How a customer service strategy helps you navigate the complexities of today’s customer care environment and achieve your business objectives
Yes, you read that title correctly. Every organization needs a customer service strategy. Whether you’re B2B or B2C, a large enterprise or a small startup, for-profit or not-for-profit … and even if your customer service seems to be humming along just fine or you don’t work directly with customers, this call to action is for you, and here’s why.
The word “complex” hardly begins to describe the ecosystem surrounding today’s customer service offering. A single customer can be connected to multiple (sometimes siloed) organizations within the company, via any number of vastly different channels—and expectations for fast, seamless service have never been higher. New technologies appear on the scene almost daily, each offering a distinct set of advantages for today’s contact center (and its own price tag). If that’s not enough to keep up with, contact center leaders face an average employee turnover rate of 30-45 percent, and the goal of keeping the best and brightest agents is often a moving target.
Given the vast array of variables, the rapid rate of change, and the pressure to get it right the first time, organizations can’t afford to address customer care on an ad hoc basis. They need a customer service strategy.
The new realities of customer care
Customer relationships are more complicated—and more fragile—than ever before. One customer may have records in multiple areas (think marketing, sales, customer care, tech support, warranty, shipping, etc.), which may or may not be linked. In addition, customers may choose to use any number of contact methods—email, social media, phone call, text, etc.—to contact the company when they have issues, and they expect those channels to be connected in a seamless experience.
If the company doesn’t get this complex relationship right, the customer can take their business to a competitor with just the tap of a button.
Then there’s the challenge of keeping up with constantly evolving technologies. As Gartner recently stated,
Customer service is an innovation hotbed. However, the pace of customer service technology trends threatens even the most progressive service leaders, who struggle to develop a coherent technology strategy and drive customer success outcomes.
To add yet another factor into the mix, contact centers tend to see above-average employee turnover rates, which not only disrupts operations but also incurs the cost of replacing departed agents. Customer service leaders therefore have a vested interest in improving agents’ job satisfaction through, for example, managing the number of interactions handled per day and making information readily available.
… But the fundamentals still apply
Amid all the complexity, the fundamental mission of customer care is the same as it always has been: give customers what they need, when they need it, in a way that makes them happy. For some cases, there is no substitute for the empathy and creative problem-solving that can only be found in human-to-human interactions. For others, customers would rather solve the problem themselves (or let a virtual agent do it for them) than sit on the phone waiting for a human agent to become available.
Managing all the inputs of successful customer care—people, technology, data, and processes—to produce optimal outcomes aligned with the organization’s strategic goals is a hefty challenge. But it can be overcome, and it all starts with having the right strategy in place.
Customer service strategy 101
While it might sound like a huge undertaking, building a solid customer care strategy is actually a simple process, although it does take time and effort to put the required pieces in place. To help you get started, we created an easy-to-use template that walks you through a three-phase progression:
Here’s a quick summary of the three steps that will help you create a solid customer service strategy that aligns with your organization’s strategic goals.
1. Evaluate your current environment and processes.
The start of any journey requires knowing where you are today—like finding the “You are here” dot on an airport map. Getting a handle on the interaction of people, technology, and processes that make up your customer care offering will enable you to identify the gaps between where you are today and where you want to be (see Step 2).
For many organizations, completing this first step alone can deliver tremendous value, revealing opportunities for improvement that no one may have yet considered.
As you evaluate your current state, here are a few factors to consider (see the template for detailed questions to answer):
• The customers and products/services you support
• Customers’ preferred methods of contact
• Current business drivers
• Current technologies being used
• How you measure customer satisfaction
2. Build a vision for the future.
Once you’ve established a clear view of where your offering is today, it can be tempting to jump right in and start taking action (or, even worse, start buying new technology). But doing so before you’ve clarified your goals can be a recipe for wasted time, effort, and budget—like walking through the airport without knowing your gate number.
Before jumping into action, take the time to create a clear picture of what success will look like—where you want to be after implementing your strategy—and make sure it’s aligned with your organization’s overall strategy. Be sure to consider the following factors (see the template for detailed questions to answer):
• Your big-picture vision statement for your customer care offering
• KPIs that can help measure progress towards this goal
• How you envision the ideal experiences for both customers and agents
3. Identify gaps and create an action plan.
After you’ve assessed your starting point and determined what the finish line looks like, then it’s a matter of identifying the gaps and creating a plan of prioritized, laser-focused actions for advancing towards your goal. This step is also where you’ll document the KPIs you’ll use to measure progress and set a frequency and target score for each.
While every organization’s action plan will look different, here are a few examples of actions to get you started:
• “Implement real-time voice transcription for all incoming calls.”
• “Start offering self-service through virtual agents (‘chatbots’).”
• “Leverage AI to automate information lookups for agents interacting with customers.”
• “Upgrade telephony application.”
• “Integrate customer data from sales, support, marketing, and shipping.”
Once you’ve made it through all three steps, the next steps are to implement your plan, measure your success, and make adjustments as needed.
The way forward
The three-phase process we go through in our customer service strategy template is simple … but not necessarily easy. Finding the time and resources to evaluate the current state, develop and gain consensus on a vision, and create and implement an action plan can be a challenge for customer service leaders whose bandwidth is already stretched.
Sometimes the best way to ensure that your strategy makes it to the finish line is to bring in outside help. As an added bonus, some of our clients have found the objectivity of a third party to be an advantage, particularly during the assessment phase.
Logic20/20 works with our clients through every stage of the process, ensuring that all questions are thoroughly answered, all pieces are in place, and everything is clearly documented. Download your copy of our Customer Service Strategy Template today and, if you need some support creating and implementing a tailored customer service strategy for your organization, feel free to reach out to us—we’re happy to help!
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Alexis Greenwood is a manager in the Logic20/20 Digital Transformation practice, focused on offerings development and innovations. In her experience as a business systems analyst, she enabled change through development of low-code platforms, including Salesforce and ServiceNow, custom applications, virtual assistants, and a variety of tools including ERPs, ITSM tools and CRMs.