How to Create a Customer Service Strategy in 4 Steps

Highlights

  • A Customer service strategy defines how to grow customer satisfaction and customer profitability at scale. That's essential because both goals are leading indicators to increased customer purchases, referrals, customer lifetime value and retention; all factors that deliver significant company revenue growth.
  • The strategy is your roadmap to agent, customer and business outcomes. It aligns the methods and processes needed to produce the outcomes that most matter and avoids wasting time with activities that don't. Without the right strategy, customer support goals are delayed, diminished or just not achieved.
  • Contact or call center strategies are needed to achieve the most important business outcomes (i.e., increased customer share, retention or revenue) or business outcomes that have previously been elusive. A customer service growth strategy built pursuant to a proven framework will define, de-risk and maximize the likelihood to achieve the desired result or a result that has thus far not been achieved.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

Creating an effective contact or call center strategy sounds like a no-brainer. But the truth is many contact centers apply less effort to their business strategy than selecting the newest headset. And that's in large part why performance results disappoint.

Research shows that contact center managers under-invest in strategy due to a lack of time and know-how. The time requirement is a tradeoff. Upfront time for research and analysis is needed. But thereafter a solid strategy save countless hours by focusing on the factors that drive results and avoiding activities that don't.

Customer service strategy know-how can be resolved with research, insights and customer service best practices. This article is intended to help.

A Winning Strategy Does 4 Things

The right customer service strategy defines the optimal approach to achieve the most important objectives. Most often that means a specific approach to achieve high customer satisfaction and customer profitability, which in turn drives revenue objectives such as increased customer share and retention. And the right strategy does these things at the least cost and in the shortest time.

In fact, the right strategy does four things:

  1. It prioritizes and clarifies the most important objectives
  2. It defines the methods, programs or best practices to achieve those objectives
  3. It creates a roadmap for time-based execution, and
  4. It uses business intelligence or analytics to measure progress and make quick course corrections when needed

For those seeking strategic, significant and sustained success, a customer service strategy is a compelling starting point.

How to Create a Winning Strategy

The Johnny Grow customer service strategy framework was born from research and has been refined over many years. It's a simple and effective four step model.

1

Identify the Top Growth Objectives

Without a clear plan that starts with prioritized and measurable objectives, the organization tends to either pursue short lived strategy de jour tangents which generally disappoint or simply launch piecemeal improvement programs which at best will deliver incremental benefits.

So, the first step to step to order of magnitude improvements is to identify the most important performance outcomes.

But here's the thing. Those outcomes should benefit agents, customers and the company.

The single biggest mistake is focusing exclusively on company benefits. To do better, you need to apply customer-centric culture and understand what customers want to grow their business with your company.

Saying your company is customer-centric doesn't make it so. Virtually every company says its customer centric, but most are product-centric or self-centric. Self-centric companies define customer support goals from an inside-out perspective. That is solely from the company's perspective. They then create objectives limited to maximizing profit or minimizing costs, or other goals that serve only the company's interests.

Customer-centric companies define goals with an outside-in perspective. That means understanding what successful customer relationships look like from the customers' perspective, and knowing what customers want in order to do more business with their brands.

Companies don't get to decide how customer-centric they are; customers do.

The best way to identify and prioritize the most important and highest impact agent, customer and business goals is with a Design Thinking workshop.

2

Prioritize Growth Programs

Once you have solidified the most important objectives, the next step is to identify the best combination of programs and supporting best practices to achieve them.

The top mistake here is pursuing programs or projects because you know them, and not because they are the projects or methods to best achieve the objectives.

A better approach is to use a value tree diagram to calculate how programs deliver the results that achieve the strategic goals. Comparing alternative programs will identify the combination that maximize results at the least time and cost.

When working with clients, we find that value tree blueprints with industry benchmarks provide both clarity and specificity. A sample blueprint diagram is shown below.

Customer Service Growth Formula

The blueprint shows how to engineer agent, customer and business outcomes. It calculates cost and payback and defines the shortest path to achieve the biggest objectives.

3

Execution Roadmap

The prior step will identify the programs that deliver the biggest results and culminate to achieve your strategic objectives. This step is to plan their time-based execution.

Recognize the results of some contact center programs will jump start others so choosing the right the sequence will create synergies and accelerate the timeline.

A frequent misstep is failing to perform the first step; which is calculating your baseline performance. Without a baseline you won't be able to show measurable progress – which is essential to keep the program alive.

Customer Service Strategy Roadmap
4

Measure and Adjust

Plans seldom go according to plan. That's why achieving strategic objectives requires continuous measurements so that variances are detected in near real-time, and interventions can occur before performance shortfalls exacerbate.

The two most helpful types of business intelligence are customer service dashboards and predictive analytics.

Effective dashboards deliver the right information to the right person at the right time, so they make more informed and better decisions, or quickly implement course corrections to remedy deviations.

Customer Service Dashboard

Your plan should also be supported by metrics that roll up from the lower levels of execution to the contact centers top priorities. Without holistic alignment, programs operate standalone and fail to create efficiency and synergy.

For example, experience shows that when improving FCR (First Contact Resolution) or CES (Customer Effort Score) by themselves the impact is far less than when they are improved together. Similarly, there is a synergistic effect when the AES (Account Engagement Score) and the 360-degree customer view were pursued in parallel.

Predictive analytics deliver real-time visibility by showing how lower-level efforts roll up to achieve top line objectives. And because the data is interactive it also creates predictability by allowing What-If scenarios or pro forma modeling and visualizing the cascading effects from operational execution to final results.

Customer Service Predictive Analytics

See contact center predictive analytics models that connect data, insights, action and outcomes and shift information reporting from hindsight to foresight.

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Starting with a strategic view that aligns contact center efforts with the company's most important goals creates a precise plan that leads to the most efficient and direct path to results.

The Point is This

A contact or call center strategy is your road map.

  • It identifies your (steady-state) baseline performance, which is your starting point.
  • It then defines your destination in SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timebound) agent, customer and business outcomes.
  • It orchestrates the programs to achieve those target objectives in the shortest time and least cost.
  • And it applies technology to bring automation, information and reporting for efficiency and scale.

Notice how technology came at the end? When companies skip the strategy road map, design of prioritized business outcomes, deployment of high impact programs, and instead jump right into the technology, they apply technology for technology's sake, and the software fails to achieve business outcomes that matter.

If you follow a framework, creating the right strategy is not a big effort. In our experience it's about 5 percent of the total effort and journey to transformational success. That said, it is a precursor to everything that comes after. Great execution won't get you very far if your strategy is wrong. But a solid plan leaves the remaining 95 percent of the journey to be tackled with clarity of focus, measured execution and the realization of the most important objectives.