Aligning customer service strategy with business goals

When you strive to align customer service strategy with business goals you end up maximizing Customer Success. Customer success refers to the efforts a company makes to proactively meet customer needs and ensure the longevity and success of its relationship with its client base.

Companies that prioritize customer success rely on relationship management to ensure the customer derives as much value as possible from their products or services with the intention to improve the customer experience, increase retention, and lower acquisition costs.

Customer Success starts with value-based selling and establishing an onboarding framework to inspire customers with the real value you can offer them. But it, also, continues in every interaction the customer has with your company. It requires regular engagement and real human connections, and every member of every team to work towards a singular vision of customer success.

In this context, customer service emerges as a focal interaction point where the brand can not only address customer complaints as they arise but also take proactive steps towards anticipating pain points and solving them before the clients even register them as issues. Making sure that your service strategy is in sync with your business goals is key for customer success to deliver on its promise – both to the customer and to the business.

Strategies to Align Customer Service Strategy with Business Goals

Appreciate the ROI on Customer Service

ROI (return on investment) in customer service is sometimes a little difficult to quantify. Support departments generate ROI through:

  • Improved retention
  • Increased sales
  • Expansion of business, as customers serve as a marketing channel, sharing their great experiences with others

There are also indirect returns from support, such as feature suggestions and bug reports.

Set Customer Service Goals that Reflect your Business Strategy

Too often, contact center goals are planned in isolation without considering what’s really important to the company.

Consider a luxury brand that prides itself on personalized service. Customer care goals designed to eliminate costs from the contact center can be at odds with the business strategy. Making efforts to shorten every call or upsell to every customer can in fact be detrimental to the company, as the customer service offered doesn’t align with the service the brand is selling.

Determine the Right Customer Service KPIs

Data-driven customer service management is central to all successful companies. Having the right key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor and keeping track of them effectively gives you crucial information on how each of the wings of your support is performing and how you can improve the service provided.

KPIs like average time to answer, average abandonment rate, and first call resolution (FCR) are staples in the call center. But every KPI must be considered carefully. Decide which ones really affect your business strategy, and which best align with customer success.

Measure Customer Service Success

Some of the KPIs to help you do so include:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)—How likely customers are to recommend your service to others.
  • Customer lifetime value (LTV)—The average amount of money your business earns from customers over a specific period.
  • Customer churn rate—The number of customers you lose over a certain period of time.
  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)—How satisfied a customer is with a specific feature, product, or interaction. Can be used at multiple touchpoints to find failure points.
  • Customer health score—How likely a customer is to grow, stay consistent, or churn. Can be used to measure which actions are causing customers to change their position on your company.
  • Expansion monthly recurring revenue (MRR)—The additional revenue customer support is generating through upselling, cross-selling, and add-ons.
  • Customer retention cost—The financial investment the company must make to keep each customer.

Again, you must choose your KPIs wisely so they align with your business strategy and brand. With the right customer service performance metrics, this is easier than you may think.

Indirect KPIs

Remember the indirect returns you get from customer support. For instance, you could consider measuring the number of feature suggestions added to the database, new sales leads that came directly from support, or the number of bugs reported on a software product.

These are invaluable for meeting the business strategy, but as they don’t directly affect support, they’re often considered secondary. Measuring these indirect returns in KPIs helps you find ways to meet the company’s business strategy. It also serves to better demonstrate the ROI you’re receiving from customer service.

Break Organizational Silos

Companies tend to split employees into distinct sections. Sales, marketing, product design, and customer support often work in their own vacuum, with few opportunities for them to interact and work together for a common goal.

These organizational silos are costly as they result in a lot of double work. Departments can work at odds with each other as they can’t understand the other departments’ challenges. Getting departments to work together can go a long way to delivering exceptional service.

Align Incentives and Goals Across Different Teams

In the spirit of ensuring interdepartmental collaboration to meet the goals of the company, it pays to align goals across all teams.

There are really three levels of goals you should define for your company and its employees:

  • Individual goals—The KPIs each individual should strive for
  • Team goals—The KPIs each team manager should focus on
  • Organizational goals—The KPIs all teams must strive to meet

This begins when you set clear organizational goals. Get together as a leadership team to discuss the business strategy, vision, and goals. These organizational goals should be clear and concrete—avoid vague statements, as they’ll be impossible to action into actual goals down the line.

Get buy-in from all department heads. Communicate the vision of the company and discuss the specific goals and benchmarks you believe will forward these goals. Listen to feedback and be willing to alter goals if required as you need 100% buy-in from your staff, but avoid weakening your objectives because of fear or doubt from individuals.

Communicate the company goals effectively to all levels. Employees that have clear goals are 2.8 times more engaged at work. Make it clear that you’ll support employees in meeting these goals, through onboarding for new hires, ongoing employee training, effective resources, and regular feedback sessions from managers.

Similarly, you can bring departments together by building incentive schemes that rely on multiple teams. Besides the usual departmental incentives, rewards, and awards, you can create company-wide rewards that incentivize departments to aid each other in meeting their collective goals.

Get Sales and Support on the Same Page

Sales teams should come to understand that their role isn’t simply to close a deal and never speak to the customer again. Their goal is to begin a fruitful journey for the customer. They must set correct expectations of the support the customer can expect to receive.

Customer care teams can gain from understanding the sales process. This way, they’ll know the experience the typical customer has gone through to reach the support stage, so they’ll be better primed to understand and help them.

Customer service reps can recognize the potential for upselling and cross-selling when talking with customers and flag them for follow-up by the sales team. They should continue to note key details about the customer, too, information that can be vital to the sales team when it comes time for the customer to renew service.

Inspire Collaboration Between Marketing and Customer Service

Similarly, marketing and customer service teams find themselves more closely linked than many expect. Customers happy with the support they’ve received are more likely to leave a positive online customer service review, making marketing’s job all the easier.

Customer support is also vital in relaying feedback from customers to marketing, so customer sentiment and branding can be evaluated. And by understanding the challenges faced by the support team, marketing will have a better idea of what to promise customers in the future.

Arrange Cross–Team Training and Discussion Sessions

To facilitate this better understanding between teams, cross-team training sessions can be arranged. Members from all teams will see the perspectives of other teams and be able to add their own input. Long-standing problems can be addressed, as in a heavily siloed company, problems in one department can fester as another department is entirely unaware of them.

This is especially important if you outsource support. It’s all too easy for outsourced teams to feel completely separate from the company. Outsourced teams should be given in-house-quality training, so they follow the same standards and meet the same KPIs as in-house teams.

So, these cross-team training sessions build cohesion between teams and allow for a better discussion of department issues that may otherwise go unnoticed.

The Role of the Customer Service Manager

It’s all very well stating these intentions in company memos, but without offering your customer service managers the tools and power to act, customer service will remain separate from other business functions.

Customer service managers must be able to hire the right employees. For better customer service, it’s best to hire problem solvers who are interested in helping others. The right employees can solve problems with little oversight, actively listen to customers, and be interested in the company’s goals.

A customer service manager must be willing to coach and train staff on improvements that can be made to better reach the goals of the company’s business strategy. Not only will this make them better customer support agents, but it also improves agent engagement, which in turn leads to better customer service.

Customer support team leadership is boosted when the manager remembers to use feedback from customers to understand how to better coach agents. Negative feedback is an opportunity for growth, whereas positive feedback relayed to the agent can be an enormous boost in motivation and engagement.

By setting and communicating team goals effectively, the customer service manager makes it clear to agents what is expected of them. These goals should be discussed with other department heads and carefully chosen to align with business strategy, rather than simply thinking of customer service in a vacuum.

Customer service managers must also ensure the tools available to agents are appropriate and allow them to help meet the goals of the company effectively.

Boost Agent Engagement

Agent engagement is vital to aligning customer service to meet your business strategy. Happy employees are 20% more productive than unhappy ones.

Employees that are engaged feel compelled to strive harder for the business goals because they want to, not because they’re forced to. They know that what they are doing is important and they feel motivated each day to do their best.

Motivating and retaining top talent through agent engagement includes:

  • Fostering a culture of belonging
  • Streamlining workflows
  • Empowering agents with the right tools
  • Supporting agents with coaching, training, and feedback
  • Incentivizing behaviors with gamification and KPIs
  • Rewarding and celebrating excellent performance

When taking steps to boost agent engagement, make sure they align with the business strategy of the company.

Share Customer Service Insights Across the Organization

The insights that customer service can gather and disseminate across the organization is some of the most valuable information the company has. It shows how customers are using the company’s products and services, what they like and dislike, and what could make them choose to buy more from the company or turn to a competitor.

This information is usually in all departments even remotely engaged in delivery business strategy, so it’s a shame that it’s often siloed away and only used to measure contact center KPIs. Sharing insights across departments is central to creating a more efficient organization.

A shared access to insights allows every department to better understand the customer and strive to meet their requirements. It also helps to cement customer care as a central branch of the customer experience for departments that sometimes forget about its importance.

Carry your Brand’s Voice in Daily Support Operations

The experience the customer receives from support should align with the experience they receive during other steps of the journey. It’s jarring if they were drawn in by your brand’s marketing and dealt with attentive sales staff who listened to their needs, only to be given support by a team that seems disconnected from the rest of the business.

The brand’s voice should shine through throughout the entire journey, including customer support. Otherwise, it appears more as a façade, and the customer can feel somewhat betrayed.

Build a Style Guide

How will agents know how they are expected to reflect your company’s brand without guidance? Create a customer service style guide. This outlines to agents the type of language your company uses in emails, marketing, chat transcripts, and blog content.

A voice style guide lets agents know what they’re striving for and gives them the confidence that what they are doing is correct.

Some things to include:

  • An overall expected tone (e.g., “professional, but not cold”)
  • Company terminology to use
  • Useful customer service phrases
  • Appropriate register (e.g., whether to use the customer’s first name)
  • Negative phrases to avoid
  • The use of emojis in written conversations

This style guide should be included in an onboarding toolkit for new agents so they internalize the style and tone you expect from them right from the beginning of their journey with your company.

Track Customer Feedback to Reevaluate Alignment

Setting this plan in motion is just the beginning. You must monitor how your efforts are working to improve customer satisfaction and Customer Success. Tracking customer feedback and deriving appropriate insights from it is a good way to do so.

Customer feedback goes further than offering information on how well you are delivering Customer Success. It’s also one of the earliest indications of places where your business strategy isn’t quite right. The intelligent use of customer support data and metrics can lead your business to new methods and opportunities.

Conclusion

Customer service should never be treated as a department distinct from the rest of your company. By aligning customer service with your company’s overall business goals, you can better deliver Customer Success, where you focus on the needs of the customer and how you can best help them achieve their goals.

If your customer service seems out of alignment with the rest of the business, you can right the ship by setting new customer service goals. Invest in customer service and offer your customer service managers the tools and space to build customer service teams that can deliver Customer Success.

Break the organizational silos of your company by getting sales, marketing, and support on the same page. You can do this with cross-team training, more collaboration, and shared incentives. Leverage customer data and customer feedback to make all departments stronger, all working together to meet a common goal.

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