Undertaking a SWOT analysis of customer service involves identifying what "customer service" represents for you and your organisation in terms of procedures, behaviours, motivations and attitudes. It means analysing your entire customer service process at every level and stage in terms of its existing strengths and weaknesses, then considering how it might be manipulated and improved to meet potential opportunities and overcome possible threats.
A SWOT analysis of customer service is a means of helping you identify what is currently strong or weak about your service levels. It then helps you to build upon those strengths and overcome any weaknesses by identifying potential opportunities which may be open to you to improve customer service while at the same time helping you recognise potential threats which may undermine your position. As a strategic business tool, a SWOT analysis first addresses the overall nature of your customer service before dealing with specific details of implementation at a later stage.
Customer service components
The starting point of a SWOT analysis is establishing a clear picture of all the key variables and processes that comprise "customer service" in your department or organisation. This varies greatly across organisations depending on their size, nature of business, geographical position and service channels. It may also differ between teams and individuals, depending on their role, experience and understanding of what "customer service" means.
Getting clear input from customers about what they like and dislike about your service style and levels is crucial before you undertake a SWOT analysis. This will highlight the points that are important to them (strengths and weaknesses) and may provide you with suggestions for new ways of servicing their needs (opportunities), as well as giving you a feel for the possible consequences of failing to improve.
Strengths and weaknesses
Customer service strengths are those things that you consistently excel in and which you do better than your competitors. However, customer service strengths ultimately relate to customer perceptions--it is their view of what you do well rather than your own which is important. Weaknesses are areas of customer service that need improvement. Once identified, it is important to establish the reasons for poor performance--which may range from poor staff training, to inadequate delivery mechanisms or unreliable technology. Weaknesses in some areas of customer service may cancel out strengths in others which is why the delivery chain should be analysed as a whole.
Customer service opportunities relate both to technology that might improve existing service levels or to completely new service processes. As well as using any customer input about possible improvements or developments, seek innovative solutions from your own staff and suppliers and also look at what your competitors are doing. Also, consider what other organisations in different business sectors are doing in customer service terms--much of it may be transferable to your organisation.
Lack of understanding of changing customer expectations and needs is one of the biggest threats for customer service, alongside competitor activity and innovation from new entrants to the market. Using specific customer service measures is a good way of analysing how much customer service is perceived to improve or decline year on year, underlining how much of a threat is posed by poor performance.
Once identified, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats should be used to formulate specific objectives and an action plan for improving customer service levels. Objectives should aim to build upon strengths and reduce weaknesses by taking advantage of opportunities for improvement. This will reduce the potential impact of some or all of the associated threats. Good communication and customer service training may be needed to enable people to meet these objectives.
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