How to Create a Customer Service Plan that Drives ROI
You have the perfect product and competitive pricing to carve a special place for your brand in the market. The reactions and verdict from customers and critics are in, and your product is an instant favorite.
However, no matter how pathbreaking the product or service is, your company’s customer perception is only as good as the support you offer. So what’s the best way to increase the likelihood of your customers staying with your company? It’s all about your customer service plan. Let’s get to it.
What is the purpose of a customer service plan for your business?
When a customer has a problem, the support team is often the first line they reach out to. Without a well-oiled customer service plan in place, this interaction may become an overwhelming ordeal that leaves both sides dissatisfied.
We’ve all probably been in a situation where the responses from companies do not address your concerns effectively due to the lack of a support process in place. It’s utterly frustrating and it drives many customers to unsubscribe from all communication, write negative reviews on social, and ultimately switch to your competitor. This reactive mode of service delivery can put a dent in your overall market strategy, revenue goals, and other best-laid plans.
The most successful businesses are the ones that offer proactive service, make customers feel valued, and nudge them to keep coming back. It will need a comprehensive customer service plan that is clear-cut–one that serves as a playbook to handle issues within your company, foster a goal-oriented mindset, build a customer-centric company culture, and evaluate and invest in the right tech.
How to create the ideal customer service plan
The ideal customer service action plan will enable you to make customer-centricity and service a company-wide mindset rather than the responsibility of a single department. To create an action plan for customer service, support needs to become your workplace culture. That’s when things start falling into place. Let’s have a look at some of the important moving parts of any business that need to be fine-tuned, to create a superior customer service plan:
6 Steps to create a customer service action plan
- Train employees in customer service
- Establish concrete SOPs
- Leverage technology to offer better service
- Offer support on the channels your customers prefer
- Monitor key metrics that help identify cracks and opportunities
- Make service culture an organization-wide commitment
#1 Train employees in customer service
Right from the onboarding phase, give employees a glimpse of the service culture of your organization – irrespective of whether they’re a part of the support team. Inculcating a customer-first attitude at the organization level elevates the customer experience as it becomes a habit rather than a forced formality.
Encouraging your employees to show empathy will help your company understand the lingo of customers and see where they are coming from. Empathy will humanize customer service interactions and hand out cues on what your customers want to hear. Give customers the impression that they’re not mere daily targets that need handling.
Showing empathy in customer service can set you apart from the competition. Kaushik Natarajan, a Senior Product Consultant in Freshworks, demonstrated how support is the key to building customer relationships and brand advocacy – so much so that our client mailed in her heartfelt appreciation for the exceptional support experience.
Product expertise and KPIs
Build resources, video tutorials, and product-walkthroughs around to make it simpler for support agents to understand and master the products. Think of the employees as your customers and do everything to ensure they gain complete knowledge about your products. Apart from following the end goal of resolving customer issues, align them with KPIs that reflect through every support interaction. This will give room to revamp or tweak your customer service plan when you see fit and go from “ticket closure” to “customer delight”.
#2 Establish concrete SOPs
Empowering your agents with clear standard operating procedures (SOPs) will create a sense of autonomy and inspire them to be confident in taking ownership. If your employees are going back and forth through the chain of command to resolve issues, it reflects poorly on your SOPs and an acute lack of employee engagement.
Giving your customer-facing employees a set of repeatable approaches or a playbook that they can refer to, will speed up resolution time and establish an evergreen support workflow to abide by.
For instance, escalations form a major part of every customer service SOP. Because of the volatility and serious reasons as to why customers escalate issues, you need to follow a standardized workflow for them.
|Agent Level||Support Incidents||Appropriate Actions||Response Channels|
|Self-service portal||Basic questions, FAQs, product enquiries||If self-service is not sufficient, hand-off to L1 agents||Automated suggestions through chat widget, knowledge base, support portal|
|Level 1 support agents||Simple queries, account problems of customers, product usage questions||Providing 'how-to' support for product related queries, collecting customer data from conversations, routing tickets to L2 agents based on complexity||Live chat, phone, knowledge base (internal), ticketing software, screen sharing with customers|
|Level 2 support agents||Troubleshooting incidents, complex requests involving workflow tweaks, personalizations||Getting customer context from L1 agents, providing immense value by knowing the product and its advanced features in and out, escalating to L3 if the request is too complex||Live chat, video call, screen sharing, ticketing software, account management|
|Level 3 support agents||Troubleshooting incidents with business impact, product or software bugs, compliance, security issues||Building new solutions and |
workarounds, fixing bugs like clockwork, logging new problems and the actions taken, evaluating the need for new features
|Live chat, video call, screen sharing, ticketing software, account management, in-person assurance if required, site visits|
#3 Leverage technology to offer better service
Customer service is a function that faces a constant inflow of tickets on multiple channels, keeping agents on their toes. Without a proper tech stack in place, handling customers can get really tedious. So, adopt the right tools and technology to give your support reps a breather from technical complications that deter their work.
Here are some basic functionalities you should look for in your customer service software:
Auto-assign and group tickets
Look for a customer service software that allows you to set up automation rules to route tickets based on availability, agent expertise, function, and much more. This will not just save time but also improve efficiency as support teams no longer have to go through every single ticket and manually assign it to the right agent. Omni Route is a great example of how intelligent ticketing and automation works.
Many customer service tools don’t consider processes that fall outside of the support team’s daily activities. Unfortunately, it is only when a support team is able to get internal cross-team collaboration right, that true impact can be seen on a larger scale. That’s why cross-functional communication on a helpdesk is a differential aspect that solves many issues.
Support reps sometimes get caught up on partner, developer, pricing, or legal issues raised by the customer with no direct accountability from these teams. Support agents have a bigger significance than being a communication facilitator between these teams and customers.
This is exactly why cross-team collaboration is a bare necessity in today’s support scenario of multiple external stakeholders. Reps can tag external stakeholders within a ticket, discuss with them, share context about the issue, and divide the task so multiple teams can work on a ticket simultaneously.
Self service capability
According to The New Rules of Customer Engagement, a survey report from Freshworks, 76% of consumers globally prefer to ﬁrst try to solve issues on their own before contacting support.
By creating a robust self-service portal, you not only save valuable time for your agents but also gain the trust of your customers. How? Empowering your customers with readily available content to help solve their issue by themselves, creates a positive perception about your products or services itself.
Self service can be implemented in the form of FAQs, solution articles, a knowledge base, or even a chat pop-up. Self service works wonders on the agent too, to make it easier for the agents to manually plug-in resources from the knowledge base as answers to customer queries. Take a look at this self service guide to understand how it works.
#4 Offer seamless support on all the channels your customers prefer
Customers expect support on a channel that they prefer, at any time that is convenient to them. So it’s critical for businesses to offer support in all major customer channels from email to instant messaging.
I recently faced a poor experience with a reputed retail store while I was trying to sort a few things out through their portal’s real-time chat support. After a few painstakingly detailed exchanges, the support executive simply directed me to mail the whole issue to a completely different person.
Now, I have two grievances.
- If this was never going to get resolved on chat by the agent, why put me through a grueling conversation that had no prior knowledge of my engagements?
- I chose live chat as my channel of comfort to engage with a representative. Why not continue the conversation there? Also, I had to switch to a business-preferred channel and start all over again!
This is just an example of a major disconnect in multi-channel vs omnichannel customer service plans. While being on every channel can be achieved, your agents can’t keep using disparate tools to look after every channel. To be in the channel your customers want you to be is only the beginning. The experience is complete only when you unify their communication for all channels to offer a seamless experience across all channels.
Going omnichannel should be a part of your customer service plan from the outset. It will help you deliver consistent support to your customers across channels with prior context about them. Avoid alt-tabbing between tools that don’t talk to each other. Give your agents a unified view of every ticket in the helpdesk and customer profile within a single page.
#5 Monitor key metrics that help identify cracks and opportunities
Businesses are constantly looking for ways to improve their customer service plan to lower support costs and increase retention. It starts with tracking customer service metrics and KPIs, which act as an automatic feedback loop for your business to learn from.
Productivity Metrics: Identify customer pain points and evaluate your customer service quality by analyzing data from ticket inflow, number of tickets resolved, and the active time taken to resolve each issue. This will help you plan your staffing better, understand customer behavior, and train your agents. Other customer service metrics to track include first response time, resolution time, conversations per agent, and rate of ticket backlog, to name a few.
Quality Metrics: Quality metrics reflect where you stand as a customer-centric company. They showcase the quality of customer service your company has offered through benchmarks such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT). NPS and CSAT are important factors that have a direct effect on ROI as they represent the likelihood of your customers staying with your company or advocating for it.
Apart from improving the way your team handles customers, looking at these numbers will also enable you to identify revenue opportunities. One way is to find out what’s working best in support. On the other hand, ticket trends can serve as proof points to nudge customers for an upsell or recommend better packages.
#6 Make service culture an organization-wide commitment
Every successful customer service plan begins with listening and understanding your customers’ needs, and the rest is a process of optimizing your support setup for efficiency. But it’s not just the support team that’s responsible for a successful customer service plan. Customer service should be a mindset across all functions of your business, rather than a strategy that concerns just the support team.
Establishing a customer-first culture across functions in your workplace will amplify the support team’s efforts to delight customers and drive ROI. Involving product and marketing teams, and more importantly, integrating support issues within the sales funnel will provide better visibility into repetitive issues on the product side, identify sales-product-support disconnects and make customer interactions more personalized.
To this end, CEO on Support by Freshdesk is an initiative that businesses can take inspiration from. It stresses the need for the C-suite and other major non-customer-facing functions to go on support to understand how customers feel about your business, identify problems around the product, and improve the overall customer experience.
Always Be Closing… on that feedback loop
Pretty early on, we combined quality assurance and customer support into one group that we called customer experience. They do everything from parsing customer feedback and routing it to the right people to fixing bugs themselves.
– Stewart Butterfield, CEO & Co-Founder of Slack.
We’ve all swooned over Slack’s success story of growing into a customer-focused company. But it all started well before their beta launch, where they’d ask random teams of different shapes and sizes to try out Slack and evaluate it. According to Stewart Butterfield, the CEO of Slack, these dry runs helped them create a new (and better) product roadmap, and identify collaboration problems to solve for. Slack is one of the best customer service plan examples for a company built out of aligning sales, marketing, and product efforts to emulate their support strategy. And how? All they did was take feedback from their users seriously.
The right customer service plan will future-proof your business
If we’ve learnt anything from 2020, it’s that we always need to be prepared for uncertainties. A comprehensive customer service plan is similarly vital to thrive in unchartered waters. One of Freshdesk’s customers, Campaigntrack, a real-estate marketing company, transitioned smoothly into a remote work environment. Freshdesk was an integral part of their recovery plan as the agent and customer accounts were accessible virtually. They also used a help widget integration to get customers read more self-service articles and help in query deflection. Sounds like a customer service plan you want to implement as well? Read the full case study here.
Speaking of ROIs and customer service plans…
Forrester Research conducted a Total Economic Impact study on behalf of Freshdesk and the results are staggering. Freshdesk Omnichannel has delivered a 462% ROI over a period of three years to businesses of all shapes and sizes. Download the entire report and see how we not only fill the gaps in your customer service plan, but also open up qualified revenue opportunities.