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(The following is excerpted from the course Understanding the Value and ROI of Customer Service.)
Ensuring that you're getting necessary resources is an important part of enabling customer service to produce the value it can and should. Let's look at what a budget really is—and seven principles to getting the best results possible.
A budget is simply a summary of proposed or agreed-upon expenditures for a given period of time, for specified purposes. Sounds tame enough, right? But many see the process of budgeting as tedious, time-consuming and, some say, even distracting from more important responsibilities.
|Recording "Understanding the Value and ROI of Customer Service," LinkedIn Learning studios, Carpinteria, California
Don't forget: the outcome of this process is the funding you will have to accomplish the mission and potential of customer service! And that is the first principle of effective budgeting: View it as an opportunity!
Those who picture rows and columns of figures when they think "budget" miss the point. It's really a great opportunity to take a look at your organization's priorities and make decisions that are a win for everyone.
"A budget is simply a summary of proposed or agreed-upon expenditures for a given period of time, for specified purposes."
Second, focus on results. Serving two thousand or two million customers, or keeping wait times within targets, are only the means to an end. Great customer experiences will be reflected in customer loyalty, positive word of mouth, and other business results. These are the things that matter.
Third, go for brevity and clarity. And (good news!), remember that budgeting is an extension of resource planning. Planning activities, such as forecasting, scheduling and cost analysis, are ongoing. They should take much of the work out of the budget process, because the budget should ultimately be based on the same workload predictions. My recommendation is to not create two disparate sets of planning activities.
Fourth, look for opportunities to maximize cross-functional resources. Often, an organization's overall results can be improved by investing more in one area, to the benefit of others.
For example, product development functions sometimes provide funding to customer service for improved analysis of customer experiences and input. What are they saying? Where are the opportunities? This is an innovation goldmine that comes from customer service.
Fifth, ensure the budgeting process is completely honest. Be realistic and candid about where customer service has been meeting objectives and where you're missing the mark. Masking resource deficiencies can undermine the ability to get the resources you need.
Sixth, highlight investment opportunities. Identify potential high-leverage investments in sensible areas, such as promising technologies, training and coaching initiatives, and others. The key is to focus on those areas that will yield a healthy return on investment and keep you ahead of customer expectations.
Finally, make it human. Sprinkle the conversation with real examples. "Sara Johnson, a small-business owner in Seattle and a four-year client, was one of the customers we helped last quarter. She is concerned that..." And so forth. These examples can help bring discussions to life.
The budgeting process is a great opportunity to better understand the value of customer service. Hey, you might even turn an obligation that few enjoy into a positive and enlightening conversation that you and others really look forward to!