mug with the word "begin" on it
PHOTO: Danielle MacInnes

It’s that time of year again. New Year’s resolutions are in full swing, but soon enough (if not already), half of us will forget what we set out to do in the first place. In fact, it’s estimated that only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals, with most people failing by Jan. 12 — not even two weeks into the new year. Even the best-laid plans (and most noble resolutions) nearly always fall apart far sooner than we’d like.

But this problem isn’t limited to our personal lives — it can trickle into our work lives, too. After coming back to the office refreshed from the holiday break, we’re ready to hit the ground running. But it can be easy to lose steam as the year wears on. Unfortunately, customer expectations don’t lose steam, which means your customer service department needs to be exceptional all year long.

But how can you keep your New Year’s enthusiasm past those first few weeks of January? Maintaining resolutions throughout the year requires a measured, realistic approach to sustained improvement. In the interest of kicking off 2020 on the right foot, here are a few best practices for keeping your personal and professional resolutions going strong.

With Customer Experience, Consistency Is Key

Just like going to the gym once won’t make you fit, providing great customer experiences occasionally isn’t enough. Customers expect consistently excellent experiences across all touchpoints and departments — so much so that 73% of customers begin looking for other brands if the level of service offered isn’t consistent across departments.

Today’s omnichannel world adds another layer of complexity, with 90% of customers expecting a predictable experience across channels. This is no small feat — especially considering that the average customer uses an astounding 10 channels to connect with a company. In fact, effective omnichannel experiences don’t just benefit your customers, brands with a strong omnichannel strategy retain nearly three times as many customers as competitors with a weak strategy.

Not every single experience needs to be perfect — but your customers should feel confident they’ll receive a quality customer experience, whether that’s via phone, chatbot or social media.

Related Article: The Customer Experience Hierarchy

Ditch Concrete Rules in Customer Service

Ever told yourself you were giving up caffeine, cold turkey? Or claimed you weren’t going to eat chocolate in the new year? Odds are those hard and fast rules died quickly. The same is true of unforgiving rules in your customer service department.

While metrics definitely have their place, they’re not the be-all and end-all for measuring success or providing exceptional customer experiences. For example, an insistence on keeping average handle time (AHT) low doesn’t account for scenarios where a customer service rep needs to spend a little extra time on the phone to ensure a customer’s needs are fully met.

The best customer experiences aren’t always done by the book, which is what makes them so memorable. When it comes down to it, strict rules and unforgiving stats won’t always work in your favor. It’s better to have a department that keeps customers coming back than one that only looks good on paper.

Related Article: Call Center Employees: The Superheroes of Customer Experience

Lean on Technology to Help You Out

There’s an app to support nearly every New Year’s resolution imaginable — enhancing nutrition, increasing mindfulness or even limiting screen time. Appropriately leveraged, tech can make it much easier to achieve your personal goals, as well as your customer service department’s.

If you haven’t already, 2020 is the time to implement technology to enhance your customer service operations. More than half of service organizations in 2019 — including more than two thirds of those with excellent customer satisfaction — are actively looking for ways to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) in their customer service operations. AI frees up your team to focus on more complex, high-level tasks instead of getting bogged down in endless queues. This empowers customers to get what they need more efficiently, creating a better experience overall.

Related Article: Combine Chatbots and RPA for Better Customer Service

Progress Over Perfection

Finally, my own personal resolution: progress over perfection. Nothing happens overnight. Meaningful change is often messy, and only achieved through incremental, realistic changes that you can sustain over a long period of time. Getting started, even if your efforts aren’t perfect from the get-go, is better than waiting until you have every last detail precisely hammered out.

The same is true for your business, especially when it comes to deploying technology. Your first tech investment doesn’t have to launch a new era for your company —you can start small. Once you start seeing results, expand and see where that takes you. Constant improvement is often more impactful than one drastic change.

The beginning of the year offers an exciting chance to start fresh, rejuvenated from a short break away. But a new year doesn't mean you can transform overnight. For meaningful and sustainable change (that lasts long past Jan. 12), both you and your customer service department need a realistic approach to New Year’s resolutions that emphasizes consistency and progress over unattainable perfection.