The only two ways to increase profits in a business are to increase sales or decrease costs. If you’ve exhausted the costs angle, you’re probably wondering how you can increase sales. One simple but often overlooked answer is to excel in customer service. As with everything in business, delivering stellar customer service involves developing a sound strategy. You’ll need a list of strategic customer objectives.

The overarching objective of customer service is to resolve service issues, which involves improving the customer experience and results in increased customer loyalty. Achieving this requires meeting concrete goals. Here are a few objectives you can strive for:

  • Achieve positive feedback goals
  • Receive satisfactory ratings on surveys filled out by customers
  • Improve customer retention rates

Several strategic customer objectives help you meet your objective.

Keep Customers Satisfied

Your main goal when devising customer service strategy should cover three points: provide customers a good experience, ensure that customers feel they are treated fairly, and improve customer retention. Keeping customers satisfied comes down to providing high-quality service, and to do that, you must train your staff to respond to customer grievances with empathy. The main goal is to resolve the complaint to the customer’s satisfaction, within reason.

Tell your staff beforehand what they’re authorized to do to satisfy a disgruntled customer. For example, if you sell widgets and a customer received a wonky widget, is your staff allowed to send the customer a replacement widget immediately to satisfy the customer, or are they to ask the customer to send the widget in first so you can inspect it?

The former action improves customer retention, but it’s possible for customers to abuse your generosity. If you ask the customer to send the defective widget back to you, the disgruntled customer might go away if they were only trying to get a free product from you. However, having the customer return the widget to you might allow you to identify problems in your manufacturing process.

Meet Customer Needs

There’s no doubt that some customers are more difficult than others, but the bottom line is that all customers deserve your respect. Without them, your operation would go bust overnight. It’s important that your sales staff is trained to meet your customers' needs as soon as they walk into your store. Instruct employees to act with professionalism at all times and remind them that they’re representing your business as a whole.

Train your sales staff in non-pushy sales tactics. A certain degree of pressure may be necessary to net large sales, but there is a fine line, and once you cross it, the disgruntled customer will find your competition fast.

Increase Repeat Business

One of your strategic customer objectives should be to improve customer retention and to get repeat business. This can be as simple as satisfying a disgruntled customer, but on a macro scale, it means keeping your customers happy at the point of sale and beyond. Increasing customer loyalty has a visible impact on your company's bottom line. Look at your competition and ask yourself what they do that you aren’t doing. Go the extra mile, and your customers will reward you for it.

Build Word-Of-Mouth Reputation

Stellar customer service results in growing profits. Human beings are social. Your customers are talking to others about the businesses they frequent, and they love giving recommendations to their friends. By putting a focus on customer service, you build your reputation over time. While it is hard to track, word-of-mouth can lower your advertising expenses.

Lower the Amount of Complaints Received

Gauge your service level by watching the number of complaints you receive over time. Your goal should always be to lower this number, but tracking it on a chart is helpful too. One way you can lower the volume of complaints received is to poll your customers about their satisfaction level after doing business with you. The feedback you receive can help you come up with specific strategies to improve the customer experience.

You may need to incentivize customers to fill out surveys. A common way to do this is to frame the process as a contest and then give a small sum to a randomly chosen participant.

Create Effective Customer Service Goals

Customer service is all about establishing and maintaining a good relationship with your customers. When you set customer service goals, use a few practical strategies:

  • Don’t set your sights too low. Your customer service goals should challenge your staff. If they’re too easy to meet, sales might go backward instead of forward.
  • Set realistic goals. Goals should require effort to attain, but they shouldn’t be beyond reach. Setting goals that are impossible to meet lowers staff morale.
  • Create quantifiable goals. Goals must be measurable. Maybe you want a lower complaint volume or a specific result from a satisfaction survey. Whatever it is, make sure at the end of the day you can say whether you met the goal or not.
  • Keep it focused on the customer. When it comes to customer service, resist the impulse to make it about profit margin. Yes, increasing customer retention adds to your bottom line, but make your customer service strategy about the customer. If you succeed, the profits will follow.
  • Get out of the way. After you tell your staff what they’re allowed to do to satisfy a disgruntled customer, let them do it. Changing the rules frequently isn’t a stellar idea.

By following these tenants, you’ll be able to create a powerful customer service strategy and be able to hit all your objectives. Cultivating and maintaining a strong relationship with your customers is work, but it’s essential work.