New businesses can sometimes treat customer service as if it were a fortune cookie that you pass out to diners leaving a restaurant as a gesture of thanks.
When a new business sets up its shop—online or otherwise—they mostly begin by hiring people and marketing their services to the world.
Typically, they consider setting up their customer service only after people start buying from them. “Let’s offer them great customer service,” they say—pumping their fists in excitement—but only when their customers start asking for help.
But the reality is—customer service is the dessert in the four-course meal that customers expect even before they buy from you. When you don’t offer it to them, it leaves a sour taste in their customer experience.
Because customer service is such an integral part of your business, you must also have tangible goals attached to it to make it work.
Goals are important in customer service because they help you improve customer experience, give directions to your support team, and contribute directly to your revenue.
As a small business, you’re probably either considering setting up a customer service team or already have a support team that’s scrambling to keep up with the influx of support queries.
If you think that customer service goal setting is an area you’ve yet to master, this might just be the article you need to read.
In this post, we will explore the following topics:
- How to set goals for customer service
- What are “good” customer service goals?
- 4 examples of measurable customer service goals
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Setting goals for customer service is different from setting goals for sales or marketing because the latter two are customer acquisition strategies, i.e., their success is measured on the number of net new customers you can attract to your business.
Customer service, meanwhile, is a retention strategy that helps you to make your customers come back for more and turn them into loyal customers.
While “improving the bottom line” is definitely the ultimate objective of customer service teams, there are other layers to peel back before you reach there.
For instance, customer service isn’t just a business function like sales or marketing. It’s the proverbial window that you open to interact with your customers to answer their questions, help them achieve their goals, and build lasting relationships.
In that sense, you can’t just have vague (or transactional) goals for your customer service like “resolve n tickets within one week” or “respond to customers as soon as possible.” You need to have meaningful and measurable goals that move the needle in your business.
But don’t cancel out the benefits of resolving n number of tickets as a customer service goal. Analytics like counting the number of tickets closed or improving your first response time still has its place in customer service, but these are more like measurement metrics. And there’s a significant difference between goals and metrics.
Metrics are the indicators of performance. They don’t represent success or failure in and of themselves. If your customer service team’s average response time is three minutes, then that’s just a number—it doesn’t give you any further information about whether this response time is good or bad.
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Goals, on the other hand, are measured by larger, more impactful outcomes. If you give your customer service team the goal to improve brand loyalty by 15% or keep customer churn below 3%, these goals—when accomplished—will directly contribute to the overall health of your business.
So to answer the question of how to set good “goals” for customer service—use the larger goals of your business as a guideline instead of just looking at metrics and numbers out of context.
Also, set customer service goals—like improving the customer experience, increasing brand loyalty, or building a community of fans—that look beyond monetary benefits.
We’ll look at some great customer support goal examples in the section below to dig into this deeper. For now, let’s get to know what are some goals for customer service.
For your ease of understanding, we will break down the nitty-gritty of setting “good” customer goals into five broad categories.
1) Good customer service goals are underrated motivators
We will begin with the point that’s our favorite on this list: good customer goals aren’t just business-facing or customer-facing—they also focus on the employees who run the show.
For your customer goals to be meaningful, sustainable, and forward-thinking, you have to make them inspiring for your customer service reps—the foot soldiers in your mission to deliver world-class customer service. The goals should evoke a sense of ownership, accountability, and reward among your support agents.
At RingCentral, we’ve seen plenty of small businesses knock it out of the park with our Contact Center Workforce Optimization (WFO) feature.
These companies use WFO to launch a wide range of activities to improve their call center’s speed, quality, and scope—and crush the goals given to them.
For example, WFO allows you to gamify their agents’ experiences, for example, by driving their motivation to hit certain goals through challenges, team activities, or other incentives.
Create a unified dashboard for agents to compete with each other or as teams to achieve goals or win virtual coins or badges (think: leaderboards and unlocking achievements in video games).
Crushing mini-goals in a fun-driven environment makes it appealing for your agents to achieve their service delivery objectives.
Not only that RingCentral’s Contact Center product also has other less-fun-but-more-practical features that help your team answer customers’ questions more quickly. For example, it can merge your customers’ and prospects’ social media profiles into one consolidated identity so that you can instantly see all of your past conversations with someone across different platforms:
2) Good customer service goals are SMART
A simple way to come up with “good” customer service goals is to memorize a simple five-letter word: SMART.
SMART is an acronym that stands for:
Specificity is the antidote to vague generalizations (which are the enemy of clarity).
When you generalize goals like “respond to customers as soon as possible,” it opens the door to varied and unhelpful interpretations among your customer service team. Some of your support reps might understand “as soon as” as “within 10 minutes,” while the more laidback folks might interpret it as “within 24 hours.”
But if you give them a clear goal like “follow up on customer complaints within 24 hours,” then you invoke clarity and remove the chances of all guesswork.
By the same token, customer service goals should be measurable against the end goal. For example, you should be able to attribute the success of your average first response rate and average resolution time to the larger goal of reducing customer churn by 10%.
Also, don’t set overly lofty goals like “always give 200% and never ever receive a single bad customer review.” This is not just unrealistic and unattainable, but it’s the kind of hyperbole that will sink your Titanic before it sails.
You should, however, make your customer service goals time-sensitive. Stamp your customer service goals with (realistic) urgency so that your call center agents race against time to achieve the goals.
SMART is a mnemonic goal-setting technique that businesses practice widely across all aspects of their operations. In that sense, goals for customer service follow the same format as sales and marketing, but they serve a different purpose.
3) Good customer service goals are FAST
Other experts, like the MIT Sloan Management Review, suggest that FAST beats the SMART goal-setting technique.1
In their book, FAST goals are:
- Frequently discussed
- Ambitious in scope
- Measured by specific metrics and milestones
- Transparent so everyone in the organization can see them
Honestly, the essence of both techniques are pretty similar—except for the added nuances like being ambitious and transparent that are mentioned in the FAST technique.
But if you boil both of them down, you’ll see that good customer service goals tend to be aspirational, measurable, and timely.
4) Good customer service goals should align with the trajectory of your business’ growth
Eventually, all business goals are weighed in the scale of how well they impact your profit—that’s the ultimate measure of success.
So your customer service objective should be to eventually map to your company’s growth—either by contributing to your business revenue or by growing your brand’s worth.
5) Good goals complement other aspects of your business
Good customer goals are also intertwined with other aspects of your business like sales and marketing. They shouldn’t be standalone metrics that live within your customer service team.
For instance, the goal of improving customer retention usually has a direct and positive impact on lowering your customer acquisition costs—something that sales and marketing always suffer from.
It’s also up to five times cheaper to retain your customers than it is to acquire new ones2—another reason why customer service goals go hand in hand with your marketing and sales.
In this section, we’ll draw good customer service goals examples from four real-world brands on how they set and achieved concrete, measurable, and meaningful objectives.
How can we talk about great customer service without mentioning Zappos—right?
Zappos tops this list because their customer service just isn’t cut out from the same cloth as most others.
When Zappos was still a growing company (long before Amazon acquired them), they came up with a unique goal for their customer service teams—personal emotional connection (PEC).
If you look up that term in Google, it’s likely that all the search results will point PEC’s origin to Zappos because they are the ones who invented it.
At the surface, PEC sounds a little like other customer service metrics. Zappos defines PEC as a commitment that every person in the company—even if they are outside of the customer service team—makes to develop a positive relationship with their customers.
It’s that simple. But it also begs the question—how do you measure PEC? Well, you can’t—and that makes PEC a not-so-great customer service goal.
The PEC actually defies the traditional concept of measuring metrics such as call handling times to hold their staff accountable, which is why it’s a norm for Zappos employees to take customer calls for more than 10 hours at a stretch!3
However, the PEC in Zappos maps to another, easily measurable objective for customer service called the Happiness Experience Form—yet another one-of-its-kind customer service goal that Zappos came up with on its own.4
The Happiness Experience Form is a 100-point scale form measured against the following criteria:5
- Did the agent try twice to make a personal emotional connection (PEC)?
- Did they keep the rapport going after the customer responded to their attempt?
- Did they address unstated needs?
- Did they provide a “wow experience”?
To make sure that the support agents engage in a meaningful conversation with the customers, Zappos requires each of its support agents to maintain an average of a 50-point average.
This measurement also helps Zappos quantify the customer experience (and emotions) of each person who calls the company and improve customer satisfaction.
As a result of setting a truly customer-oriented goal like the Happiness Experience Form, Zappos has not only improved their Net Promoter Score (NPS)6, but also built a global brand—without spending much on traditional ads and marketing.7
You can take the Zappos route, or create your own customer service measurement index in situations that require your customer service teams to go above and beyond their call of duty to establish an emotional connection with customers.
This is a great example of a synergy between one customer service team achieving its goals while helping one of its customers achieve their call center goals.
A few years ago, ViaSource set a simple goal for its call center—minimize the number of human errors in the department and improve the quality of customer service.
As an emerging customer experience management agency, ViaSource had an urgent need to make its contact center processes more efficient without burning a hole in its pocket.
A team of technical professionals from RingCentral devised a quick and effective strategy for ViaSource’s contact center, helped them automate their manual data entry processes, and implemented a customized solution to capture important call data from abandoned callers.
The new arrangement not only helped ViaSource completely obliterate their manual errors, but also saved them 18% per month in their contact center operations.
ViaSource checked all the boxes of good customer service goal setting—measurable, timely, and customer-centered—by choosing the right contact center platform for help.
The takeaway here? Setting customer service goals for your employees can help save you money and time when time is of the essence and the stakes are too high for your customer support team to make mistakes.
The benefits, as exemplified in the above example, are immense—ranging from saving money to saving yourself the hassles of labor-intensive processes, verbal approvals, and colossal human errors.
This is one of our favorite examples of SMART goals for call center agents.
Like ViaSource, Mention is yet another company that operates in the domain of customer service. The company sells a social media monitoring software that helps online-savvy businesses track what people are saying about their brands online.8
A few years back, Mention came across an inevitable problem that rears its head at every SaaS-based company at some point in their growth.
After growing their customer base from just a few hundreds since their launch to 200,000, Mention found that many of their customers were “churning away” from, or leaving, them.
The obvious goal for the company (and their customer service team) was to reduce their churn. So they set a goal to improve communication with customers and reduce churn by 20% within three months.
The company leaped into action, segmented their existing users based on their membership types (i.e. free users, trial users, and paying customers), and prioritized their support to customers to the more valuable group of customers, which were the trial members and paying customers.
The company focused on the two latter groups after they discovered that paid and trialing members were more serious about buying their product than users on their free plan.
By reframing their support priorities, Mention’s support team was able to handle support requests in batches of four hours. They also saved enough time to accomplish other important goals like attending weekly product meetings to discuss customer feedback and incorporate necessary changes.
The results? They overachieved their goal and lowered the churn rate by 22% in a single month—two months earlier than the expected timeline!9
During that time, the support team also spent 50% less time on support while recording higher levels of customer satisfaction ratings from their valuable user segment.
Set these kinds of goals for your customer service teams when your customers are leaving your brand for whatever reasons. Not only will you benefit in cutting down the churn rate, you will also identify your most loyal customers and increase the likelihood of winning back lost customers.
4. Brightway Insurance
Since rolling out its franchise operations in 2008, Brightway Insurance has expanded its size to over 800 people in 21 states across the US. Forbes magazine once even crowned the company as “America’s No. 1 Franchise to Buy.”10
That kind of rapid growth and pressure to keep up its reputation as one of the nation’s largest privately held insurance agencies pushed Brightway to a conclusion: it had to expand its support bandwidth to match its growth.
So the company gave itself the goal to scale its call center operations… while maintaining its streak of offering top-notch customer service.
And just like ViaSource, Brightway leaned on RingCentral for help. Soon after they discovered RingCentral, the insurance company came to a startling realization—they could avoid investing in a costly call center expansion if they went ahead with RingCentral’s unified communications platform and its contact center software.
The company didn’t waste time and implemented RingCentral software solutions to route customer phone calls, get data visibility into its call center activities, and enable its callers to reach the right support agent at the same time.
Brightway used the contact center software to establish smart rules and route customer calls from across email, chat, and voice to the right department.
Instead of setting up a costly second call center base and hiring a ton of new agents, Brightway used RingCentral to simplify its complex processes and improve customer satisfaction.
Brightway’s support agents, most of whom worked remotely from different locations, used RingCentral’s team messaging platform to communicate more smoothly, resolve customer issues before they escalated, and service the customers better:
The lowdown here is, look for a smarter way to resolve your growing call center problems without adding a ton of new tools.
By choosing an all-in-one contact center solution, not only will you save money, but you’ll also make your processes run more smoothly with less of a burden on your team to learn and manage a bunch of different software.
The best customer service goals example are specific, measurable, and time-bound
By now, you must have gotten a pretty good hang of what makes a good customer service goal. Good customer service goals aren’t just profit-driven or related to customers.
Like we saw in Zappos’ and ViaSource’s examples, sometimes good goals help you boost your employees’ morale and improve their experiences.
Other times—like in the case of Mention and Brightway—it’s all about saving cost while improving customer satisfaction.
We hope you got value out of these customer service goals examples, and best of luck in coming up with your own great customer service goals!
Originally published Aug 01, 2020, updated Nov 17, 2021