If someone asked you your goal for customer service, how would you respond?
Probably something along the lines of “to help customers” or “to solve customer problems.”
While these are almost always the most basic reasons to have a customer service team in place, they’re not really “goals.” And if you’re not setting goals for your customer service initiatives, you’re selling yourself short—especially as a small business.
If you’re managing a small business, your customers aren’t just strangers buying from you online. They’re your friends, family, and neighbors—people you see and interact with every day. The stakes are higher for getting things “right.”
Customer service inquiries can give you a lot of valuable insight into what your audience is thinking, experiencing, and doing. If you’re viewing each service interaction as just an opportunity to solve an immediate problem, you’re letting all that good info go unnoticed—meaning you might be leaving a customer underserved.
To get more from your customer service, you need to set good objectives.
Customer service objectives allow you to do more than just meet your customers’ basic needs. You can take things one step further to truly satisfy your customers and exceed their expectations, both in the short term and the long term.
But what customer service objectives should you be setting?
Keep reading to find out:
- Why customer service objectives are important
- 4 essential customer service objectives for a small business
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Why are customer service objectives important?
For small businesses with limited audience pools, tight networks of customers where news (especially bad news) travels fast, and a limited budget to work with, making the most of your customer service data is crucial for keeping your business running.
One of the big benefits of establishing customer service objectives is that it gives you something to measure. This lets you collect and use data to make better decisions, from improving a customer-obsessed service strategy to implementing more efficient processes.
Customer service needs to be treated the same way. By setting objectives for your customer service team, you can constantly improve communication with your customers, making them happier with their purchase and creating long-term relationships with returning customers.
But customer service also creates you a unique opportunity: to talk one-on-one with a customer to get their opinion of your brand, the product or service they’ve purchased, and their experience buying from you. These insights can let you know where your current strategy is working—and where it might need some improvement.
There are many different customer service objectives you can set, but let’s explore some of the most common—and most useful.
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4 essential customer service objectives for small businesses
Customer service can be measured in a lot of different ways. It’d be easy to list dozens of customer service objectives—but as a busy business owner, you don’t have time for that.
That’s why we’re focusing on the four key customer service objectives that are most likely to be useful to you.
1. Improve customer satisfaction
Increasing customer satisfaction through customer service seems pretty obvious. After all, we’ve already established that the main goal in providing support is to help customers solve problems and get answers.
But customer satisfaction goes beyond just one-off solutions. Their level of satisfaction with your company tends to have more to do with their overall customer experience than whether or not your support team was able to answer a simple question.
Satisfied customers are also not likely to reach out to your support team—because they’re not in need of any help or assistance! So, if you’re only using your service department to help, you could be missing out on valuable customer feedback beyond just what kind of questions they ask your team.
Knowing how satisfied (or not satisfied) your customers are can help you shape every part of your business, from how you create your products or structure your services to how you sell.
How to measure and improve customer satisfaction
You can’t measure customer satisfaction by waiting for customers to come to you. Instead, you need to proactively reconnect with them and ask for feedback.
One easy and efficient way to do this is by sending out customer surveys. Surveys allow you to collect feedback that’ll help you better understand their preferences and motivations—as well as identify any opportunities or threats to your business.
Here’s an example of a simple survey from Chase:
You can send emails like this a few days or so after a customer has completed a purchase—enough time for them to develop an opinion of their purchase, but not so long that they’ve forgotten their experience.
For example, RingCentral Surveys make it easy to send these inquiries out at the perfect time. Because it integrates with RingCentral Contact Center™, you have all your customer information right in one place, so you can see who you need to reach out to, who has already responded, and what their feedback was.
Check out these tips on how to create a successful customer satisfaction survey.
In an ideal world, every survey would come back with glowing reviews—but unfortunately, that’s not super likely. (Here are a few customer review examples.) But even if your customers aren’t technically unhappy with their experience, there are always ways you can improve.
Your job is to look at the results of these surveys, in addition to complaints or questions you get from standard customer communication channels, and identify what those improvements could be.
Pay close attention to the areas where customers say you need to improve, even if their survey scores aren’t “bad.” While you might be happy with a middle-of-the-road score, that means customers are only mildly happy. If a competitor can wow them, you could easily lose their business.
2. Improve agent response and resolution time
When a customer comes to you with a question or concern, they’re probably feeling stressed and maybe even a little upset. They’ve just spent money (or they’re considering spending money) on something they can’t figure out—it can be overwhelming!
So the last thing they’re going to want to do is wait. While a minute or two might be acceptable, customers can grow increasingly more frustrated the longer it takes for you to get back to them. In fact, waiting too long on hold is the number one thing that annoys customers who are calling a business:
If they choose not to wait around, you could lose that customer forever.
How to measure and improve agent response and resolution time
Your first step in improving your customer service KPIs (key performance indicators) is to know your benchmarks.
If you’re not already using some type of customer service software, you can look through call logs or timestamps on your emails to determine roughly how quickly you’re getting back to customers.
If you are already using a platform, these numbers should already be built-in and easy to pull up. For example, RingCentral’s dashboards lets you see valuable customer experience analytics, including the amount of time spent on each customer’s inquiry:
Now let’s compare those numbers to what customers expect. Here’s how long customers are typically willing to wait on hold:
How do your numbers compare? Are you shocked by how impatient customers can be?
Luckily, there are a few different ways you can improve response and resolution time. Here are a few:
- Improve your training. Few things are more frustrating than finally getting off hold just to be met with a customer service rep who isn’t able to answer your questions. And it doesn’t make the situation much better when you’re pushed from agent to agent needing to repeat your problem, waiting to connect with someone who can actually help you—70% of consumers surveyed in the Customer Communications Review said that having to repeat themselves when they get transferred to a new rep was “very annoying.”Make sure your customer support team is properly trained on common issues, as well as the workings of your products or services. While it’s understandable that you might be met with a new challenge every now and then, customers should feel like they’re talking to a knowledgeable expert—not a third-party staffer without a clue what you do.
- Take an omnichannel approach. Customers don’t reach out to business on just one channel. They send emails, private messages on social media, and of course, call you. So, you need to practice omnichannel customer service, meaning you can be on the channels they use, responding to questions and concerns where it’s most convenient for them.For instance, RingCentral’s Contact Center platform lets you answer all your customer questions in one place—no matter which channel that message came from:
3. Increase customer lifetime value
“Customer lifetime value” is the total amount of revenue generated by a customer during their time purchasing from your brand. While it’s often compared to customer retention, it tells you much more than whether or not a customer buys your products or services again—it also shares how much they’re spending, or, how valuable they are as a customer.
Think of it like quality versus quantity. When it comes to having loyal customers, is it better to have two customers that spend a little, or one customer that buys a lot—over an extended period of time? We think the latter.
One customer who is heavily invested in your brand with a high customer lifetime value also means you’ll probably have to spend less money and effort trying to convince that person to buy again, which gives you a bigger return in the end.
Providing good customer service lets you increase customer lifetime value in three ways: you can improve your customer retention rate, convince customers to buy again (upsell and cross-sell), as well as encouraging them to refer other folks to you.
How to measure and improve customer lifetime value
The equation for customer lifetime value is pretty simple. Just take the average amount a customer spends with each purchase and multiply it by the average number of purchases a customer has made over their “lifetime,” or their relationship with you:
Here’s an example. Let’s say an average customer spends $100 per purchase and is expected to make 20 purchases over their lifetime with the brand. Their customer lifetime value would be $2,000.
While on the surface, customer lifetime value seems like a sales metric, customer service plays a big role in convincing past buyers to come back. When you invest in building long-term relationships with your customers, they’ll respond by investing back into your brand.
According to one-third of consumers1, it only takes one negative customer support experience to consider switching companies. Here are some ways you can provide better service to keep customers around and increase customer lifetime value:
- Provide 24/7 support. Expecting customers to only ask questions Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 isn’t realistic. Don’t lose customers because you don’t have support available when they need it. Around-the-clock service means you’re able to give customers the solutions they’re looking for, even at 3 o’clock in the morning.
- Offer live chat. Live chat can be a great resource for customers and your customer support team. Customers can get quick responses to solve challenges easily, and your support team can work on multiple cases simultaneously, reducing wait time and helping more customers.
- Maintain a knowledge base. A knowledge base allows customers to find solutions on their own, so they don’t need to waste time waiting for an agent’s help. Having comprehensive guides or videos available on your website can let customers make smarter decisions, so they’ll be more likely to make the right purchase and maybe even buy more.
- Offer a personalized experience. For long-term relationships with customers, personalized support can go a long way. Each time a customer connects with your support team, they should have knowledge of past purchases, questions, or struggles.Integrating RingCentral with your CRM can make this information easily accessible to your entire customer support team. Leave notes about past conversations, keep logs of purchases, or other important factors to make each interaction with a customer more personalized.
As you implement more strategies to better connect with your customers, measure how your customer lifetime value changes. Is it rising? If so, what strategies are working. If not, what else can you do to build more solid relationships with your customers.
4. Boost brand trust
You’ve probably heard before that trust is the foundation for every relationship. While this statement might have been written for romantic partnerships, the same is true for business connections—especially those with your clients.
If your customers don’t trust your brand or they don’t feel like they can depend on you when they’re in a tough spot, the relationship you have with them will always be fragile. If a competitor shows that they can provide better support, your customers will likely be quick to move on.
That’s why boosting brand trust should be a customer service objective for every business. Similar to improving customer satisfaction, brand trust can lead to longer, more profitable relationships. But trust has the added bonus of encouraging customers to refer you to their friends and family.
Customer referrals is one of the best ways to attract new customers and grow your business. The more customers trust your business to provide them with what they need, the bigger advocates for your company they will become.
How to measure and improve brand trust
“Trust” isn’t a clear metric and it’s not always easy to measure, so how do you know when a customer trusts you?
Unlike a metric like customer lifetime value, knowing a customer’s trust level involves connecting some dots. Here are some ways you can measure a customer’s trust in your brand:
- Are they referring your brand to friends and family?
- Are they leaving positive reviews online?
- Are churn rates low?
- Are customers buying more items?
- Are customers engaging with your brand on social media?
If you answered yes to the above, congrats! These behaviors can all be signs that your customers trust you. But chances are, you still can improve.
Building trust through customer service needs to be a multidimensional approach. Here are some ideas:
- Deliver on your promises. If customers can’t believe what you say, how can they trust your brand? If you’re constantly late on shipments, forget to follow up, or you’re late to reply after setting response expectations, your customers will become skeptical—and they probably won’t forget about the promise you broke any time soon. If you promise something will happen, make sure to keep it.
- Be consistent. It’s hard to trust a brand that is all over the place. When a customer purchases from you, they want to know what they’re going to get. Maintain consistency in your products, services, and the service you provide. If you are meeting expectations each and every time, you become dependable.
- Be empathetic and reassuring. If a customer is struggling with something, do what you can to provide them with empathy and reassurance that you’ll handle the situation. Take control of the problem by letting them know you understand their frustration and that you’ll work to find a solution that works for them.
- Be transparent. Mistakes happen. It’s to be expected. But if you’re trying to make excuses for those mistakes or hide them from your customers all together, they’ll struggle to trust your brand. If something goes wrong, a package is delayed, or you’re late meeting a deadline, just let them know. Being open and communicative can help customers recognize you’re only human, and they’ll be more forgiving.
Building trust isn’t going to bring immediate results. It’s something that takes time to create, so don’t expect to see referrals or reviews spike overnight.
However, if you’re constantly working to improve the relationship with your customers through developing trust, you should see the behaviors mentioned above slowly but surely improve.
Ready to set your customer service objectives?
There are a lot of customer service objectives, but if you’re wasting your time measuring numbers or evaluating behaviors that don’t mean a lot to your brand, you’re not moving forward.
Instead, if you can focus on a few—like the four we’ve just gone over—you can start to see how customer service really is much more than just a way to “help.”
Originally published Jun 01, 2020, updated Oct 16, 2020