Customer Service Goals

How to Develop Challenging (Yet Realistic) Customer Service Goals

Since goals and benchmarks are a major part of business — from quotas in sales, to conversions in marketing, and average handle time in customer service — it serves companies well to pay attention to how they set goals and, just as importantly, how they exceed them.

After all, to accomplish something worthwhile, it’s not enough to simply have a goal in mind; there must be a way to make it happen. Research backs this way of thinking and takes it a step further. According to MIT Sloan Management Review, goals should be FAST:

  • Frequently discussed

  • Ambitious in scope

  • Measured by specific metrics and milestones

  • Transparent so everyone in the organization can see them

This framework is the key to establishing and accomplishing goals that affect a company’s competitive edge. A goal that falls short in any of the FAST four steps will fall by the wayside, not make a significant impact, have undefined outcomes, or be shrouded in enough mystery that employees won’t know if or how their actions made a difference.

Marc Benioff, Co-CEO of Salesforce, outlined a similar method for focusing on organizational goals. He called it V2MOM:

  • Vision: What do you want?

  • Values: What’s important about it?

  • Methods: How do you get it?

  • Obstacles: What might stand in the way?

  • Measures: How will you know when you have it?

Sales and marketing often have easily understood goals, ones that upper management or employees outside those departments can quickly interpret. However, a company’s customer service department has metrics and accompanying goals that likely need more context. A CEO may dictate that customer service reps “help customers better,” but what metrics should be used to measure success? What steps should the department take to be better? What’s eventually decided needs to measure the real voice of the customer.

This is why these two goal-setting methodologies are so important. They can help companies of any size improve their customer service and determine the appropriate, practical goals for a service department. This in turn can improve customer experience, customer loyalty, and increase the business’ longevity.

How Goals Improve Your Company’s Customer Service

One important reason to set goals is that it allows the entire support team to focus and work toward one common customer service objective.

Goals “provide a clear understanding of what the company is striving to accomplish” and “give everyday tasks more meaning and clarify the reasoning behind company decisions.” Having goals to strive for is needed in every company: Goals can push startups through rocky beginnings and keep enterprise companies investing in innovation. Furthermore, customer service goals:

  • Give your team direction, which makes it easier to make decisions. This may lead to increased autonomy for your reps, which can contribute to higher employee satisfaction.

  • Give you a way to track your progress. With measurable goals, each team member can see exactly where they stand, as well as the success rate for the entire department.

  • Keep you accountable. As team members monitor progress toward the goal, they can see what they need to do to ensure success.

  • Motivate the team. Customer service objectives can help the department rally, work together, and find ways to work smarter.

  • Help you get over mental blocks. Apathy, procrastination, boredom, and a lack of engagement are all issues nearly every employee deals with at some point in their career, no matter how much they love their job. Having a goal helps encourage the drive and desire to succeed.

  • Help you work out what your customer really wants. If certain smaller customer service objectives, such as a faster case resolution time, don’t impact your overall goal of improved customer satisfaction (CSAT), you can quickly change course to learn what truly affects your primary goal and what adjustments your team needs to make.

To continue with the example of having a customer service goal of improved CSAT, some businesses may work toward that goal by learning how customers regard the current level of customer service. They may ask customers to participate in a quick satisfaction survey at the end of a phone call or online chat. This direct feedback allows each participant to rate the quality of service they received on whichever key performance indicators (KPIs) the department sets as priority.

Setting objectives for your customer service department allows the team to measure the success or shortcomings of their efforts and, when needed, to reevaluate the team’s direction and the goals they want to achieve.

How to Identify Effective Customer Service Goals

Customer service is all about maintaining — and potentially improving — your relationship with your customers. It’s a relationship begun by the efforts of the marketing and sales departments, both of which likely set your customers’ expectations high. If a customer finishes their interaction with a customer service representative and leaves satisfied, great dividends can accrue to a business.

In addition to the FAST and V2MOM frameworks above, here are six tips to keep in mind when your team sets customer service goals.

  1. Be specific with what you want to accomplish. Strictly define your goals. Avoid generalizations when you answer the question “What do you want?” The more specific your goals, the easier it will be to determine how success can be measured.

  2. Don’t make goals too easy. The customer service objective should be challenging. In order for your company to grow, you need to continually push your team to improve. However, while the goal needs to be ambitious in accordance with the FAST methodology, this tip must go hand in hand with the next one: Set realistic goals.

  3. Set realistic goals your team can meet with appropriate effort. Goals should be challenging, but they can’t be impossible. Set customer service goals that are achievable with work and effort in order to keep your team motivated and engaged. Start small and be practical, and as your team meets specific benchmarks and smaller goals, larger goals can be updated and included as necessary.

  4. Keep your customer service goals focused on relationships. While customer service has a number of quantitative metrics that make it easy to measure certain areas of success, it also should include more qualitative, subjective metrics. Therefore, it’s wise to focus your customer service objectives on improving the customer relationship, rather than on a data point such as profit margin. For example, a customer who hangs up satisfied after a call with an agent may not make another purchase immediately, but their level of loyalty likely increased.

  5. Make sure you can measure your success with metrics and milestones. Similarly to how goals should be specific, their measurement should be specific as well. Even as you focus on relationships and qualitative metrics, you must also find corresponding quantitative metrics. When your objectives aren’t quantifiable, it’s more difficult to see the success of your efforts.

  6. Have goals that empower employees. Your customer service agents should feel supported, respected, and trusted, especially as they work to reach their goals. Build your team, train them, equip them with the tools and information they need, and then set them loose with the authority to fulfill customer needs with minimal management supervision.

How to Reevaluate and Revise Your Customer Service Objectives

Once you determine what your goals are, realize that as time progresses and metrics reveal insights to your customer service efforts, these goals may shift. Revising a goal doesn’t indicate failure; it means you’re adapting to the needs of your customers and your department.

Your goals rely on metrics, and your customer service department has its own unique list of metrics that are most important to its success in maintaining customer relationships. Seven metrics to consider include:

  • Response times

  • Ticket volume

  • Channel attribution

  • Customer experience rating

  • Knowledge base traffic

  • Response lengths and sentiment analysis

  • Proactive support tally

Research each metric you choose and find out what actions affect each and how. Use your dashboards and reports to find causation — not just correlation. When you need to, revise which metrics you use to measure your success rate for each customer service goal.

The Right Goals Can Reduce or Eliminate Customer Service Challenges

Service department heads who say their team is facing a major challenge cite five primary customer service department issues:

  1. Keeping up with changing customer expectations

  2. Budgetary constraints

  3. Ineffective or inefficient processes

  4. Insufficient tools or technologies

  5. Underskilled agents

Assigning goals based on known department issues can be an effective way to address and potentially eliminate them. For example, if CSAT is down because of too many reopened tickets, the immediate goal can be for support representatives to complete new product training. Drill down into your customer service department’s needs, methods, and metrics. Talk to your agents and involve them in the goal-setting process. Setting and achieving goals is an effective way to get to know your customer service department inside and out — from both your employees’ and customers’ perspectives.

Customer Service Objectives and Goals Make Teams Stronger

A customer service department without goals is either perfect or on the verge of imploding: Since every team, even within companies known for their exceptional customer service, has room for improvement, goals should be a mainstay.

The frameworks, tips, advice, and metrics in this article will help customer service teams ideate and work toward goals that set their company apart. Even if your customer service department can’t objectively correlate their goals and efforts with ROI or profit increases, only those companies with goal-oriented, driven service departments will stay ahead of their competition.

 

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