First, develop great products and services. Next, find a way to market and sell them. Finally, create some policies and procedures to manage the customer service experience. Done.

While this may be one of the most common patterns in how small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) evolve, it’s totally out of order.

The SMBs that not only survive but grow most rapidly do not leave customer experience strategy to the end. Service is something they consider long before the first product ships, or the first customer makes a purchase. They know that without a strong customer experience management program in place from the get-go, they’ll constantly be losing repeat business, which makes everything else more difficult.

Pair the following three steps with Salesforce’s Service Cloud, the world’s #1 intelligent customer service platform, and you’re off and running:

1. Put Your Service Super Heroes On A Pedestal

Plenty of companies will say they want to offer service that’s “second to none,” but what does that really mean? It can be hard to quantify in general terms, which is why looking at specific instances can be helpful in guiding your customer experience strategy.

Gather your team together for a brainstorming session. Ask them to name specific brands they’ve dealt with personally, or those they’ve heard about through friends and co-workers, that can align with the following themes:

  • The company that responded most quickly — and most efficiently: No one likes feeling in limbo over a service issue. What companies always seem prepared for the worst?

  • The company that went above and beyond: Maybe the solution to their problem was followed up by a personalized message. Maybe they were given a free trial of a new product or a discount for their next purchase. What stories define a “premium” experience?

  • The company that anticipated your needs: Have you ever dealt with a company that identified a potential service issue before it arose? Share what happened in detail.

When you establish some of the role models for top-tier service — whether they’re in the same industry or a completely different one — you can begin to create a customer experience map that spells out the procedures or behaviours you’ll want in your own program.

2. Stage A Digital Customer Service Dress Rehearsal

SMBs typically know how to offer great service when they’re dealing with customers in person. You can read body language, for instance, and use a soothing voice and a smile to communicate humility, empathy and pride in taking care of their needs.

These same traits should be applied across digital channels, but without some preparation, staff may not be able to offer them in the best or most consistent way. Either through a team huddle, a video tutorial or best practices delivered through internal social media tools, try to get every employee to see themselves as a customer experience manager-in-training. Walk them through some sample scenarios:

  • The angry email: When products and services go wrong, customers may write an email  in haste that lacks all the necessary information or is more emotional in nature. Discuss how such issues should be processed, the best channel for responding and how, if necessary, issues should be escalated and to whom.

  • The social storm: It’s bad enough if one upset customer posts something negative on social media. What if others begin amplifying it by sharing with their followers, or adding comments with their own complaints? The team might feel overwhelmed if you don’t go over how to succinctly address what’s being said and outline the steps you’ll take to resolve challenges. Some of these responses can be crafted in advance, but in other cases you may want to have general guidelines so they can respond more authentically.

  • The caller who won’t hang up: You can’t spend all day on each service call, but you have to take care that customers don’t feel they’ve being rushed away, either. Many large companies have established scripts to handle the majority of call types. Use the data on trends or patterns you’re seeing from a service perspective to make sure the customer experience representative is sensitive to the needs of every person who phones in.

Rehearse these and other digital service scenarios often enough, and even if the unexpected happens, the team will be ready to improvise.

3. Celebrate And Showcase Your Service Champions

Just as you looked to the outside world to find role models or “super heroes” to inspire your initial customer experience strategy, build upon your successful results by going through a similar exercise with your team members as they develop. Look for the stories that offer teachable moments and share them through your internal social apps, your company’s newsletter or on your blog. Think of it as an “employee of the month” program on steroids. These are just a few of the personas you’ll be looking for:

  • The Digital Rock Star: This is the team member whose behaviour using tools such as Service Cloud matches or exceeds the kind of service or customer experience that was once thought possible in the physical realm alone.

  • The Data Ninja: This is the team member who not only reacts to whatever they see and hear from the customer, but looks for and applies information within CRM, marketing automation or other systems.

  • The Customer Advocate: This is the team member who not only troubleshoots problems, but learns enough over time that they contribute critical information that influences the way your customer experience evolves.

As your customer experience improvement program evolves, you’ll be able to create even more specific personas that team members will want to match. You’ll also be one step ahead of so many other organizations that fail to put service excellence at the core of everything they do.

A great customer service experience is something everyone remembers, but they may not realize the hard work that goes into making it happen on a daily basis. Having a plan early, along with the right technology and real commitment are the three pillars that make it a lot easier.

Social, mobile, connected, and cloud technologies have changed the way customers expect service. Check out our ebook, "5 Ways to Make Service Easy for Today’s Customers," with more ways you can make the service experience easy for your customers.

Free ebook. 5 ways to make servicee easy for today's customer. Download now.