Conducting a Customer Service SWOT Analysis

Chances are, you probably conducted a SWOT analysis when you developed your business plan. But did you know that you could also use this tool to analyze a specific topic—such as customer service? Given that excellent service can be the determining factor for success of a small business, it makes sense to use a SWOT analysis to assess how you’re doing. Take a look at how you might apply a SWOT analysis to customer service.

Conducting a Customer Service SWOT Analysis

SWOT stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.” The goal is to examine the factors inside and outside of your business that affect customer service. Armed with that information, you can improve your decision-making to take advantage of strengths and opportunities and to address weaknesses and threats.

Look Inside

Start your SWOT analysis by looking at the service environment inside your business. That includes the assets, processes, and people you use to deliver service. Focus on the factors where you are able to make the decision, independent of outside influences. For example, you hired an employee who can communicate with your Spanish-speaking customers.

Think of these internal factors as falling into two categories:

Strengths – In what ways do your customers think you deliver better service than your competitors? Perhaps you offer home delivery, provide how-to workshops in your store, have a no-questions refund policy, or offer 24/7 customer support on your website.

Weaknesses – What areas of service do customers think you need to improve? This might include things like: staff members are rude to difficult customers, your employees aren’t able to resolve customer problems unless they check with you first, your website doesn’t list the hours you’re open, or customers wait too long on hold and hang up before they get help.

You don’t have to identify these factors yourself. In fact, you shouldn’t. Brainstorm with your employees and ask customers. Their perspective will give you a broader look inside.

Look Outside

The second part of a SWOT looks at customer service factors outside of your business. You can tell if it fits in this category when it’s something you didn’t initiate but still affects your business. For example, your local government passed a law that requires you to add a surcharge to a customer’s restaurant bill.

Think of external factors in terms of these categories:

Opportunities – What is happening outside of your business that could help you better serve customers? Maybe it’s new technology that lets them preorder something so it’s ready to pick up when they arrive. Or there’s a new supplier in town that lets you offer a wider selection.

Threats – What is lurking out there that could throw a wrench in your service levels? Perhaps there’s a competitor offering free delivery. Or maybe more consumers are using their mobile device and want GPS directions to your business.

Rely on your networking contacts to help you stay in touch with what’s happening outside your business.

Putting It Together

Now that you’ve completed your SWOT analysis, how do you use that information to improve customer service? You may want to start by looking at your strengths and weaknesses, since those are the factors where you have the greatest control.

Your list of weaknesses helps you determine where to focus your training efforts. It’s also an opportunity to look at processes. For example, could you identify situations where you empower your employees to fix customer issues on their own? For example, some businesses let their staff offer discounts or free delivery to help resolve service problems.

Think about using a factor in one category to address another. For example, what strengths can you leverage to take advantage of an opportunity you identified (or to stave off a threat)? For example, maybe you can offer a new how-to workshop using the expertise of that new supplier in town.

For many small businesses, superior customer service is their differentiator in the marketplace. That’s why it’s so important to periodically assess this asset to be sure it hasn’t lost its value. A SWOT analysis can help you shore up any deficits and take advantage of an opportunity that could dial-up your customer service.

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