At the conclusion of any year it is wise to look back a successes and failures but also to move forward with a specific strategy for improvement and growth. The five steps below are critical for review of 2017 and planning for future success in 2018:
1. Study and prepare for your customer journey
Identify customer types and map their journey from purchase research through product delivery and customer service follow ups. Find the specific customer touch points and analyze how you are doing and what improvements can be made. Study customer feedback data to see where negative customer experience can occur and seek proactive customer conflict avoidance strategies. Make sure that every employee knows how they fit into the customer journey and desired satisfaction and delight.
2. Provide customization through choice of channel and choice of product features
We are in the era of customer service customization. Even small business must find ways to adapt to individual desires. Whether it is a small grocer offering a choice of self service or full service or a large call center offering alternatives of hold or call back, placing the power of choice in the hands of the consumer is critical to winning customer loyalty. Before adding customer service channels, however, every organization must make sure they have mastered the intricacies of current customer service channels. Delving into new customer service methods before current methods are mastered is a risky venture. If you open a Twitter account with the intent of responding to social customer service complaints and then have only intermittent interaction, it would be akin to opening a call center and only answering the phone every few hours. Financial and staffing commitment are necessary to any customer service channel expansion strategy.
3. Listen to the customer voice
Many technologies are now available to monitor the customer voice and even to route specific voices to specific responses. For 2018 what is your strategy for gauging customer satisfaction by listening to and monitoring your customer voice? Simply having a ‘feel’ for satisfaction is no longer a valid strategy even for a small business. Have a plan in place to formally measure satisfaction and delight at each touch point on the customer journey (see step 1). Investigate customer voice monitoring and response technologies that can enhance your customer experience.
4. Make service EASY
At the holidays we know everyone is short of time and stressed out. The sad truth is that for most consumers, business and personal, these factors now exist almost year round. For this reason, having a handle on customer effort possibly through the use of a Customer Effort Score (CES) metric is critical to success and growth. Once again, this demonstrates the link between many of these customer service points. Customer effort in the eyes of the consumer may be a direct reflection by the consumer on whether you gave them ‘their’ choice of channel on their customer journey in the time frame they expected.
5. Have a social service crisis plan
One needs only to have turned on cable news or surfed YouTube videos to understand the magnitude and possible positive or even more likely negative spin that can result from even one close encounter with a customer. This points not only to having a media crisis plan in the unfortunate case that something does ‘go viral’ but more importantly points out the need for employee customer service training on how words and actions matter critically in an extremely connected world. Customer service policies need to be examined to see if they support the company mission or if they pose a potential risk of firestorm if they are abused or misinterpreted by an individual employee or customer. Foster a discussion with your customer service team on what delighted them during their holiday shopping and what made steam roll from their ears. If they had a bad experience, ask how many contacts they shared it with and if they can remember any of the many viral service blunders of 2017 and how those widely publicized incidents impacted their image of the associated company brand. Have a plan for customer service training on customer conflict response and proactive conflict avoidance in 2018.
Review these five customer service strategy steps and have an intentional rather than accidental strategy for moving forward and you will bolster your success path and profit potential for 2018 and beyond!