Entering a new year often causes us to pause for reflection. A new decade is even more of a reason to determine where you’d like to be in the next few years. This means asking yourself, what matters most to you? 

Reviewing past accomplishments is a helpful jumping-off point to establish your vision moving forward.

Below are a few strategies and essential questions we use as a starting point to reflect on past years and determine our future plans.

1. Reflect on what worked. 

A useful exercise for highlighting future opportunities is reflecting on what worked really well. Sometimes we forget to recognize what worked when we get caught up in what didn’t.

 Instead of turning to radical change to get what you want more of, try focusing on what you’ve already had success with. This exercise is both useful and liberating because it reinforces that you are in fact doing things right. It will also make it easier to determine how you can do more along the same lines.

Key Question: What did you do well last year, and how you take it one step further this year?

2. Learn to change as customer expectations do.

In 2018, 59% of people felt that their expectations for customer service were higher than they were only a year ago. As these expectations continue to rise, so does the need for elevated service. The status quo has shifted, and people are less willing to wait for products or answers. 

This is likely due to the major innovations that have shaken up how we do business in the last decade. Many of us find it hard to imagine a world without the convenience, immediacy, and personalization that companies like Amazon, Uber, and Google have afforded us. 

These factors have become embedded in customer expectations. In addition to convenience, there are also far greater levels of choice. It comes as no surprise then, that 61% of people say that they’ve stopped doing business with a brand due to poor customer service. In order to remain your customer’s first choice, you must meet their expectations and strive to exceed them. 

Key Question: How do we make it easier and more convenient for our customers to do business with us?

3. View customer experience as a journey.

Understanding how to navigate the changing landscape of customer experience is crucial. You can make business easier for yourself by viewing customer service as a complete end-to-end experience

Instead of focusing on individual touchpoints such as billing, onboarding or service calls, pay attention to how it the overall customer experience. Looking at the big picture allows you to create moments of true customer loyalty and satisfaction. 

Deepend your understanding by identifying areas with recurring customer issues, frustrations, and satisfaction. 

An easy way to do this is by recording, tracking and analyzing your interactions. When you do this consistently, you can compare and contrast them to glean new insights. With time, you can gain a deeper understanding of customers’ most frequent needs and questions. 

Key Question: What can you do to further enhance your customers’ journey with your business?

4.  Remember that business is always personal.

Just like in life, relationships and connections are foundational to business. Person to person interaction feels more trustworthy, which explains why 84% of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their loyalty. 

We create trust through genuine interest in our customers. As a result, our partnerships are stronger compared to a sole supplier/customer relationship.

Forming true relationships allows you to truly understand your customer’s business goals, which allows you to perform at your best. The more we know about our customers, the better we can provide continuous support to satisfy their needs. 

Key Question: How can we connect with customers on a more personal level?

5. Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth.

Customer reviews have become a built-in aspect of most business and social platforms. The ratio of good and bad reviews can impact your brand image and bottom line. After a negative experience, customers typically tell 9 to 15 other people about it

On the other hand, good news travels fast. Individuals trust recommendations from people they know more than any other form of advertising.  While money can’t buy a positive referral, you can earn it by providing quality service.

By identifying and living the values of your company, you can cultivate an experience you want for both your employees and your clients.  Developing an awesome experiences for your take and customers alike experience for your team and customers that leads to talking.

Key Questions: What are we actively doing to ensure our customers’ experience is so great they want to share it with everyone they know? 

6. The key to customer retention is building trust.

Building customer loyalty is much easier when you begin with trust. Relationships are an investment.

If you don’t put in the time and money, you risk a potential loss of profit and long-standing business. This is why as little as a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profit. 

An important component of building trust is operating in an ethical and honest manner. Holding yourself to high standards and doing what is right is crucial to instilling confidence in your customers. 

Key Question: Are there opportunities to build more trust at earlier stages in our relationships?

7. Develop a habit of being proactive.

Instead of waiting for a problem to arise or for a client to ask for help, make the first move. You’ll notice a reward on investment (ROI), seeing as 86% of customers would prefer to do business with companies that more frequently provide proactive service. In doing so you’ll make business easier for yourself by creating customer confidence and loyalty.

You can demonstrate that you’re one step ahead in many different ways. It could be through friendly reminder calls about upcoming deadlines, events or appointments, or ongoing relationship management. Keep in mind, proactivity is even more important during urgent situations where time is of the essence. 

While using technology to automate and streamline services can aid you in reaching peak efficiency, don’t forget the importance of human interaction. Ultimately, proactive customer service means being timely and transparent while keeping interactions warm and personal.

Key Question: Where can we offer value more proactively?

8. Create a culture of customer service. 

To provide truly great customer experiences, you have to build it into your values.  Everyone on your team, not just the front line, must understand and live those values. The culture of your business will dictate the success of your vision. You can do this by communicating roles and responsibilities, and how they impact customer expectations, experience, trust, and proactivity. 

Although this is the last point of our guide, it’s arguably the first place to start. Take some time to reflect on your current culture, and how it aligns with your vision for the future. 

Do your employees understand their worth to your company and customers? It’s no secret that happy employees strive to deliver high quality, consistent customer service. This results in a better experience, increased customer loyalty, a culture of care and more time for you to focus on development and growth. 

Key Question: Can we incorporate our values into more of our day-to-day activities?