The Top Five New Year’s Resolutions for Customer Service

This new year, 2009, is going to be a difficult year – no questions about it.  I wrote an article for Loyalty.com sometime back (which they said they would have published by now — oh well, maybe next year) that discussed why good customer service is critical in these economic times.  If you are interested in reading it just let me know, be glad to send you a copy so you can be the cool person in the office to have it.

When this whole mess began to become public there was a lengthy discussion between bloggers and twitterers on whether marketing was something you spent on or cut back during tough economic times.  The idea being that the funds spent on marketing where not sure to give you a similar return when there was no money, so why bother – spend the money more wisely elsewhere.  Of course, that argument is made by people who don’t know what they are talking about… any mission-critical process for your organization should be continued regardless of what it is.  I wrote about it in my previous blog (the predictions for 2009).  And, the data points that I am getting from clients are confirming it – proven projects that affect the bottom line will be funded through this downturn.

So, after the long introduction… here are the top five resolutions for customer service in 2009:

Resolve to be more patient.  This is simple.  Your customers have more stress, less money – or less desire to spend it.  They are bound to contact you to try to free some cash.  They may even contact you to get out of a contract or commitment.  In either case, your patience pays off in the long turn.  Helping them now, and even changing some rules to make it so, will make them more loyal in the long run.  Yes, even if they leave you, they are bound to come back.  To achieve this resolution you should  empower your agents to do more, give them more freedom to bend or change some rules – and make sure your customers know about it.

Resolve to get in better shape.  This is a great time to examine what you are doing, how and why – then look for better ways to do it.  In a lot of instances the fix will be free or very low cost — but it will pay long-term dividends by having better processes and integration between them.  To achieve this resolution you must analyze, prioritize, and fix your processes, then implement the changes and continuous performance improvement programs to ensure they are constantly optimized.

Resolve to fix broken relationships. You have some hurt feelings among your customers.  Even if you don’t know it – some of them are not happy.  You have to find out about it, and fix their problems – or at the very least make the decision that there is nothing you can do.  Chances are your feedback program is not capturing the proper feedback from the right customers to make sure you know what is going on with them and what they feel – and want.  Just by the mere acting of knowing what is broken – not even fixing it – and letting your customers know you know you can move forward.  To achieve this resolution you must look into your existing feedback strategy, or create one if you don’t have one, and make sure it is capturing the critical feedback you need from the customers you want to measure.

Resolve to try something new. How is your customer service doing with Tweeter department? Blogging? Communities? These new “things” (actually channels of mass communication and a pillar of the community service I described in a previous blog entry) are not going away.  They are growing.  Fast.  Remember when email first came into the customer service radar?  Well, that is where we are with the new social media channels.  This is one of my two predictions for 2009To achieve this resolution you must catalog and plan for all the new technologies, tools, and solutions that have come across your desk and you considered deploying for customer service.  Good news, most of them are still free to try.

Resolve to listen better. Your customers are talking – are you listening? Really? This resolution is like an aggregation of the ones above, but nevertheless a valid one.  I have seen many predictions already calling 2009 the “year of feedback”.  I agree, without the marketing phraseology, that feedback is going to become a key component of corporate strategies as we move forward and that loyalty is closely tied to feedback (if you don’t believe me, just think of any relationship outside of a commercial one – and you’ll understand how listening and adopting the feedback from the conversation will make a difference).  To achieve this resolution you have to become customer-driven.  Check out my previous blog entry for that.

So, have you made your resolutions for 2009? What are they?