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Why you need an exceptional customer service strategy (and how to develop one)


Superior customer experiences don’t happen by accident. A well-defined customer service strategy is the foundation to every wow-worthy interaction between a business and its customers.

As market competition grows more fierce, consistently delivering exceptional customer care is more vital than ever. Connecting the dots between disparate communication channels—phone, email, chat, social—is a necessary step in future-proofing your business.

However, doing so also means connecting the dots between the people and processes that manage those touch points. A single support request can be routed through several tools and individuals. Your customer service strategy serves as a roadmap for navigating that complexity without strain.

In this article, we’ll go over a step-by-step breakdown of how to develop a customer service strategy that’s both memorable and efficient. Plus, we gathered two examples from brands that are creating stellar customer experiences at scale.

What is a customer service strategy?

A text-based graphic that says, “What is a customer service strategy? A customer service strategy is a blueprint for delivering on your business’s service standards across multiple teams, channels and tools.”

A customer service strategy is a blueprint for delivering on your business’ service standards across multiple teams, channels and tools.

Having a well-planned customer service strategy bakes more consistency into your business operations. Think about it: Customers interact with countless teams and individuals throughout their journey with your brand. A comprehensive customer service strategy ensures that everyone is on the same page, resulting in more satisfactory customer experiences.

The importance of a customer service strategy

A unified customer service approach can empower customer-facing teams to create better experiences at scale. It’s a rising tide that lifts all ships, ultimately resulting in more revenue. Here’s why: 

It drives customer satisfaction and retention

The modern consumer has more options than ever before. Today, securing their loyalty isn’t a matter of keeping their attention. It’s a matter of building their trust.

The only way to build that trust is to consistently meet expectations, which can’t be done without a focused customer service strategy. It provides the structure and order needed to support your team as they strive to meet (and exceed) expectations.

When customers are satisfied, they are more likely to remain loyal, make repeat purchases and recommend your products or services to others.

It connects customer-facing teams

Between customer success, service and social customer care teams, countless individuals drive your customer experience. A well-documented customer service strategy is the connective tissue that unites complex team structures while preventing duplicated efforts.

This level of efficiency has two advantages for your business. First, customers benefit from fewer transfers and escalations, leading to shorter waiting times. Second, support teams can perform their best work without the hassle of internal back-and-forths, creating better agent experiences.

Together, these create a positive feedback loop that continuously drives better experiences for customers and agents.

It builds brand reputation

According to our most recent social media industry report, building brand reputation and loyalty is the top priority for marketers across industries, with 66% of businesses prioritizing it in today’s economic environment.

Businesses that want to increase their market share over the next few years are putting a renewed focus on their customer service offerings–and with good reason. An effective customer service approach builds and protects your brand reputation through the good times and the bad.

When things are going well, you can use audience sentiment data to identify what customers are loving. For example, maybe people really love that your agents take the time to personalize responses. You can use this knowledge to integrate similar personalization techniques into other aspects of your strategy.

If the market dips or a crisis strikes, a positive brand reputation can serve as a shield from lasting damage. Customers who have had positive experiences with your brand are more likely to extend their goodwill and remain loyal.

A 5-step framework for developing a customer service strategy

Developing an exceptional customer service strategy requires intentional collaboration and planning from start to finish. Follow this step-by-step guide to ensure all stakeholders are aligned on the actions that will create better customer experiences.

1. Develop a shared vision for customer service

What does customer-centricity look like at your business? I bet if you ask a few different people, you’d get a few different answers. And you can’t achieve a company-wide customer service goal when every customer-facing team is running at different objectives. That’s why it’s so important to begin this process by establishing a shared vision for your company’s customer service approach.

This is your chance to unite teams around a shared understanding of what your customer experience can and should look like. Kick things off by setting a series of meetings dedicated to align relevant stakeholders around an overarching, channel-agnostic vision for customer service.

Pro tip: To ensure your vision is truly all-encompassing, have teams work together on a comprehensive customer journey map. Be sure to include key details on the following:

  • Touchpoints: Where do customers connect with your business across the buyer’s journey and for what reasons? What channels do they use to make these connections?
  • Metrics: How are you measuring the quality of these interactions?
  • Stakeholders: Which stakeholders own your business’ various communication channels? Who else is involved in these interactions?
  • Pain points and gaps: What blind spots exist in your customer experience? What pain points prevent your teams from providing superior customer service? What are customers saying about your service standards?

Use this customer experience audit to serve as a shared place to document findings. The more specific everyone gets, the more effective your customer service strategy will be.

2. Identify key customer service channels and their owners

Go through the list of touchpoints you gathered during the last step and document each channel’s owner. Does each channel have a clear owner? Before you proceed, you’ll need to bring those individuals together to agree on next steps.

Of course, some channel owners are clearer than others. Phone, email and chat support, for example, fall cleanly under the customer service department’s umbrella. Social and community forums, on the other hand, are typically managed by marketing.

Social customer care is a tough nut to crack for many businesses. The discipline sits at the intersection of service and brand marketing, complicated workflows and strategies. According to The 2023 Sprout Social Index™, only 8% of social marketers believe themselves to be leaders in customer care on social media, likely because the function lacks a clear owner.

A stat call-out that says, “8% of social marketers believe themselves to be leaders in customer care on social media, likely because the function lacks a clear owner.”

If social customer care responsibilities span multiple departments within your organization, identify the team leaders who implement those cross-functional workflows. Use a responsibility assignment matrix—like the RACI model, for example—to create clarity around your internal processes before attempting to execute your strategy.

3. Define measurable customer service goals

Come together with the rest of your key stakeholders to agree on a list of broad objectives for your customer service strategy, then align around targeted SMART goals for performance measurement.

In case you’re not familiar, SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-sensitive. While each of these characteristics are important, you’ll devote some extra energy to identifying the customer service metrics that will determine the success of your strategy—like average first reply time, response rate, etc. After all, what gets measured, gets done.

Create a shared customer service report to track your team’s performance against their new goals, and set a cadence for routine progress updates. This will ensure accountability and help identify issues early on.

4. Implement workflows that promote speed and collaboration

Your teams can only be as efficient as the tools and workflows that support them. If you introduce new goals without meaningful infrastructure improvements, the only thing you’re setting yourself up for is unhappy customer service agents.

Before you set out to achieve your new service goals, audit the existing processes that govern your support teams. Where are there gaps or redundancies? Are your teams set up to do their best work?

If the answer to that last question isn’t an enthusiastic “yes!”, then it’s time to start tinkering. Talk to agents to zero in on the pain points that prevent superior customer care and adjust accordingly. Even small tweaks—like creating an internal share of approved responses for FAQS—can make a meaningful difference in your time to first reply.

5. Establish a customer feedback loop

Consistently collecting and evaluating customer feedback is the only way to measure the success of your customer service strategy. As you identify opportunities to refine your approach, you set your team on the path of continuous improvement.

Combine progress toward KPIs with qualitative data from review sites and social listening tools to paint an accurate picture of consumer sentiment.

If you’re using Sprout’s AI-powered social listening tools, create a Topic that specifically focuses on your customer care strategy. This will identify any posts related to your brand’s customer service practices, whether or not your brand account is tagged.

A screenshot of Sprout's Performance Summary tool which demonstrates key metrics (like volume, engagements and impressions) related to a Listening Topic.

Use this feedback to inform iterations on goals, processes and priorities. The more you learn, the better your process will become.

2 real-world customer service strategy examples to inspire your approach

Now that we’ve gone through the step-by-step process of creating a customer service strategy, let’s look at some industry-leading brands setting new standards in service.

Grammarly empowers users through their digital customer service strategy

Each day, over 30 million people and 30,000 teams rely on Grammarly for writing help that goes beyond a quick spell check. If they have an issue with the tool, or even just a question about a punctuation suggestion, they can rely on Grammarly’s robust customer service practices.

A exchange on X (formerly known as Twitter) between Grammarly and a customer. In the exchange, @PeterForsgard shares a picture of a correction from the Grammarly tool, suggesting a different F-stop number. Along with the screenshot, Forsgard writes, “Grammarly thinks that lenses should be faster? @Grammarly #photography #FunnyFacts”. Grammarly responded to the message with, “Oops! That’s not what should have happened. Could you please DM us the sentence that prompted this suggestion?”.

Grammarly’s digital customer service approach includes:

  • A self-service support hub that helps users troubleshoot common issues on their own.
  • An official Grammarly Support X (formerly known as Twitter) account which receives 13,000 messages on average per month.
  • A social listening strategy designed to proactively monitor brand mentions across the web.
  • Customer service reports informed by those social listening practices, which help consolidate and distribute customer feedback and insights across Grammarly teams.

Subaru prioritizes making their customers feel seen and heard

Global brands are faced with unique challenges when creating consistent customer experiences, but Subaru makes it look and feel effortless. Their customer service strategy hinges on authentic, real conversations with customers—resulting in one of the most loyal fanbases in the automotive industry.

Subaru transforms service requests into customer care opportunities by:

  • Uniting around a shared goal to build lifelong relationships with their customers, from purchase through their ownership.
  • Empowering dealership professionals to create positive, consistent experiences throughout the pre- and post-sale experience.
  • Incorporating and promoting customer advocacy across their social media presence through their Subaru Love promise.

3 factors influencing customer service approaches in 2024

As channels evolve, so do consumer standards. To stay competitive in your service offerings, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on the factors that shape them. Whether you’re crafting a strategy from scratch or refining what already exists, here are three need-to-know influences on informing the future of customer service.

1. Social media data

Social data is way more than just brand performance metrics. There are real-time customer insights hidden within the billions of social conversations that take place each day. You just need to know where to look.

According to the 2023 State of Social Media Report, 88% of business leaders agree social media data and insights are critical to delivering exceptional customer care. On top of that, 96% expect social data to be integrated into their company’s CRM capabilities within the next three years.

A stat call-out that says, “88% of business leaders agree social media data and insights are critical to delivering exceptional customer care.”

If you’re not proactively considering how you can layer social business intelligence into your customer service strategy, you’re at risk of falling behind.

2. AI and automation

If factoring in another input for your customer service strategy made your head spin, don’t worry. Artificial intelligence (AI) and automation can bring some much-needed order to all these moving parts.

Nine in 10 business leaders agree that increased investment in AI will be crucial for scaling customer care functions over the next three years. An AI-powered toolkit will dramatically speed up your time to insights—allowing teams to iterate on their customer service processes faster than ever.

AI-supported customer service helps businesses scale customer care functions effortlessly through intelligent automation and data analysis. If you want to empower teams to support customers with confidence, this should be a key area of investment.

3. Connected tools

The hallmarks of great customer service are easily identified but hard to execute. Disparate systems make even the most basic tasks a headache for service professionals, impacting their overall ability to provide quality care.

[DATA VIZ – Harris Chart]

Superior customer experiences start with cohesive tech stacks that support a 360-degree view of the customer. Integrated tools centralize customer data, allowing agents to access the context they need to personalize interactions and resolve customer inquiries more efficiently.

Use connected tools to integrate social data into your CRM or help desk solution. Sprout Social offers pre-built connections with your favorite tools—including Salesforce Service Cloud—so your teams can crush silos and increase visibility,

A screenshot of a support case in Salesforce Service Cloud with the Sprout Social feed open. The subject is “Post from @IsabelleZhang16”, who had an issue with their experience at Sprout Coffee Co and shared it on X (formerly known as Twitter). A service agent can respond to the message from Salesforce Service Cloud, without having to open the Sprout app.

Our integrations equip agents to engage in real-time with the right context. With Sprout uniting your tech stack, you can create an omnichannel experience that informs and empowers your entire organization.

Stand-out customer service strategies start with social

Remember: Great customer service is a team effort. If you build your strategy in a vacuum, you risk overlooking valuable insights that can give you an edge over your competitors.

Connect with your social team to learn more about the social customer service insights that live within your organization. If you want to take things a step further, download The 2023 State of Social Media Report. We surveyed more than 750 leaders in social media marketing, customer care and communications to zero in on the trends shaping customer experiences, so you can use them to inform your strategy accordingly.

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