How to Write a Customer Service Charter
Has your business got a customer service charter?
If you want to improve customer service across your entire business, a customer service charter could be your best friend.
This post is your essential guide to writing and implementing a customer service charter. Whether you’re starting from scratch, or you already have a customer service charter, but you know it could be better, we’ll show you how to create a charter that truly meets your needs and the needs of your customers.
What Is A Customer Service Charter?
A customer service charter is a set of written promises. It outlines the standards that you intend to uphold whenever and wherever you deal with customers. Your customer service charter acts as a guide both for your staff and your customers. It lets your staff know what you expect of them. And it lets your customers know what to expect from you.
Why is a customer service charter important? For two reasons:
One: It keeps your staff accountable
Any business can make a vague commitment to uphold strong customer service standards. But with a customer service charter, you’ll clearly define just what good customer service looks like to you. So all staff at all levels, from your warehouse operatives to your frontline sales team, will know what is needed to meet your standards of good customer service.
Two: It keeps your customers loyal
Customer loyalty is integral to your business’s growth. Your customer service charter gives your customers a strong incentive to return to your business, time and time again. You can set standards for things like delivery times, shipping costs, and other things that matter to customers. Let your customers know what sort of service they can expect to receive at every level and at every visit, and they may be more likely to choose you consistently over your competitors.
What Does a Good Customer Service Charter Look Like?
Want an example of a comprehensive customer service charter? Household energy providers SSE have a good one.
It begins by declaring their lasting commitment to good customer service (“we were the first energy company to stop doorstep selling”). It then outlines their three areas of focus – making life easier, finding ways to save money, and being there when their customers need it most. Then there’s a customer service guarantee: for every commitment they fail to meet, they pledge to take £20 off your next bill.
The charter itself is a comprehensive 17 page document. It opens with a signed declaration from the company CEO, so from the start they’re offering transparency and accountability. What follows is a series of promises. They outline what customers can expect from them at various touchpoints, from “getting in touch” to “difficulty paying your bills”.
Each of these touchpoints is organised according to their three areas of focus: making life easier, saving money, and “being there”. And their promises are always clear, concise, and unambiguous. Wherever possible, they put things in numbers: “We will give you reasonable notice, which will be at least 20 days, if the price you pay for your energy is going to increase.”
The charter closes with a directory of useful contacts, which includes some sources of independent help and advice. So if you want to make a formal complaint about their services, they’re literally showing you how!
The SSE customer service charter is good because:
- It outlines the company’s customer service goals.
- All standards and promises are linked back to these goals.
- It’s clear, concise, unambiguous, and it puts things in numbers wherever possible.
- They’re holding themselves accountable with a cast-iron customer service guarantee – at least £20 off your bill if they let you down on any of their promises!
What to Include in Your Customer Service Charter
To begin with, think about what you want to achieve with your good customer service standards. Obviously your priority is to convert your customers into loyal brand ambassadors who visit you time and time again. And obviously you want your loyal customers to say nice things about you to their friends, family, and colleagues.
But think deeper than this. What makes a customer loyal?
It’s consistency. Reliability. Convenience. These are all things you can measure, so they’re all things you can improve. Your staff can be friendly, polite, and courteous. They can consistently go above and beyond what your customers expect of them. But if there are any problems with your systems or communications, your customers will still be disappointed.
So start by outlining your areas of focus. It’s not enough to say: “we promise to deliver excellent customer service.” Think in more concrete terms. Make the sort of promises your customers can relate to, and your staff can commit to.
SSE’s customer service promises are the sorts of things that all businesses should commit to:
- Making life easier.
- Helping you to save money.
- Being there for you when you need it most.
But you might be able to think of areas of focus specific to your business and your sector.
Set Your Standards
Having defined your goals and your areas of focus, it’s time to set your standards. Think about every possible customer service touchpoint. A customer that wanders into your store is just as important as a customer that asks a question on social media! Outline what your customers can expect from you wherever and whenever they interact with you. And wherever possible, put things in numbers:
- When customers reach out to you on Facebook or Twitter, how long can they expect to wait for an answer? What about your other channels? How long will they have to wait for a reply to an email? How long will they be placed on hold if they call your customer service hotline?
- If a customer needs to return an item, what’s your policy on returns? When will you offer full refunds, and when will you offer exchange?
- When a customer places an order, how long will they have to wait for delivery? And how much will delivery cost them? What sort of things will affect the price of delivery?
- And what if a customer wishes to make a complaint? Who can they complain to, and how will you act upon their complaint? And what if they want to escalate things?
Having set your standards and made your promises, you might consider offering a guarantee, like SSE did. This shows that your serious about your commitment to good customer service, which may encourage some customers to choose you over your competitors. It might not be practical for you to offer £20 discounts for every discrepancy, like SSE. But you might be able to think of a guarantee that works for you.
But It’s One Thing to Have a Customer Service Charter…
It’s equally important that you act upon it, and implement it!
If you’re all talk, your customer service charter could even work against you. If you make a series of promises to your customers that you fail to keep, you could lose a lot of otherwise loyal customers.
Case in point: We’ve said a lot of nice things about SSE in this post. But then we took a look at what SSE customers have to say about their energy providers. At the time of writing, they have an 84% “bad” rating on Trustpilot based on 1,014 reviews. Which makes us wonder: Are SSE truly committed to their customer service charter? Having taken the trouble to create it, how effectively are they implementing it?
How to Implement Your Customer Service Charter
First, it’s important to share your customer service charter with all employees. Perhaps you could make it a part of everyone’s new starter pack? Or you could routinely discuss it in company meetings.
Let your staff contribute, too. Your customer service charter could be a living, breathing document – regularly updated based on feedback from staff and customers alike. And think about how your customer service charter can feed into your customer experience management strategy.
If you want to know how effectively you’ve implemented your customer service charter, you’ll need a way of measuring customer experience.
Think about the metrics you can use to measure customer experience. And head here to read our guide to measuring and improving customer experience.
Listen to the Voice of the Customer
Want some insights into the sort of promises you can make in your customer service charter? Then it’ll help to see where you’re currently letting your customers down, and to get insights into the sort of improvements that would make a difference. This means you have to listen to what your customers are saying at every point of the customer journey.
CXExplore is our Voice of the Customer (VoC) programme toolkit. We’ll gather feedback at every customer service touchpoint, which will you a detailed overview of your customers’ entire experience. If any of your processes or departments are letting you down, you’ll know what to focus on, and what sort of promises to make in your customer service charter.