Customer Service Management: How to Develop an Effective Strategy

Your customer service team leads the charge in interacting with your customers. Other teams also talk to customers — sales, customer success, and so on — but your support team is typically front and center communicating with customers. 

That’s why it’s essential to get your customer service management right. Without an effective strategy for customer service management, you risk causing frustration, weakening customer connections to your brand, and eventual churn.  

Customer service management starts with how your support team interacts with customers, but it’s also a lot more than that. 

What is customer service management?

Customer service management is the process of overseeing the interactions and improving the relationships between a company and its customers. It involves developing strategies, implementing policies, and using resources to ensure that customers receive outstanding support.

It touches on every interaction your business has with your customers — everything from responding to inquiries and handling complaints to offering basic product support, order processing, or after-sales service.

The goal of customer service management is to improve customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention. 

Benefits of customer service management

Investing in great customer service has a substantial impact on your organization.

Research studies show that excellent customer service leads to a return on investment. 

For example, 93% of customers will likely make repeat purchases with companies that offer excellent customer service, and 83% of customers feel more loyal to brands that respond to and resolve their complaints.

These results are only achievable with an effective strategy and strong management. Here are ways good customer service management can impact your business:

  • Higher customer satisfaction. A good strategy should lead to meeting or, ideally, exceeding customer expectations. Resolving their issues efficiently and providing personalized support not only helps them keep using your product but also results in word-of-mouth recommendations. 

  • Increased loyalty and retention. Happier customers are much more likely to be loyal to your company. Since acquiring new customers is between 5 and 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones, great retention is a more cost-effective way to build your customer base. 

  • Better brand reputation. When customers have consistently positive interactions with your company, their perception of your brand will be stronger. This is another one that’s influenced by customer recommendations. 

  • Higher revenue. Higher customer retention should lead to more revenue, as customers are more likely to make repeat purchases, and it’s easier to up-sell or cross-sell to them. 

  • More productive employees. Not only does good service management positively affect your customers, but it also impacts your employees. When your support team has the tools and resources they need to succeed, they’ll be motivated, engaged, and productive. 

It sounds like a no-brainer — and it is! Solving customer issues leads to happier customers. Many companies aim to provide outstanding service because they recognize its value. 

The real difficulty is in the execution.

Developing an effective customer service management strategy

A successful customer service management strategy includes many moving parts. 

It starts with how your company leadership approaches support and includes what their perception of a great customer experience looks like. These high-level factors will impact how you approach managing your customer service team. 

But most of the day-to-day responsibility for customer service management sits with your support manager(s). 

These are the top five steps that every support manager can implement to improve their customer service management:

  1. Define metrics to measure success.

  2. Hire and build a great team.

  3. Pick the right customer support tools.

  4. Use good communication channels internally.

  5. Focus on building relationships with customers.

Define metrics to measure success

One of the best parts of working in customer service — at least for those who like numbers — is that it’s highly measurable.

It comes with some drawbacks: The sheer amount of data available can get overwhelming, and it’s hard to learn how to work with data contextually as a bigger picture. But ultimately, data empowers you to decide what matters to you.

The biggest prerequisite to selecting metrics is defining your customer service philosophy. 

Your customer service philosophy outlines the core principles and values influencing your approach to delivering exceptional service. It serves as a guiding framework for your entire team. Some examples might be:

  • A self-service first approach: Your priority is to empower customers to solve issues themselves.

  • A focus on support-driven growth: You aim to maximize the value your customers have from each interaction.

  • An effortless experience: You aim to solve issues as quickly and easily as possible.

While there’s a lot of overlap between the metrics that most support teams work with, each will require a slightly different focus. Once you know your guiding philosophy, you can choose KPIs that align with your preferred approach.

Hire and build a great team

Customer service management becomes significantly easier when you have a great team behind you. 

The most challenging part is hiring at the right time, rather than waiting until you really need to — which often means it’s already too late. 

The first step is to develop a good hiring process. That involves:

Hiring is only the beginning. The next step is transforming those individuals into a team — a unit of people all contributing to the same goal.

People management is an art, not a science. While there are many general recommendations about how to succeed as a people manager, finding the right style and approach is an individual journey.

It’s the combination of outstanding team members and a skilled manager that keeps a customer service team aligned and delivers outstanding results. 

Pick the right customer support tools

There is a huge variety of customer service software available. 

Choosing the right customer communications platform is critical, since your team will use it all day, every day. Its features will influence how your team collaborates and can set the tone for how you interact with customers. You’ll have to learn to work with its strengths and limits — which each tool has.

Picking the best software requires a deep understanding of your needs and priorities as a team. You’ll need to evaluate each of its core features, including:

  • The support channels it offers, such as email, phone, chat, or social media. The right channels enable you to interact with your customers on their preferred channels.

  • How it manages conversation routing and other processes. At Help Scout, we call these workflows and have designed them to be as simple to implement as possible.  

  • Its knowledge base software, which can either be robust or more lightweight, to handle common questions. 

  • What the shared inbox or queue looks like, how to organize it, and the essential features it includes, like saved replies, tagging, and collision detection.

  • Any AI-powered features it includes (although this space is changing quickly and you can often integrate third-party tools to supplement these). 

  • Its reporting features. Like Help Scout, most help desk tools have a variety of built-in dashboards, but you should assess if they cover what you need and how customizable they are.

Tools are there to improve your service operations across the board. When they empower and support your frontline agents to provide a better experience, you’ll naturally see an impact on customer experience.

Use good internal communication channels

Support teams are busy, and serving customers requires a serious level of focus. That being said, customer support is also a role that requires constant collaboration with other internal teams. 

While your help desk will likely be your primary collaboration tool, everything else you use to enable communication across your team will also have a massive impact on your customer service. 

The goal is to craft your team’s environment and pick the tools that enable your customer support team to achieve the goals you’ve set. In practice, that means you need to figure out how to give your team the right balance of real-time communication and enough focus time to do great work. 

An unbelievable 68% of people say they don’t have enough uninterrupted focus time during the workday. Spend time managing your processes to maximize focus time and reduce distractions while maintaining open lines of communication, and you’ll have the essential pieces in place.

Focus on building relationships with customers

An important end goal of customer service management is building meaningful relationships with your customers. You can foster those relationships in a variety of ways: 

However you build your system, an exceptional customer experience relies on people connecting with other people. 

Using Help Scout for excellent customer service management

Many internal and external factors influence your approach to customer service management, but the foundation is similar irrespective of your context: an aligned and effective team united by a shared goal to deliver fantastic customer experiences. 

At Help Scout, we focus on making it as easy as possible for your team to talk to customers. You can use Help Scout to streamline customer communication, organize workflows, and improve your team’s collaboration, helping them provide consistently exceptional customer support.

If you’re ready to start having better conversations with your customers, start your 15-day free trial today!

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