How to Set Customer Service Goals for Success
When I took over the customer service team at my last company, it was during a period of transition.
We’d just gone through an acquisition which, although welcome, meant we needed to reassess our resources, our tools, and our team’s strategy for the foreseeable future. I was also stepping from a senior role into a management role, and while neither management nor the team were new to me, the situation was changing quickly.
This presented a challenge: quickly leading the team through setting new expectations and requirements, while still delivering the same excellent customer service experience for our customers.
It also gave us an opportunity to move from good to great — by understanding where we were, where we wanted to go, and how we might get there.
Maybe you’ve also just taken over a new team, or you’re also going through an acquisition or reorganization. Or maybe you’re just looking to level up your support team.
Regardless of why you’re here, this article will help you understand what SMART goals are in the context of customer service and how to define SMART customer service goals for your team. It includes some examples of great customer service goals, and it will show you how to measure the success of your goals so your team can continue to grow and adjust your customer service strategy as needed.
Why Setting Customer Service Goals is Important
Being on a ship with no destination is unpleasant and nerve-wracking for everyone aboard.
Setting solid customer service goals for your team provides a common purpose and keeps everyone moving in the same direction. It improves your odds of reaching your destination: consistent excellent customer service.
And beyond the psychological benefits of having clear goals, there are plenty of more tangible benefits too.
It makes good business sense
Clear customer service goals ensure that your team’s efforts align with the broader objectives of the company, so it’s clear how your team is contributing to business growth.
It also means both you and the company can make more informed decisions about budget and resource allocation, using the real data and trends you glean from measuring your progress against your goals.
It makes for happier, more loyal customers
Goals focused on customer satisfaction directly contribute to improving the overall customer experience. Satisfied customers are more likely to be loyal, to make repeat purchases, and to recommend your business to others.
Consistently meeting and exceeding your customer service goals also builds your company’s reputation for reliability and trustworthiness, which is essential for long-term brand success.
It makes for happier, more engaged customer support teams
Setting specific goals and measuring how each member works toward these objectives allows customer service teams and managers to identify strengths and weaknesses. It also allows individual team members to understand and direct their own professional development.
Well-defined goals also provide teams with a clear sense of direction and purpose. Team members who understand how their work contributes to larger goals are happier and more committed to the company’s success.
SMART Goals in Customer Service
You’ve probably heard of SMART goals before. It’s a handy mnemonic tool that reminds everyone that effective goals are:
But why do the goals you set for your customer service team (or that they set for themselves) need to be SMART?
The point of setting goals is to be as clear as possible about expectations:
- How you expect your team to work independently and with each other
- How you expect to create satisfied customers
- How you expect to contribute to your company’s success
There shouldn’t be ambiguity in customer service goals. That’s because while a well-defined goal tells your team members what success looks like, it also acts as a catalyst or guide to help you get there.
This may be from a customer standpoint (satisfaction, response time, self-service, etc.), from an individual perspective (performance or professional development), or from a company perspective (cost per customer, retention rate, expansion rate, etc.).
Setting SMART Customer Service Goals
First, keep in mind that you usually can’t jump right into creating a goal. There’s always an assessment period first.
You need to spend some time figuring out what the current state of your customer service team is.
Some questions you can ask to guide your assessment:
- What is our budget? Are we over or under-budget?
- What is our team capacity?
- What is our incoming ticket / chat / phone volume?
- Does our team capacity match our ticket volume?
- What are our most important customer service metrics (like first response time (FRT), average handle time (AHT), and customer satisfaction (CSAT))? What is the current baseline for each of those metrics?
- What are our most important customer success metrics (like Net Promoter Score (NPS), customer churn and retention rates, and customer lifetime value (CLV))? What is the current baseline for those metrics?
- What tools do we have? How much do they cost? Are they necessary?
- What tools don’t we have that we need?
- What internal and public-facing product resources do we have? What do we need?
- Are there any existing company goals that are relevant to the customer support team? If so, what is the team’s current progress / contributions toward those goals?
Your assessment will be highly dependent on your team and company, but these questions should give you an idea of the things you should consider as you work to define your goals.
Once you’ve done the foundational work to understand what your team needs to improve on, you can begin using that information to define your goals.
Let’s break it down in the context of a real customer service SMART goal.
Any goal you set should be clear and well-defined. For example, “answer customers faster” is a nice aim, but what are the channels where you want to answer customers faster? What does “faster” mean?
A more specific goal for reducing customer wait times would be to set a target first response time for a specific channel, such as: “Send a first response to customers within 60 seconds of their initial chat message.”
Depending on your needs, you could get even more specific: “Send a response to customers inquiring about their order status in 60 seconds or less.”
Any customer service goal should be measurable, so you can understand whether you’ve achieved the goal (or not) and adjust your strategy appropriately.
Taking our example from above, a measurable target chat response time goal could be: “80% of customers will receive a response to their initial chat message within 60 seconds.”
This is the point at which your initial assessment becomes really important.
“80% of customers will receive a response to their initial chat message within 60 seconds” may sound like an achievable goal. It might be doable if you have a simple product or many agents trained and available to handle chats.
But what if you have only two chat agents and are receiving hundreds of chats each day?
Of course, you still want to strive to improve their first response times, but you’ll have to set reasonable expectations to give your agents a fair shot at success.
An attainable goal in this context might instead involve increasing the initial chat response time or decreasing the percentage of customers you’re targeting, like this:
- 80% of customers will receive a response to their initial chat message within 120 seconds
- 60% of customers will receive a response to their initial chat message within 60 seconds
Your context will determine what makes the most sense for your team. Just remember to aim for a goal that’s stretching, yet realistic.
This is another area in which your foundational assessment is key.
First, are your proposed customer service goals aligned with your customer service values and company’s objectives? If not, they won’t be effective or successful, no matter how well they fit the SMART parameters.
Secondly, are your goals relevant to your team? For instance, a manager with a high chat volume might adapt our example to involve implementing a chatbot in order to hit their desired initial chat response time goal.
But a manager with a low ticket volume probably can’t justify the time and expense of implementing a chatbot because the benefits will never outweigh the costs for their team.
This parameter is closely tied to being measurable. You won’t be able to determine whether you’ve succeeded unless you know when the goal needs to be achieved.
To make our example time-bound, we could edit it to read: “By the end of Q2 2024, we’ll be responding to 80% of customers within 60 seconds of their initial chat message.”
3 Examples of Customer Service Department Goals
Improve customer self-service
Customer service goals aren’t just about how your agents interact with your customers. Surveys have shown again and again that customers want the option to solve their own problems.
A goal for developing effective self-service could be:
“By [DATE] we’ll have launched a knowledge base with articles answering our 10 most frequently asked questions about [PRODUCT], resulting in at least a 10% reduction in tickets about those issues.”
Many knowledge base tools will have built-in ticket deflection tracking features, such as giving you the number of views for an article and the number of tickets created after the article was viewed.
You can also measure the success of this goal by tracking ticket volume for a specific category or tag over time.
Implement a quality assurance program
Implementing a quality assurance program is a great way to improve overall customer satisfaction, response and resolution times, and brand recognition. It’s also a more objective way to measure and track agent performance and to kick-off conversations about professional development with your team.
It might look like this:
“In January 2024, develop a draft QA scorecard based on ticket reviews from the previous 3 months, so that we can begin calibration sessions with the team in February 2024.”
In this case, measuring success is relatively simple: is the draft scorecard available by February 2024 when calibration conversations must begin?
Improve customer satisfaction
Customer satisfaction (CSAT) is crucial to your support team’s success, but also the overall success of the company. To build a customer-first organization, improving or maintaining your customer satisfaction score should be one of your main goals.
A sample goal for CSAT could be:
“Each month next quarter, maintain an overall CSAT across text channels (chat and email) of 85% or better.”
You can gather CSAT ratings using built-in tools on your customer communication platforms, or through a dedicated CSAT tool to send customer surveys. Most tools will calculate your CSAT score or percentage automatically.
2 Examples of Customer Service Manager Goals
Improve customer service team engagement and satisfaction
As we’ve already covered, customer service agents are most engaged when they understand what their role is and can see how their contributions matter (both to their entire team and the company).
A goal for improving your customer service team’s overall engagement could be:
“Have a monthly one-on-one with each agent on my team and arrange at least one team social event a quarter, with the aim of reducing employee turnover by 10 percent by the end of the year.”
As you can see, this goal includes multiple conditions for success, and the team turnover rate is a metric that can be directly measured.
Become the voice of your customer
As a customer service manager, you get an especially broad view of how customers use and feel about your product. You also have the ability to take that customer feedback and put it in the hands of those who need it: your product team, your engineering team, your marketing team, and so on.
This can be as simple as implementing a public customer feature request tool where your customers can share their feedback and vote on what they want to see, or as complicated as setting up an internal, cross-functional customer feedback process.
The goal for becoming the voice of your customer could be:
“Have a bi-weekly Voice of the Customer meeting with the product development team, leading to at least one product bug fix and one new customer-requested feature release every quarter.”
You could measure this goal in a number of ways, depending on your strategy. If you have implemented a dedicated customer feedback tool, you can track customer usage against the rate of product releases and bug fixes. You could also track ticket volume in a specific category as well as any impact on CSAT ratings.
2 Examples of Customer Service Representative Goals
Improve customer service skills
Everyone has their specialties and their weaknesses, and your customer service agents are no different. Quality assurance programs are a great way to identify areas for improvement, but you may also uncover opportunities during performance and career development conversations.
Your customer service reps can improve by seeking training in special topics, professional development courses, and peer support. Working with each team member to set and achieve goals for improvement fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
A good example of goal for your agent could be:
“Get training on my weakest skills as identified by our QA reviews during the next month so that my average handle time goes down to [TARGET] by the end of the quarter.”
They can measure the success of this goal through attendance and completion of training, as well as by looking for improved QA scores and handle times.
Owning the customer experience
The more customer service agents take ownership of their customers’ experience, the happier both they and the customer will be.
Owning the customer’s experience will mean something different for every team. It may look like being the customer’s one point of contact for an issue, or it may mean acting as the customer’s guide as they move through the escalation process.
It may look like answering every CSAT rating, good and bad, to thank the customer for their thoughts and solicit more feedback. Or it may mean reviewing their own customer interactions, identifying missed opportunities for exceeding customer expectations or anticipating customer needs, and devising strategies for doing so in the future.
A goal for owning the customer experience could be:
“I’ll reduce my ticket escalation rate by X percent in Q2 by being the primary agent on tickets about Y topic.”
Measuring your growth at owning the customer experience will depend a lot on what specifically that means for your company. For the example above, you’d measure the achievement by looking at the percentage of tickets you’re still escalating on the specific topic.
Customer service goals level up your team
As you’re building out goals for yourself or your customer service team, remember to take a step back occasionally and look at the big picture.
Are these goals aligned with your company and your team’s vision? Are they clear or confusing? Are they too inter-dependent, so that if you fail at one, you fail at them all?
There’s nothing magical about setting SMART goals. They’re a fantastic tool for customer service teams, but the real key is in making goal-setting a discipline and a habit you’re regularly engaging in. Setting goals is not a one-time task — it’s an ongoing process of adaptation and growth.
The landscape of customer service is always changing, and your goals will need to evolve with it.