Article

5 steps to setting better customer service goals

Customer service goals help support agents increase their impact and feel more motivated. Here’s how to set goals that work for your team.

By Liz Bauer

Published March 13, 2013
Last updated November 23, 2020

Goals help teams work on the most relevant tasks and achieve their targets. For a customer service team, that means improving your company’s relationship with its customers.

So what does this look like from a goal-setting perspective?

There are many ways a customer service interaction can affect a customer’s relationship with your company. How quickly an agent responds, whether or not they resolve the customer’s problem, how they make the customer feel—all these factors can impact the customer experience.

When it comes to setting goals, your team needs to align on what success looks like. Having the fastest response time, for example, isn’t worth much if the customer experience feels transactional and impersonal. For this reason, communication, buy-in, and alignment are paramount to setting effective customer service goals.

So how do you get started?

1. Connect customer service goals to company-wide objectives

Goals are arbitrary unless they tie back to an overarching company mission. When a team’s specific goals support the greater good, employees feel more motivated to contribute and can be confident that their work matters.

Connect the dots between company objectives, customer experience, and individual projects to help your team feel engaged with their work.

Leadership will also want to understand how your team’s goals map back to the organization’s goals. Goals contribute to a larger story, and the more you can help your leaders tell that larger success story, the more they can support and champion your initiatives.

For example, if a company objective is to retain more new customers, the customer support team might have a goal to increase the happiness score for a new customer segment. Using Zendesk’s reporting and analytics tools, your team can measure how first-response time impacts customer satisfaction in new customers.

2. Assign metrics to your customer service goals

If a goal doesn’t have a measurable result, there’s no way to tell whether or not it was achieved. Metrics are opportunities to establish concrete benchmarks for your team. They align your team on what success looks like and set clear expectations for performance.

Choosing metrics is about asking the right questions. Take the data you have—or want—and consider where you could make improvements. Or, take a look at your company or team’s overarching goals and ask: What are the steps we need to take to achieve this?

If, for example, the goal is to increase customer retention, a support team might determine that it can impact retention by improving the support experience for existing customers. You could measure that with Net Promoter Score (NPS). Your goal might be an NPS of 85 within your existing customer segment.

Here are some more examples of customer service goals aligned with specific metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs):

Objective Goal
Improve response time over the phone. Respond to 90% of phone calls within 5 minutes
Increase customer satisfaction Achieve 85% customer happiness every week
Decrease repeat tickets Resolve 95% of customer issues within the original ticket
Increase customer retention Increase average CSAT from 4.2 to 4.7 by the end of the month
Increase customer loyalty Increase average NPS from 80 to 85 by the end of the quarter

It can be difficult to turn your data into measurable goals without an analytics tool. A strong analytics tool will help you set a benchmark for success, which you can use to set an achievable, or more aggressive, goal against. The benefit is that you’re not guessing or setting a goal in the dark, and can better set your team up for success.

Consider setting two tiers for your goals: realistic goals and stretch goals. If your team is hitting the attainable goal consistently, the stretch goal is there to keep everyone motivated to provide excellent customer service.

3. Prioritize customer service goals

Some goals have a higher impact than others, so it’s important to communicate the hierarchy. Perhaps, for example, this month it’s more important to maintain customer satisfaction than it is to cross-sell or up-sell another product.

Consider labeling your goals as High, Medium, and Low priority. Consider the level of impact that each goal might have on an objective, and prioritize higher-impact goals over lower-impact work. Communicate these priority levels when setting goals, and make sure they’re easy to reference.

Chances are, your business’s leadership team has already prioritized the company objectives your customer service goals are based on. Use their assessment as a starting point for setting your own priorities.

Factor in this prioritization when you’re analyzing performance, too. If all of your team’s “High” priority goals were met, but the “Low” priority ones weren’t, make sure to call that out and celebrate the achievement. If “Low” priority goals were met but “High” priority ones were not, there’s an opportunity to coach your team and help them refocus on the goals that will drive the most impact.

4. Set customer service goals collaboratively as a team

While it can be easier for a manager to tell an employee what their priorities should be and expect compliance, a top-down management style can breed resentment, low engagement, and lower motivation.

A more effective management style is to encourage employees to set goals together. Show your agents you trust their expertise and value their guidance when it comes to interacting with customers and setting goals for improvement. A manager’s job is ultimately to guide their team toward effective goal-setting—not to dictate exactly what employees will work on and how.

In the end, a manager may need to make the final call on what goals to present to upper management, but consider first putting out a call for ideas from your team. You don’t need to try to incorporate every idea your team sends in. Instead, focus on ideas that will meaningfully impact a company-wide objective, and then give your team context for the direction you’ve chosen. The more you can explain why a goal is in place, the better-equipped the team will be to suggest and assess goals in the future.

It’s your job to set team goals, but not necessarily for every individual employee. Turn it over to your team members to set their own goals that relate back to your group’s priorities. Coaching is often appropriate here—you want employees to feel ownership over their goal setting, but you’re still accountable for keeping everyone on the same page.

5. Tailor an individual’s goal to their strengths

Everyone has a “zone of genius,” and an individual’s goals should align with their natural talents whenever possible. Great customer service managers help their employees identify their own strengths and lean into those.

It’s also important to look beyond what an employee already does well and also consider what they’re passionate about learning. Ask them what they love about their jobs, what tasks they gravitate toward, and what helps them find their flow. Don’t just ask once; ask consistently, and listen to how the answer shifts over time.

Your role as a customer service manager is to align that answer with an individual’s goals. For example, a customer service agent on your team might have great writing skills when they respond by email or chat, but procrastinate when writing knowledge base articles. Or perhaps they get a rush of energy from problem-solving, in which case an operations-focused goal might be most fitting.

Of course, sometimes there can be tension between company objectives and individual talents. When there’s a project that you need to get done and that nobody’s excited about, spread the tedious tasks across your team to reduce the onus on each person.

Purpose fuels achievement

Understanding your customer service agents’ passions helps you, as a manager, lead more effectively. Connecting business goals all the way down to an individual’s sense of purpose makes for motivated employees. It also means better, more impactful work. Customer service goals are met, your team is engaged, and customers are happy.