10 simple strategies to improve customer service

Many of our clients put their heart and soul into providing a great customer service, but too many obstacles keep preventing them from achieving this rewarding goal. Excelling at customer service requires a whole-of-company effort with everyone ‘reading off the same page’.

Workers In Warehouse Preparing Goods For Dispatch

Providing excellent customer service requires timely, accurate information from external customers regarding their needs; in addition to cooperation from suppliers where information/services/goods are also exchanged in a timely, accurate manner.

A good place to start looking to improve customer service is in your own backyard. Internal operational challenges and issues can prevent a company from achieving targets for revenue, cost containment and profit, because these challenges and issues have a direct impact on customer service and company reputation.

Our proven process improvement methods are focussed on protecting the reputation of your organisation by addressing customer service processes that are causing significant issues and delays for your external customers and internal departments. Is it time to plug those leaks, get those customers back, retain current patronage and address the delay issues?

Another myth is when internal business units fail to see why they need to be commercially competitive by providing excellent customer service to their internal customers. Organisations are seeing the value of outsourcing any business units which fail to deliver the customer service requirements of internal customers.

Here’s a simple example how we have assisted clients to improve customer service by investigating and addressing operational, and supply chain challenges and issues.

Step 1: Identify customer types & where to investigate

  • Understand who your customers are and how you serve them
  • Identify internal customers and external customers
  • Understand whether you use different customer service processes to serve each customer type
  • Understand the issues and opportunities relevant to each customer type
  • Focus on improving the customer service process relevant to each customer type

Step 2: Conduct internal & external customer satisfaction interviews

  • Really get to know your customers well, their likes, dislikes, irritations, wishes and preferences
  • Identify issues, risks and the significance of issues and risks from the customer’s perspective (both internal and external)
  • Identify issues and risks common to all customer types and related processes
  • Identify the customer’s level of satisfaction (are they happy? are they walking? have they already considered outsourcing the services they need?)
  • Identify improvement opportunities in collaboration with your customers
  • Identify business opportunities

Step 3: Measure current state performance of each customer service process

  • Identify the current level of performance in comparison to your targets
  • Identify performance that is achieving targets
  • Identify the extent of performance gaps that need to be addressed
  • Align customer satisfaction responses with performance results

Step 4: Process map each customer service process requiring improvement

  • Fully understand each step in each customer service process from a people, activity and technology perspective
  • Fully understand the current state of each customer service process requiring improvement
  • Identify and flag where the issues are occurring

Step 5: Benchmark against similar ‘best practice’ companies or processes

  • Understand why other similar ‘best practice’ companies or processes are operating at ‘best practice’
  • Learn from their ‘learnings’ and efficiency successes regarding similar issues that your company encounters
  • Identify what improvements can your company adopt to achieve similar success

Step 6: Identify improvement opportunities for each customer service process

  • Improve customer service processes that result in retaining existing customers and attracting new customers
  • Increase the capacity of the company to be able to serve more customers to increase revenue
  • Create the future state design of each customer service process that will result in:
    • Increased productivity, capability and performance
    • Maximised efficiency, effectiveness and customer service
    • Increased revenue, reduced/optimised costs and increased profit margin
    • Improved staff morale
    • Happy customers, stakeholders and shareholders!

Step 7: Develop an implementation plan

  • Plan how improvements will be implemented over a period of time in order of priority
  • Identify requirements for resources, timing, equipment, purchases, training and cost of implementation
  • Identify the impact of improvements on other departments and stakeholders, and on customers both internal and external

Step 8: Establish a 6 month performance measurement & improvement plan

  • Improvement initiatives implemented in bite-size chunks helps to maintain momentum, morale and achieve quick wins
  • Establish incremental performance targets per month to maintain the momentum and focus on continuous improvement
  • Illustrate how these initiatives will improve each performance area over a period of time
  • Focus the improvement team on achieving these performance targets
  • Track benefits realisation
  • Illustrate to senior management and shareholders the improvement ROI

Step 9: Conduct ongoing Customer Satisfaction Surveys

  • Identify whether internal customers and external customers are happier with the service
  • Identify their level of satisfaction, whether service has improved and how it has improved
  • Identify what else needs improving
  • Promote and celebrate customer service improvements
  • Increase patronage from existing customers and new customers

Step 10: Embed a continuous improvement culture within the organisation

  • Meet your customer’s needs and wants in a timely manner in order of criticality and risk
  • Ensure improvements are made on a daily basis
  • Ensure process issues are brought to management’s attention when they occur
  • Ensure issues and opportunities are addressed in timely manner, so that taking immediate and corrective action results in excellent returns

The above steps provide you with some basic guidance to improve internal and external customer service.