In the era of the ‘always-connected’ digital consumer, embracing an omnichannel approach to customer service has become a top priority for any business. Customers expect to easily get in touch with customer support anytime they want and from the channel they prefer. They demand a positive customer experience and are even willing to pay more for it.
Since retaining old customers is much cheaper than attracting new ones, there is no doubt that achieving customer excellence is what really drives profitability today. That’s why so many companies are focusing on customer service improvement, striving to offer the best service delivery and client service they can. They are taking strategic steps towards customer focused business models that foster the alignment between their sales, marketing and customer care departments.
However, customer experience management is a complex field. While letting customers contact you on any social media is definitely important, the ultimate goal of the omnichannel approach is to actually make customers happy. Therefore, businesses should start from focusing on the development of a customer centric culture and strengthen it with effective policies.
In this article, we go through each step of the delicate process of crafting effective customer care policies. As we focus on principles rather than tasks, what is presented below applies both to small businesses and huge corporations, though the way they’ll manage this process will obviously differ.
The 7 steps of effective customer care policies
Business owners can’t expect their business to succeed in the next decade without adhering to outstanding customer service practices and policies. It’s important to stress the role of company owners because great customer care fundamentally depends on them and the rest of corporate leaders.
Indeed, customer care works top-down. If managers don’t treat their employees with respect, employees won’t go the extra mile to meet customers’ expectations. Successful companies treat all their stakeholders equally and respectfully, whether they are customers, employees or shareholders. Hence, corporate culture clearly plays a critical role in customer experience management.
Customer policies and relationship standards effectively help spread new corporate values. Including them into your mission statement is an important step to promote a customer-focused cultural shift in your organization. But what else should you consider when developing your policies? Let’s check together.
1. Assess your customers’ needs
Customer service is about… customers, what they want and what they need. Despite this being blindingly self-evident, many companies are still trying to meet their customers’ needs without actually understanding what consumers want and end up falling short of customers’ expectations. However, knowing what customers expect from the support team is critical when crafting customer care policies.
There are several ways to assess your customers’ needs. You can start by looking at what your competitors are doing and identify the industry’s best practices.
However, today companies have a variety of options to get useful information and feedback from customers. They can run surveys on their website or via email; set up a system to collect customer complaints and comments; run focus groups, both with customers and employees, to highlight the frequent issues customers face; look at data such as the number of returns and return rate to determine customers’ satisfaction.
Probably the best way to understand what customers want is directly talking to people: look for insights on your customers from your vendors and service providers, equip your physical stores with comment cards where customers can leave their feedback or have your employees ask them one or two quick questions.
Once you’ve compared all this information, you will have a clear idea of which are the two or three most frequent and significant customer service issues. However, remember that customer expectations continuously evolve, so you must keep up with such evolution and never stop figuring out what customers expect from you.
2. Determine your Customer Service Vision Statement
A customer service vision statement basically has one goal: explicitly stating what you expect from your customer service team. As such, it is both a daily reminder of your corporate values and a goal to aspire to.
Your customer service vision statement should be concise and straightforward, clearly communicating the principles driving your customer care department. For instance, McDonald’s vision statement “Quality, Service, Cleanliness, Value” simply summarizes the company’s values, while hospitality leader Ritz-Carlton states: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”
As customer service often is the face of a business, its alignment with corporate values is critical and all of the actions it performs should be coherent with such principles. Clearly communicating your customer service vision to all employees is therefore one of the first and most critical steps for customer service improvements.
3. Evaluate your current customer service
In order to track your progress and see how responsive your current customer service program is, you must be aware of the current state of your customer service.
Ask yourself how customer-oriented your company’s culture is, if your staff is sufficiently qualified and skilled to deal with customers, to what extent your products and sales materials respond to your customers’ needs and how you can improve them.
Consider also how you deal with customer feedback, how well you know your customers and how easy it is for them to get in touch with your organization.
4. Set goals for your customer service team and for each individual
Once you’ve gained a solid understanding of what customers want and to what extent you are currently able to delight them, you can focus on setting customer satisfaction goals.
By setting tangible, quantifiable goals in line with your vision statement (check this link for some examples), you’ll help employees understand their role in delighting customers and ensure the organization keeps constantly improving.
As a consequence, executives should spend a lot of their time communicating with the customer service team. Their task is to ensure they understand what is expected from them and regularly communicate with the company’s other departments.
5. Write your customer care policies
Once you’ve defined your customer service vision and goals, you can start writing your policies. Generally speaking, policies should help customers be effective problem solvers that appear professional, friendly and polite. We advise you to let your goals guide your policies and make sure your guidelines are straightforward and customer-friendly.
Fuerther, your policies should tackle every aspect of the customer experience, from the quality of your product/service, to the speed of your organization. The way your organization communicates with customers, how it manages the follow-up phase after a purchase or how it handles complaints should all be based on a common set of rules and guidelines.
Nonetheless, the ultimate goal of your customer service policies is customer satisfaction. Hence, grant employees some degree of discretion when dealing with customer problems. You’ll ensure your policies actually help delight, not frustrate, customers. And, if customers complain about some of your policies, make sure you change them, or even get rid of them.
6. Train your team and provide tools and resources
Your customer service team plays a critical role in customer experience management. Make sure the people you hire have a strong customer service orientation and the right attitude to help and support your customers.
The employees’ personality can really influence the quality and outcome of your customer relations, but character traits are not something companies can easily reshape to achieve better results. As such, sometimes firms might benefit from moving the right employee from another department to the customer service team, rather than hiring someone from outside.
Indeed, contrarily to personality traits, service skills can be learned through regular meetings, workshops and cross-department trainings. It’s the company’s duty to train workers to know its products and services and understand what the firm wants them to do. Trainings are also an opportunity to standardise the way employees behave when interacting with customers.
Hence, don’t worry if your candidates don’t have the skill set you expected: if they have the right attitude they will succeed.
Nonetheless, remember it is up to the management to provide them with the resources and learning opportunities required to easily and promptly provide quality customer service. If you don’t make resources readily available and keep training (and re-training) employees, it will become frustrating for them to assist customers. Eventually, customer service representatives will stop going the extra mile to meet customers’ expectations.
7. Motivate, recognize, reward
Creating great policies, assembling a strong team and providing it with the right tools and skills doesn’t guarantee the effectiveness of your policies. In order for the new guidelines to lead to superior customer service, employees need to be held accountable for achieving customer satisfaction goals.
Executives can help customer service representatives attain their targets by sharing customer satisfaction data and meeting with underperforming employees to identify the causes of their poor performance. Concurrently, managers should set up a system of acknowledgement and reward for good customer service.
A good rewarding system strengthens the customer service culture in the organization and incentivizes employees. Most importantly, it helps sustain the team’s morale.
Indeed, companies who don’t reward their customer service representatives have a hard time keeping employees motivated. Because customer service representatives mostly get in touch with upset or frustrated customers, they can easily feel stressed and overburdened.
Writing customer care policies can be more challenging than it looks at first sight. Making sure they result to be efficient is even more demanding. Guidelines must be straightforward, empowering and flexible enough to deal with unexpected issues. If you want to write policies that bring results, our advice is to follow these seven steps:
- Assess your customers’ needs
- Determine your customer service vision statement
- Evaluate your current customer service
- Set goals for your customer service team and for each individual
- Write your customer care policies
- Train your team and provide tools and resources
- Motivate, recognize, reward
Thank you for reading this article until the end, let us know your opinion in the comments section.