Customer ServiceThe customer is always right. The customer comes first. We’ve heard these popular refrains a million times. Today, virtually all businesses have adopted some form of customer-first mantra. We expect to be treated like the number one priority anywhere we patron, or we’re ready to take our business elsewhere—surely the next place will treat us with the deference we’ve grown accustomed. But there’s more to delivering superior customer service and value than a positive attitude and promising customer satisfaction or their money back. In 2015, organizations need to take a more nuanced and strategic approach to achieving customer satisfaction.

Regardless of industry, a customers’ experience is driven by the totality of his or her interaction and experience with the company. An organization needs to define what a successful interaction would be at each touch point with the consumer before they can begin to optimize service. Next, identify gaps between the current experience and an ideal encounter, both for the organization and for the customer. Finally, take steps to improve. Develop and implement a strategy to close the gap between the service you are providing today and the service you want to provide moving forward.

In order to effectively develop a strategy and action plan for improved customer service, a clearly defined value proposition is essential. Ensure that high impact initiatives are prioritized to create an action plan that will deliver value to the organization. Make certain that the management structure supports and understands this customer focus and aligns measurement systems with business requirements.

It’s important to understand what drives customer loyalty in 2015 and how to get the best ROI on your customer service strategy. Customers today have lofty expectations and it’s not always easy to meet customers’ demands in today’s customer-centric business climate. However, a business can go a long way toward achieving customer satisfaction by providing a low-effort experience to their patrons. In fact, when looking to improve customer service and customer loyalty it can be advantageous to focus primarily on tracking customer effort. When customers feel hassled it can erode loyalty significantly. Identify where the organization can simplify the customer experience and prioritize improvements that result in the largest loyalty wins. Steer the customer to the lowest-effort service channel for their issue on the first try. Be forward thinking when dealing with a customer issue and make their experience easier by understanding and solving not only their current problem, but the next problem they might run into as well.

A better customer service experience is a fantastic prescription for increased revenue. Quality service can reduce customer churn and eliminate unnecessary sales costs. It will invariably lead to greater customer advocacy, referrals, repeat patronage, upsell and cross-sell opportunities—all of which contribute to the bottom line. Superior customer service can also help to create a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Of course, talking about the benefits of excellent customer service is one thing. Taking steps to effectively improve an organization’s customer service capabilities is another matter entirely. Superior service starts at the top. Management needs to engage in meaningful interactions both with those who consume or patron their product, but also with their own employees to ensure they understand their value and importance as the organization’s primary customer service touch point. Employees must be empowered to administer customer-centric policies and procedures and make decisions that will ensure a favorable customer service experience. Finally, take advantage of recent advances in customer engagement technology to productively interact with customers across the channels customers they choose for communication.

The current business model that focused first and foremost on customer service is nothing new. The phrase “The customer is always right,” was coined more than 100 years ago, after all.  With that said, today is the age of the customer and organizations are competing with businesses inside and outside of their industry when it comes to providing a positive customer experience. Consumers expect the same quality service at their favorite restaurant that they do at their bank. A good customer service strategy means understanding that the process is never finished; an environment that supports continuous customer experience improvement is one that will ultimately contribute to the financial success of an organization.