As a business, you’re constantly managing and balancing your company goals of increasing revenue, retaining customers, and improving internal processes, but are the goals you set effective at providing guidance to your employees on how to best accomplish them?
Especially within the context of customer service, setting the right goals and ensuring that those goals are designed for success can be difficult. The intent behind goals may be clear, but effective goal-making requires far more than communicating your desired end-state to your employees.
For example, a goal like “be polite to our customers” seems simple, yet your employees can struggle to execute them.
“Be polite to our customers” is challenging because it isn’t SMART–specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. You can accomplish the goal of being polite to customers, but it needs to be phrased in a way that is actionable and sets your employees up for success.
Developing effective goals for customer service reps is easy once you learn how to develop them the SMART way.
How To Be SMART
The SMART paradigm is a mental tool that you can use to guide your goal crafting. Think of it as a rubric for assessing the effectiveness of a goal. SMART won’t tell you anything specific about your organization’s needs–it’s just a method for implementing plans that serve the needs you have already identified.
Our goal as you read through the principles of SMART in the next few sections is to see how you can apply this to your company and your support initiatives.
There’s a bit of nuance to each SMART component, so have a recent example of a goal you set in mind because this framework can help evaluate how SMART your goal is and if there’s any room to define it further.
Without further ado, let’s dive into the single most important letter in SMART: specific.
S – Specific
SMART goals should be granular, comprehensive in content, and unambiguously phrased–especially if it requires more steps to accomplish.
The key to setting specific goals is the ability to proactively address questions that your employee might have after being tasked with a goal.
Specific goals preemptively answer questions like:
- Who is responsible for working towards the goal?
- What resources should be used to reach the goal?
- What methods should be used to reach the goal?
- Why is the goal worthwhile?
- What obstacles/hazards need to be addressed to reach the goal without incident?
- What is the deadline?
Having to organize and clarify your thoughts is an added bonus of setting specific goals. Creating a detailed roadmap to accomplish a goal by being specific is far more valuable than pointing your employees in a general direction and a broad goal.
Specificity is critical regardless of the scale of the goal. A nonspecific goal in a meeting might sound something like:
“We should make sure that the timesheets are done soon.”
This goal doesn’t specify the individuals responsible for accomplishing the goal, nor does it specify what aspects of which timesheets need to be completed, or by when.
It also doesn’t address why the goal is important, which means that employees will have a hard time connecting it to the bigger picture and be less motivated as a result.
A more specific version of the same goal would read:
“Mark should use our new software suite to process the contractor timesheets by Wednesday so that we can pay them by Friday.”
The means and the ends are both very clear when goals are specific. Implementing specificity in your company’s goal making process is an easy step that can lead to significant improvements.
The only way you’ll be able to effectively and accurately determine the impact of these improvements is if you set goals that are measurable in addition to being specific.
M – Measurable
Effective goals have measurable outcomes, which means that there is no ambiguity about whether a goal has been accomplished or not. Measurable goals make it easy when the time comes to assess progress.
Without measuring, it’s difficult to make course corrections or see the direct impact a program has made.
Luckily, setting measurable goals is easy in the context of customer service.
There are many metrics which can be used as measurements for progress toward a customer service goal. Improving a metric may be a goal in and of itself, so long as it’s connected to a larger picture.
The takeaway is to follow-up with measuring progress towards your goals as well as using those measurements to confirm that the goal has been reached.
A – Attainable
Progress is only possible if the goal is attainable and setting reasonable goals is important to the success and motivation of your team.
For example, 100% customer satisfaction, while a great concept, is a challenging goal to set. A more attainable goal would be to increase customer satisfaction by 5% by the end of the year.
Setting goals which are attainable is important for a few reasons.
First, employees are more motivated to work on goals when completion is and feels possible. The satisfying feeling of attaining a goal is a powerful motivator.
Second, working on unattainable goals ties up resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
Finally, unattainable goals can lead to low morale.
It’s hard to keep employees motivated toward an unattainable goal because they feel like their best efforts will not allow them to reach the goal and this mindset only detracts from their ability to execute.
It’s easy to set goals you feel are attainable, but a good way of making sure that a goal is realistically attainable for your team is to check in with those responsible for executing the steps of the goal. If they say it’s not doable and express enough hesitation, work together to adjust the goal in a way that makes sense for everyone.
R – Relevant
Always take a step back to ensure the goals you set are relevant to your overall business or organizational initiatives.
The goals you create for your customer support team have to be in support of larger organizational goals. If your organization doesn’t experience a connection between increased customer satisfaction and increased revenue, it isn’t relevant to set a goal to improve customer satisfaction.
Conversely, it isn’t relevant for a customer support team to be tasked with increasing the company’s revenue because the goal isn’t something that they can completely and directly control. A more relevant goal is to improve a metric that is correlated to higher revenue that support can impact and improve on.
The exact nature of what is relevant will depend on the business, but a good rule of thumb is that relevant goals improve the company’s position upon completion.
If there’s no downstream benefit to the company as a whole, the goal may not be worth pursuing.
T – Timely
Defining a timetable for your goals helps create a sense of urgency for your team to take the first steps needed.
Remember to create deadlines for each of the steps required to reach a particular goal such that the nearest deadline is always a bite-sized step. This will guarantee steady progress toward the goal, or, failing that, provide early warning of stalled progress.
Tips On Setting SMART Goals
To tie everything together, it’s helpful to remember a few rules of thumb:
- Set one goal at a time
- Have goals displayed visually as a reminder
- Ask employees for goal ideas
- Break large goals down into small subgoals
- Don’t be afraid to adjust goals after they’re set
- Offer a reward once a goal is completed
If you’re still having a hard time setting SMART goals, it can help to test goals against a checklist. Write down the goal that you have in mind, then go through each letter of SMART and check them off if the goal meets the standard.
We hope this post helps you create SMART goals and would love to hear how it goes!