need to change anything.

Here are some metrics you can leverage:

  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)

There are many ways to measure customer satisfaction, but the customer satisfaction survey remains popular because of its ease of use. Customers find these surveys easy to understand, and data they provide is very useful for businesses.

  • Net promoter score (NPS)

NPS asks customers to rate the likeliness that they would recommend a business to a friend. For practical purposes, this acts as a word-of-mouth recommendation, which 83% of consumers say they trust.

  • Customer effort score (CES)

CES measures user experience. It tells you if a customer found your product or service easy, very easy, difficult, or very difficult to use. This information acts as an early warning sign of customer churn.

  • The volume of unresolved customer service tickets

The volume of unresolved customer service tickets measures the number of customer service tickets that haven’t been resolved. It’s an indicator of the effectiveness of a company’s customer service operation.

  1. Establish customer service KPIs

To ensure the successful implementation of your goals, you need to establish Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to monitor the success of your customer service initiatives.

KPIs can include any of the following:

  • Response times
  • Length of time customers are on hold
  • Average resolution time
  • Number of resolved issues
  • Nature of issues
  • Customer retention rate
  1. Build a company-wide customer service team

Part of developing a culture of top customer service, is including everyone in the effort. Every employee in every department must receive training to become highly skilled in an empathetic customer service approach. Training should take each employee’s specific role into account.

It’s a good idea to consult with different employees in the organization when planning the training material. They can all spot pain points customers experience and the pain points they experience themselves. A load of insights may emerge that can inform the training.

Keep in mind that training to improve customer service is an ongoing endeavor as customer demand and behavior change constantly.

One important benefit of company-wide training is the opportunity to get buy-in from everyone, without which the entire strategy might be in vain.

  1. Solve problems quickly

Today’s customers have high expectations and it’s no longer good enough to provide friendly and courteous customer service. Customers now want a high level of service delivered as quickly as possible.

People appreciate customer support via live chat with a real person when visiting a company’s website. Especially if the problem is solved fast. Keep in mind that 72% of consumers see having to explain their problem to multiple people as poor customer service, and 33% say that good customer service would be getting their problem resolved in one interaction.

  1. Become people-oriented rather than sales-oriented

Award-winning corporate consultant and coach, Jane Anderson, advises companies to create a community, not transactions. She says that the primary focus of businesses is sales and credit card transactions. But that’s not where business growth comes from. It comes from “identifying the core group of customers who are or could be buying repeatedly and creating a community with a shared purpose-driven by the brand”.

  1. Make smart technology investments

The technology you choose to support your customer services should provide features like automation, personalization, easy collaboration, analytics, and more.

The various platforms your team will use should provide all the data you need to gain insights into your customers, their needs, and their level of satisfaction with your products and services. Specifically, they should help the team to keep improving their service. One way is to automate personalized email responses when a customer performs an act on your website.

Use customer support software that helps the team communicate with customers, organize and keep track of tickets, and troubleshoot customer complaints effectively.

A note about automated interaction solutions. Research from PWC established that 75% of customers prefer human interactions to automated interactions. Indeed, 56% of customers say that the most frustrating thing about customer service is the automated telephone system that makes it hard to reach a human to talk to. So, be careful not to rely too heavily on bots for customer queries.

Your customer support software should enable you to set up help centers that include a FAQs section and resource articles so customers can find answers to most of their basic questions without having to wait for an agent to help them. Creating an effective FAQs section is one way to ensure many customer concerns are solved immediately. Constantly improve your FAQs by adding answers to questions you come across in your interactions with customers.

Creating a customer community or forum where people can solve common problems is also a good idea.

It’s important to aim for one platform only. One that can collect the right data points, deliver key insights, automate workflows, and do everything else in one centralized space. One that houses all customer data, including customer history, preferences, and previous interactions. This will ensure that the whole team is on the same page and doesn’t waste time flipping between platforms.

  1. Empower your customer service team

According to McKinsey, fully empowered employees make good decisions and resolve problems. Employees who have the potential to take more responsibility at work but lack the authority or resources to do so, suffer from frustration, feel demoralized, and are less productive and engaged.

Make sure that your team doesn’t feel disempowered to deliver the best possible customer service. Research shows that when employees are empowered the result is high-quality decisions. People who are given the authority to act, don’t have to wait for approvals. Problems can be resolved faster.

The customer service team can be trained to deal with a range of issues that might come up and be left to do their work accordingly, ensuring faster reaction times.

Final thoughts

Customer service can make or break a business. The price of poor customer service is high, with 61% of customers saying they would switch to a competitor after just one poor or unresponsive customer service experience. And they will disappear without the company noticing since 91% of customers don’t bother to complain, they simply leave.

On the other hand, excellent customer service can convert dissatisfied customers to lifelong followers of a brand, spending their money happily and contributing to the success of the business.