With more and more brands for potential customers to choose from every day, how can you make sure you stand out from the crowd? A well-thought-out customer service strategy may well be the answer.
The quality of service you provide can mean the difference between a customer becoming a brand advocate or leaving unhappy to take their business elsewhere.
To help you to reap the rewards of customer loyalty and improved business performance, we’ve put together this customer service strategy guide.
What is a customer service strategy?
A customer service strategy is a plan of action to deliver the standard of customer care you strive for, including the process and methods used to achieve that level of customer support.
An effective customer service strategy plan focuses on customer happiness and includes specific steps for dealing with customer interactions throughout the customer journey.
The best customer service strategies start with understanding what customers want, need, and expect from your business and then ensure all service and support initiatives, as well as the interactions themselves, align with that.
The benefits of adopting a customer service management strategy
Customer service is an integral part of a broader customer experience approach and strategy. And it needs to be, because 82 percent of consumers are willing to abandon a brand after a negative or rude support experience.
The good news is that when you do implement successful customer service strategies, they come with a wealth of benefits for your business and your customers. Here are the most prominent.
Consistent customer experiences
Clearly established guidelines for how your support team deals with customer interactions, as well as measurable benchmarks to track the effectiveness of your customer support strategies, help ensure consistent service across the whole customer journey — regardless of the channels or team members involved.
Increased customer satisfaction
When agents have a customer support strategy to refer to and concrete processes to follow, they can solve customer issues faster without having to reinvent the wheel each time.
And that’s crucial, because efficient service is a prerequisite to satisfaction when it comes to customer support — 27 percent of customers point to lack of effectiveness, with an additional 13 percent citing lack of speed, as the most common cause of customer service frustration.
Enhanced customer loyalty
Developing practical strategies to improve customer service quality leads to increased engagement and higher levels of trust in your brand. In turn, that means more customers who are happy using your product or service and a loyal customer following.
In time, these loyal customers may even become brand advocates — 59 percent of which are willing to refer a brand to their friends and family, driving up your revenue.
WHITEPAPERThe Ultimate Guide to Customer Support
How to create a customer service strategy
Every business’ customer base and needs are different. So, there’s no single customer service strategy template that works for every brand. But, there are common elements of customer service strategy that will increase your chances of achieving success.
Here, we’ll explore some of those key factors along with customer service strategy examples.
1. Define your vision for customer service
Your vision is an overarching principle that sets the tone for the experiences your customers have with your brand and the lasting impressions you want these interactions to create. Company leaders put this together based on the organization’s goals, values, and mission. It’s usually expressed in the form of a statement for the sake of clarity.
For L. L. Bean, the outdoor clothing and retail company, this means to “Sell good merchandise at a reasonable profit, treat your customers like human beings and they will always come back for more.”
2. Promote a customer-centric company culture
Quality customer service means putting customer expectations and needs at the heart of everything you do.
From the top-down, every employee should understand your customer support goals and how they can contribute towards them.
Shep Hyken, customer service and experience expert and Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations, says, “A brand is defined by the customer’s experience. The experience is delivered by the employees.”
Unifying under the same vision is an important factor in this, helping remove silos and encouraging the kind of cross-department communication and collaboration required to achieve better customer service and support.
To reinforce a customer-focused mindset across your organization, make use of rewards, incentives, and recognition for employees who embody customer-first principles in their work. For example, you can give these employees bonuses or shout-outs through company-wide email or social media.
3. Create a customer journey map
Successful customer service improvement strategies hinge on a deep understanding of your customer journey. The best way to achieve that is by creating a customer journey map that outlines all the interactions and touchpoints your customers will encounter.
You can start with a general customer journey map template and add details from stakeholder interviews, customer feedback, data, and first-hand purchasing experiences to fill in the specific customer touchpoints, emotions, and points of friction.
With this holistic view of the customer journey in place, you can identify processes to simplify, opportunities for automation, or pain points to address for improved customer engagement.
As an example, if this exercise shows that customers are constantly having the same product issue after purchase, you can proactively reach out to new customers with a solution before they even contact you.
4. Set measurable customer service goals
To make sure your service strategy hits the right marks, you want to set objectives that allow you to track progress. This way, you can see where and how to adjust and optimize your approach.
Some metrics you can use include:
- Customer satisfaction score (CSAT). CSAT can gauge how your customers feel at multiple points in their journey and help you pinpoint where any issues are occurring. It can be particularly useful after customer support interactions. Use a customer satisfaction survey to gather this type of data.
- Net promoter score (NPS). NPS asks customers to rate the likeliness of recommending your company to a friend, effectively measuring customer loyalty. This can alert you to emerging trends in customer sentiment.
- Customer effort score (CES). CES gives you insight into the customer experience by measuring the difficulty level of using your product or service.
If you want to improve your customer service strategy using these metrics, set specific goals to improve by a certain amount each quarter and regularly check to see if you’re on track to meet those goals.
5. Build your customer service team
A high-performing customer support team starts with hiring the right team members.
So, when hiring, make sure to look for the appropriate skills and personality that will help deliver positive customer service interactions.
Proper onboarding and training are also extremely important. The idea is to prepare team members to successfully meet the everyday challenges they will face in customer service and support exchanges. It’s also crucial the team understands your standards and processes, how they fit into the organization’s bigger picture, and the customer expectations they need to meet.
Developing your team is a continual process and will require managing their performance, providing feedback, and honing skills to support their success over time.
For instance, you can hold quarterly training to review the team’s progress, trends in customer support, common issues to troubleshoot, and approach and process updates. Activities such as role play scenarios can also be used to sharpen their communication skills.
6. Use the right tools
Today, there are plenty of tools out there offering the kind of features and capabilities that make streamlined customer support more achievable than ever.
Live chat offers ready service with support agents at the click of a button. And in other support situations that require more of a visual or interactive element, video chat and cobrowsing can make for easier communication and faster resolutions.
Sometimes, though, customers want to be able to find their own answers. This is where self-service customer support comes in. One increasingly popular method is through the use of chatbots to provide automated customer support for common issues around the clock. But you can offer self-service through a number of other channels too, such as help centers, knowledge bases, FAQs and how-to videos and tutorials.
The biggest gain comes from bringing all this functionality together in a single platform. That way you can manage all your requests, automate workflows, and collect insights through feedback and analytics in one centralized space.
Unifying your interactions and customer data in this way gives agents context — including customer history, preferences, and previous interactions — meaning all interactions can be stitched together into one continuous omnichannel conversational experience.
7. Empower your customer service agents
Giving your customer support team scope to take action based on their reading of a situation can really help personalize customer service. To facilitate this, set up policies and processes that increase agency and accountability. For example, agents could be given the power to offer bespoke solutions, such as discounts and bonus offers, or granted flexibility with returns and exchanges.
Simplifying the approval processes agents have to go through to address customer issues may also help smoothen things. So, when a customer calls about a product or service complaint, reps can issue them a refund and a discount on their next purchase on the spot.
8. Take advantage of feedback
Customer feedback is an invaluable source of information for improving your business, products, and services. There are a number of different places you can turn to — comments and suggestions from surveys, polls, as well as other places like social media and review websites, for example.
Another source of feedback that is sometimes overlooked is your own customer service team. They’re perfectly placed to see any potential issues and areas to improve — they spend their whole time on the front line communicating with customers, after all.
Once you’ve gathered this information, use it to identify where you can refine your customer service strategy. And make sure to communicate feedback to your team as well — especially when it’s positive.
Feedback is also a great opportunity to nurture customer relationships. Thank your customers for positive feedback and propose solutions to address any negative comments. In doing so, current and potential customers can see that you truly value them. This type of engagement, particularly on social media, has become a growing trend in customer service.
Customer service strategy is a marathon, not a sprint
When putting together your service strategy, it’s important you take into account the long term.
And that’s because, with time, your business and customers’ needs and expectations will naturally evolve, so your approach to customer support will have to as well.
Whatever those changes may bring, though, there’s one thing that should always remain the same — keeping customers front and center of everything you do.