What strategy is NOT.
Despite all the constant reminders on how essential it is to have a well defined strategy to deal with customer issues, very few companies are actually able to nail it down. A lot of customer care departments think of strategy as a marketing gimmick that will only have them waste time. Strategy is seen as some purely abstract theory, that will only make everything unnecessarily complex: it’s way better to act on impulse and to rely on your own experience.
All this contempt toward the idea of having a strategy to follow probably evolves from the wrong idea of strategy: it is often perceived as a set of rules (not too different from the dreaded “best practices” we have already talked about) designed by people that do not have the foggiest idea about real, practical issues. And when strategy becomes a dead body that you have to carry around while having to deal with your day to day work, of course you begin to hate it and you can’t wait to get rid of it.
So, what’s the real purpose of strategy?
Strategy is a lighthouse, not a ship. It won’t carry you around and it wont make anything any easier. It won’t solve your problem and it wont bring you ashore. Yet it will point out the right direction for you to follow. Always.
No matter how tough your problem is, no matter how finicky your client is: if you have the right idea about strategy, you’ll just know where to go. And even if you are not there yet, you are a thousand steps ahead from where you started.
An efficient strategy is nothing more than a comparison tool. It doesn’t have to make your perfect, because it cannot be entirely theoretical; and it doesn’t have to be too generic, because it needs to be taylor-made for you. In other words: before writing down a nice and tidy list on “How to make your customer care just like Amazon in ten easy steps”, you might want to stop and consider: is it actually that easy, in real life, to become like Amazon? And is that really what your company needs?
Targeted strategy for achievable results.
Don’t get lost in generic ideals, don’t waste energies trying to be too many things at the same time: to be really efficient your strategy must be dead simple and crystal clear. It’s way too easy to say that you want to improve: of course you do, but where? and how?
Ambition is great, but only when you can afford it.
Keep your strategy small. It shouldn’t span for no more than 6 to 12 months, and it should be made up of very simple and measurable steps, that you have previously defined during your everyday work life.
Keep your strategy current. Forget about distant futures when your customer care dept will be made of dozens of hyper-trained agents: focus on the present, everyday management and never lose sight of your practical experience of it. Imagine the PERFECT day for your customer care team: nothing extraordinary, a normal day, one that has already happened a couple of times already perhaps. To achieve that level of quality every single day, that should become the first goal of your strategy.
Keep your strategy personal. The world is full of good advice, but only you know what is best for your company. Leave Amazon and Zappos alone and prepare to think with your own head.
Thinking in a strategic way can be a true game changer for your team… but you have to think at strategy in a more practical and less idealistic way to make it really useful. Foggy philosophies are better left alone.