How to create a customer service improvement plan that hits your KPIs

Here's how to develop a customer service improvement plan filled with ideas that drive down churn, increase customer satisfaction and narrow your resolution time.

Customer feedback analysis example

On average, your customers will tell 15 people about poor customer service, but will only tell 11 people about a good one. 

Like bad news, bad experiences travel faster and further than good ones.

This means it's vital to stay nimble and customer-centric. A focused and continuous customer service improvement plan can help you achieve this goal and is a must-have for any contact centre team.

There are three basic fundamentals of a customer service improvement plan.

  • It should be data-driven
  • The plan itself should be continuously improved
  • It should focus on metrics that impact your customer

In this blog post, I'll take you through the steps we've seen used to build an impactful customer service improvement plan.

Let’s dive right in.

On this page:

  1. What is a customer service improvement plan?
  2. Why do you need a customer service improvement plan?
  3. Pre-planning: What to do before you get started with planning
  4. The 5 step guide to customer service improvement planning
  5. How can you use AI automation technology to improve your customer service?
AI for customer service ebook

What actually is a customer service improvement plan?

A customer service improvement plan is a set of strategic steps that need to be taken to achieve a measurable goal. It's based on solid research into what needs improvement, what should be prioritised, and how you plan to go about achieving those steps.

Your improvement plan should read like a plan of action that, if followed, will move the needle on metrics like customer satisfaction, churn rate, ticket volume, response time and resolution time.

Four examples of a customer service improvement plan

Example 1:

Metric to measure: customer satisfaction / resolution time

Strategy: Streamline the communication channel between customers and more senior customer support professionals. Make it so customers with complex queriers can connect directly with a figure of authority, without first going through the frontline.

Results:

  1. Managers have a deep understanding of the problems faced by their customers (Metric: increased resolution time)
  2. The customers were convinced that their problem was heard by an authority figure and it made them happier (Metric: CSAT)

Example 2:

Metric to measure: Employee attrition rate / customer satisfaction

Strategy: Implement an internal leadership program for customer support representatives.

This program was designed to recognise customer service representatives with superior results. Top performers were given a bonus and were also asked to mentor new employees in the department.

Results: This was successful in two ways:

  1. The top performers became even better after recognition and added incentives.
  2. New employee training improved because they were trained by the best.

Example 3 (a theme park):

Metric to measure: Customer satisfaction

Strategy: Their leadership team did three things to improve their customer service quality.

  1. Increased the number of staffs on all pre-ride touchpoints
  2. Implemented technology that allowed all visitors to schedule a time on busy rides
  3. Implemented a streamlined restaurant that increase the speed of food service

Results:

  1. Average wait time at each ride reduced by 5 minutes (increased CSAT).
  2. 30% of more visitors scheduled and visited the high traffic (busy) rides (increased CSAT).
  3. Visitors rated their satisfaction with food services at a +60%.

Example 4 (SentiSum):

Metric to measure: Increased check out rate and basket size.

Strategy: Implement customer service AI analytics to understand customer experience. Know what's reducing checkouts by analysing survey results, support tickets and reviews. Tackle those issues at the root cause.

Results:

• Clarity on which issues were driving the biggest issues for customers (a clear "to-do" list).

• Increased basket size thanks to reduce customer pain points

This example is based on a case study with the British high street and eCommerce retailer, Schuh.

They had a problem of dropping customer sentiment because of their website experience. Schuh’s CX director had more than 50,000 survey results and other pieces of feedback but no time to manually analyse those results. They used Sentisum’s natural language processing (NLP) to analyze the written responses of all the surveys and convert it into daily reports.

Why do you need a customer service improvement plan?

75% of people would return to a business with excellent customer service and that fact is not changing anytime soon.

But, a CS improvement plan is important because it can go beyond delivering excellent customer service.

With the right infrastructure, a great customer service project could lead to cross-functional change that prevents customers needing to contact customer service in the first place.

Or it could support the work of sales and marketing teams by implementing support-driven growth tactics that upsell product, build deeper relationships with customers and generate word of mouth awareness.

This is why we think customer service improvement plans should not only be linked to cost efficiency outcomes, but also to revenue generating outcomes that align with wider business goals.

If you can reduce the number of agents needed by implementing a new technology, that's great. But, is it really better for your customers? And is it just feeding into the old way of doing customer service (cost centre thinking) rather than the future of customer service (profit centre thinking).

Before you get started: pre-planning research

Before you start generating customer service improvement ideas, there are two steps you must follow. 

1/ Assess your strengths and weaknesses

SWOT Analysis template
SWOT


Every team has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. So kick off with a SWOT analysis to identify the places you are strong versus those you are weak.

Identifying your strengths and weaknesses can give you a whole lot of leverage to put together a sound action plan. It opens up your world to a variety of options.

Here are metrics to measure to support your SWOT analysis:

  1. Find your average resolution time:  
Average time to resolution calculation


You will be loved by your customers if your resolution time is low—solve my problem fast and you'll have a customer for life.

You'll most likely already have a historical record of this metric since it's a critical KPI for most customer service department leads. You can find this by adding the total duration of all Customer resolution calls and dividing it by the total number of cases.

  1. Find your customer effort score (CES):  


Customer effort score image
Source: i-Scoop


This score helps you rate the quality of your service from the Customer’s perspective.

It allows them to give you a score based on the amount of effort they had to put in to connect with your support team. If you don't already track CES, create a quick survey and ask a handful og agents to track the metric to give you a baseline.

  1. Find your customer satisfaction score (CSAT): 
NPS score image
Source: Boast Io


Like CES, CSAT helps you identify your customer’s level of satisfaction after connecting with your executive. You can run a set of questions to identify CES and CSAT from one survey.

  1. Find your Net Promoter Score: 
How does NPS work?
Source: Back Office Betties


Honestly, we aren't a fan of NPS. Most customer feedback surveys suck and it's misguided to track one metric like many companies do with NPS scores.

But you can use your NPS score as a benchmark. If it's particular bad, perhaps, this is a weak area that needs digging into.

  1. Run a sentiment analysis: 
Sentiment analysis


You can identify your customer’s brand sentiment by running the results of all these through a NLP tool like Sentisum. You'll be able to understand 100,000s of free text survey results, support tickets and other feedback in minutes.

Are your customers finding their experience positive, negative or neutral? A sentiment analysis will tell you.

2/ Define your goals

Just like your business, your department also needs a set of goals for the following reasons

  1. To manage and measure your team’s performance
  2. To give a direction and laser like focus for your team
  3. To align everyone’s action for the company’s success

The core idea is to set SMART goals for your department and SMART translates to\:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely
SMART goals illustrated
SMART


Before you actually set any goals, it’s better to make sure that they fit within these five SMART characteristics.

With all that said here are some goals you can set for your department (with examples).

  1. Increase overall Customer Satisfaction

Example: We will increase our monthly CSAT score from 77% to 85% by then end of March.

  1. Reduce Customer wait time

Example: The time taken to reply to a customer on live chat will be reduced from 1 min to 30 seconds by the end of the next two months.

  1. Reducing Cost per Contact

Example: We will enable an active live chat this month to reduce cost per contact by 25%.

  1. Reduce CPO

Example: We will identify the largest ticket drivers and prioritise reducing the top three by from 10% by the end of March.

  1. Improve your employee happiness:

Example: We will reduce burnout rate by 15% this year.

See how each one is measurable? That clarity and measurability will keep you focused and accountable.

Five steps to building a customer service improvement plan

1/ Identify your customer service touchpoints and do a journey map

Customer touchpoints


Your customer service touchpoints start from the moment a customer considers contact support through to after care and follow up.

Within that journey, there are so many ways for your team to impact the customer's experience. To kick off your plan, start by listing all those touchpoints.

Here's an example of 15 customer service touchpoints to get you started.

In our recent podcast with Annette Franz CCXP on customer journey mapping, she explains the difference between touchpoint and journey maps:

"A lot of people confuse them and use them interchangeably and call it a journey map when it's a touchpoint map.
In a touchpoint map, we take a look at the life cycle stages for the customer within your organization and then inventory capture all the different touchpoints. Touchpoints can be, for example in an airline experience, it's signs, it's the TSA, it's your ticket, it's the app, it's the gate agent, the plane. All of these different things are all different touchpoints, right? The pilot, the flight attendants, your seat, the magazine on the plane, all different touchpoints, all different ways that the customer touches the brand or the brand touches the customer.
So, that's a touchpoint map.
A journey map is when we pick an interaction and we map the steps that the customer takes from the moment that there's a need to the moment that they complete whatever job they're trying to do. So for example, an interaction might be making a purchase, calling customer service, downloading some information from your website, creating an online account, those kinds of things.
So a journey map always contains what the customer is doing or the customer's thinking and what the customer is feeling and if you don't, if you're not capturing those three things along with that experience, then it's not a journey map. You can see, you can capture other things as well, but those are the three main components of a journey map."

So to crystallise this, contacting customer service is a touchpoint. Within that touchpoint is many other touchpoints. You can create a journey by labelling the journey a customer takes from touchpoint to touchpoint and it must say what the customer is: thinking, feeling and doing.

2/ Identify underperforming touchpoints

Ask your executives to run an audit and get an estimate of your performance on all touchpoints. Which ones could be driving down your key metrics?

Once you have a solid understanding of all your touchpoints, we'll be able to build a goal around the underperforming ones.

How can I identify underperforming touchpoints?

You must measure customer feedback.

The beauty of being in the contact centre already is that customers are continuously giving feedback—in the conversations themselves!

Dig through you chat logs or use an AI chat analytics tool like SentiSum to automate the process.

Customer research is vital if you're planning to improve CSAT. They know best.

However, you can also find other ways to identify underperforming touchpoints.

Take a look at contact channels, for example. What is the CSAT, resolution time, wait time, cost per contact on each channel? How does live chat compare to email?

Imagine for a moment that live chat has significantly higher reported CSAT compared to email. This shows email is underperforming and you take the opportunity to dig deeper.

Why is email underperforming? Is it because it takes too long to reply? Is it because people can't ever find an email address? Is it because it takes 10 emails back and forth which is frustrating?

Breaking down the touchpoint like this allows you to get to do a root cause analysis of why it's underperforming. Indicating that your customer service improvement plan should possibly focus here.

Do this for all your touchpoints. We then suggest picking the low hanging fruit—which improvement areas are easy to do and high impact? Which best align with your ultimate strategic direction?

Set your SMART goals around those.

3/ Define the action steps you will take towards improving the touchpoint

How to create a customer service action plan
Action Plan


Now that you have identified your goals and your areas of improvement, it’s time to define the action steps to attain that goal.

Your action plan will be highly personalised to the goals and touchpoints you identified.

Your action plan should include: how you will approach tackling the issue, who needs to be involved, what steps must be completed and when must everything be finished by.

It's also important to keep an eye on your golden metric as your plan unfolds. When do you expect to see it change? What's the soonest you can know what you're doing is having an impact?

We recommend running a small scale experiment before rolling out projects to your entire team. This way you can measure ROI and impact on your metric.

4/ Take action, now

This is common advice for all leaders.

Don’t get stuck in planning mode, get out and start experimenting.

The quicker you get started, the faster you learn what is and isn't working. The quicker that happens, the faster you can adjust your plan and start hitting goals.

The world is too fast to stick with one customer service improvement plan from the start. If you want to provide exceptional customer service, you need to start acting rather than planning. You need to create small steps of action that will help you craft a terrific customer improvement action plan.

Don’t just rely on your hunches and past data. Always seek to collect more data with consistent action. This will help you deliver exceptional customer service.

5/ Measure performance at continuous intervals

You should take one of two steps after you initiate or change your customer service strategy.

The crappy route takes no action at all. That is, never again looking at your plan and calling it a day.

And the best way? Build a consistent customer feedback loop so that you can continue to improve the way you treat your customers.

You should focus on two sources of information to collect feedback:

  • Feedback from your customers to your customer service reps
  • Feedback from your customer service reps to you

Listen to your customers through chat analytics, polls, surveys, social media, focus groups, and interactions with your reps. This helps you to enhance your goods, functionality, positioning, and all business communications.

How does SentiSum AI analytics and automation platform help you improve your customer service?

SentiSum is an automated ticket tagging, routing, prioritisation platform that uncovers granular insights from every conversation and feedback channel.

We make customer service reporting and complaints root cause analysis simple for support directors.

Here are two ways in which you can use Sentisum to deliver exceptional customer service

1. Reduce customer churn:

With SentiSum, every customer conversation is turned into topic and sentiment insight in real-time.

You'll know what's driving tickets at every moment in the day. So if there's:

  • A bug that appears in your app
  • A discount code that's failing to work
  • A payment portal that's stopped working
  • A partner of yours giving poor service

You'll know about it. Quickly.

These issues frequently cause customers to fail to checkout or to leave you to go to a competitor.

Armed with quantitative data, without any effort you'll have the evidence you need to email the department head in charge and say 'this needs to be fixed, pronto!'

2. Route and prioritise tickets

With SentiSum, tags are applied at a granular level with high accuracy. But, they're also applied in real-time.

That means that as support tickets start coming in, they can be routed to the relevant team or individual based on their content.

Furthermore, if a ticket is deemed high urgency (e.g. it's frequently linked to a churning customer) then we can prioritise it in the queue. Making sure your time to resolution is much quicker on more important interactions.

These are just two ways we can help you become a customer support hero.

Want to learn more? Reach out to our team and book a demo here.