5 Elements of a Winning Customer Service Management Strategy

business man with glasses planning customer service management strategy at a board with sticky notes

Does your enterprise’s customer service management strategy need a refresh?

Like any business strategy, your approach to customer service shouldn’t be “set it and forget it.” The best customer service management strategy has the following five components:

Does your current strategy check all these boxes? Click on an element above to jump to that section, and learn more about any elements currently missing from your strategy.

1. Clearly defined objectives and goals tied to overarching company vision and strategy

Customer satisfaction should be viewed as a top priority because it brings so many benefits to other core business objectives, such as revenue growth, profitability, and so on. But many customer service leaders make the mistake of assuming the executive team knows exactly how service and CX metrics tie back to overarching goals.

It is up to you to clearly define how focusing on customer experience will contribute to the overall company goals for the year. It will be much easier to get buy-in for your initiatives if you can show a direct link back to a core objective and demonstrate the cost of inaction. And besides, if what your team is doing doesn’t support the greater goals of the company, should it really be a focus area?

In addition, every one of your objectives should have a specific goal to strive for, preferably one that is both measurable and attainable. For example, saying you want to “increase customer retention” is not as effective as stating, “improve customer retention rates by 15% this year.” This provides you a metric against which you can track your progress and adjust course as needed.

Again, when setting your customer service objectives, don’t forget to draw a clear line between the goal you’re setting and the overall company goals. In this example, you could demonstrate how improved customer loyalty and retention ties to the company’s goal of becoming more profitable (since it’s at least five times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one). Hammer home your point by calculating the potential cost to the company if customer churn stays at its current rate.

For more on positioning your team as a more strategic asset in the organization, read this checklist.

2. Up-to-date, actionable customer journey maps

In 2020, consumers and companies alike had to adapt to interacting online more than ever before. But the acceleration of shifting to digital is not expected to go away even after COVID-19 is under control. For example, Forrester predicts there will be a 40% increase in digital customer service interactions in 2021, and to accommodate this, brands will add more channels (growing their ranges of channels from eight to 11, on average).

These changes bring entirely new elements to customer journeys. Have you updated your customer journey maps to account for this? Do your journey maps cover all the ways consumers now want to interact digitally, including social media, social messaging, live chat, SMS, email, voice assistants, and more?

But even the most up-to-date journey maps in the world won’t help if they don’t drive action! Integrate your customer journey maps into decisions about your customer service management strategy, using them to pinpoint opportunities to reduce customer effort.

As an example, many companies rapidly rolled out new processes like contactless payment and curbside pick-up in order to keep operating during the pandemic. Each new way of engaging with customers brings with it new paths along the customer journey map, and customer-facing teams must consider the new challenges and frustrations this may bring for customers.

3. People, processes, and technology working together towards the goal

In strategic planning efforts, the three components of “people, process, and technology” are often discussed in tandem because if any one element isn’t right, everything breaks down. Consultants often compare this to a three-legged stool, where if one of the legs is missing or unsteady, it undermines the whole structure.

Let’s take a closer look at each:

People. This is all about having customer service agents and leaders with the right skills for the job. In modern customer service organizations, this includes:

  • Working effectively alongside customer service automation technologies
  • Strong skills in communication and empathy
  • Innovation mindset (i.e., breaking free from “the way things have always been done” to do what’s right for customers)

Process. Customer service processes have been known to get in the way of customer happiness, but that needn’t be the case. Processes need to help, not hinder, customer satisfaction. Customer service processes should be:

  • Designed with both agents and customers in mind
  • Flexible – agents should have the freedom to “bend the rules,” empowering them to make decisions about the best way to handle a challenging service recovery
  • Automated where possible to make work faster and easier for agents

Technology. Tools should support both the people and the process, instead of forcing the people and process to bend to the limitations of the technology. Here are some examples of technology that should be a part of your customer service management strategy and execution:

A great example of people, process, and technology working together: many Astute customers are embracing email process automation as a way to enable agents to stay on top of spikes in incoming customer emails. This technology leverages machine learning to understand how agents have responded to similar types of cases in the past and craft a reply for the agent to review before sending it to the customer. The technology does the heavy lifting on email replies for repetitive, routine cases and is incorporated seamlessly into the existing case management process, ensuring a smooth agent workflow and faster replies to customers.

4. Measurement and feedback mechanisms

In the first section of this post, we talked about the importance of having measurable outcomes for your objectives. These metrics are only valuable if you 1) actually review them, and 2) take action after that review.

As you build out your dashboards, reports, and KPIs, keep the following things in mind:

  • Customer care metrics like average handle time (AHT) and first call resolution (FCR) are important, but there may be other KPIs you want to track. (Read this article on call center metrics to see if you’re missing any.)
  • Make sure you’re collecting the right customer data to begin with. If you haven’t already implemented a robust Voice of the Customer program, now’s the time to consider it.
  • Not all dashboards are (or should be) created equal. The dashboard that best serves a Contact Center Manager might have a different level of detail than that of a Customer Care Director, a CMO, a CEO, or the Board of Directors.
  • Unify customer data in one place. This is an important first step towards democratizing customer data throughout the organization. Some companies solve this by having a “single source of truth” like a CRM system, augment that data with other sources like social listening or survey data, and bring it all together for analysis using a business intelligence tool like Tableau.

5. Customer-centric culture

Sometimes also called a “customer-first culture,” customer-centricity is a concept that gets a lot of lip service but is quite difficult to pull off. In fact, the CMO Council reports that only 14% of marketers believe their organizations are truly customer-centric.

What does it mean to be customer-centric? It means that more than just your customer-facing teams are committed to customers being the top priority.

Sales, marketing, and customer service teams are expected to prioritizing customer experience, but in a customer-centric company, all teams share this focus – from product development to back-office functions to everything in between.

But this is easier said than done. As Harvard Business Review points out, most companies have a product-focused or sales-focused culture, not a customer-focused one. And culture change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes deliberate effort on the part of leadership to model a customer-centric mindset and instill those values in every employee, and purposefully seek out customer orientation in new hires.

Re-orienting your culture towards a customer focus also takes digital transformation. According to a recent study from IDC, 85% of enterprise decision-makers say they have only two years to make significant progress on digital transformation before they will begin to fall behind their competitors.

What are some examples of how to weave customer-centricity into your organization, and begin that slow but necessary process of culture change?

  • Map out the areas in your organization that most desperately need digital transformation. (A common contact center example: are your agents still looking up product and policy information in binders? Time to roll out an internal knowledge base.)
  • Share customer experience feedback and insights with all teams, instill the practice of regularly reviewing that information, and challenge each team to consider, “How can we do better for our customers?”
  • Add questions to your interview processes to gauge whether the candidate has a customer-centric mindset. Hiring customer-oriented people fast-tracks culture change.
  • Tie rewards and compensation to customer outcomes (money talks!).

With each of these five elements, your customer service management strategy is sure to drive real results for your business. Allow Astute to be your partner in delivering CX excellence: our award-winning customer engagement platform smooths customer journeys, allows agents to work more effectively, and enables you to gather and democratize your customer data for maximum impact. Learn more by setting up a short demo today.