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Organizations that provide outstanding customer service do so intentionally by creating a customer service strategy.
A customer service strategy is the foundation for a thriving service culture.
Effective managers help employees understand the importance of the customer experience.
Customer service objectives should be part of every organization’s business goals.
Employees typically perform to the level they are managed, and it takes great leadership to help employees understand the importance of the customer experience.
This is why it is important to have a strategy to help create and reinforce a service culture.
7 Steps to Developing a Customer Service Strategy
1. Create a Customer Service Vision
The first step in creating a customer service strategy is communicating the customer service vision to employees.
Employees need to understand what the vision and organizational goals are for customer service and understand their responsibility to help achieve that vision.
Share a compelling vision for customer service and teach employees service skills.
This will result in your employees providing a better customer service experience than an organization that leaves the front-line employees untrained and unprepared for dealing with customer issues.
For instance, teach employees how to perform service recovery when internal systems and processes break down and result in a bad service outcome.
2. Assess Customer Needs
Organizations can’t meet the needs of their customers without understanding what customers want.
Organizations often fail, and waste valuable resources, creating products and services that they thought the customer wanted, only to find out it was not what the customer wanted at all.
The trick is to find out what it is the customer wants and put together plans to meet those needs.
The first step in a customer improvement initiative is to talk to the customers to find out their perception of the services being provided and determine what their needs and expectations are.
A customer needs assessment is done by soliciting feedback through focus groups, satisfaction surveys, or customer comment cards and developing a comprehensive plan to meet and exceed customer expectations.
Keep in mind that customer needs and expectations are a moving target.
What a customer wants today will be very different from what the customer wants a year or five years down the road.
As things change, expectations and needs change also. Strive to stay on top of these moving targets.
3. Hire the Right Employees
Hiring with the customer in mind is another step in an overall strategy for strong customer service.
Screen employees to ensure that they possess the disposition and skill set to help support a strong customer service environment.
Skills can be taught, but attitude and personality cannot.
It’s a sad fact, but not everyone should interact with customers.
Limit interactions with customers only with those employees that can present a positive and helpful interaction.
4. Set Goals for Customer Service
Once customer needs and expectations are identified, and customer satisfaction is measured, it is time to create goals for achieving customer satisfaction.
Employees need to understand what the target is so they can help the organization reach its corporate objectives.
For example, if you operate a customer call center, a goal might be to answer all calls within X number of minutes and hold employees accountable to that standard.
If the standard can’t be met, figure out why and fix it.
5. Train on Service Skills
If you hire right, your employees will have a natural ability to serve your customers well.
However, everyone can benefit from practical teaching on the organization’s approach to customer service. Quick Trip has a great model for training in customer service.
Employees need to know what you want them to do.
The training should explain how the organization would like the employee to behave in every situation and should help employees understand how to respond to their customers.
Example training topics:
- How to respond to customer complaints;
- How to be responsive to customers;
- How to meet customer needs;
- When to perform service recovery;
- How to answer the phone;
- Your organization’s standards for service.
Reinforce this training by continually talking about the importance of taking care of customer needs.
6. Hold People Accountable
Employees should have a good understanding of how their service to the customer affects the organization’s overall performance and need to be held accountable for achieving customer satisfaction goals.
This is part of a comprehensive performance management system and should be part of the cultural norm.
For example, share customer satisfaction data with your employees and confront employees when they are not demonstrating the desired behaviors.
Send employees to refresher classes when expectations fall short of your high service standards and customer service guarantee.
7. Reward and Recognize Good Service
There should be a well-thought-out system for acknowledging and rewarding employees for providing great service.
Employees need positive reinforcement and should be rewarded when they demonstrate the desired behaviors of a strong customer service culture.
For example, solicit feedback from customers to help you identify your great service providers and reward them with gift cards, an unexpected bonus, or lunch on you.
Having a strong vision and strategy for customer service is a critical component to the success of any organization.
Organizations need to identify who their customers are, what they want, and develop strategies to achieve those customer requirements.
A strong customer service strategy is what separates successful organizations from the rest.
For more information on measuring customer satisfaction, check out Measuring Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty.