New Year's Plans: Forget New Until You've Mastered Old

You've got big customer service plans for next year.

Maybe it's new technology or adding a new service channel. Perhaps you're contemplating a new strategy or an employee engagement program. 

Forget it.

There's one thing you need to do before you start thinking about all that new stuff. You need to master what you're already doing.

Photo credit:  Matthias Buehler

Photo credit: Matthias Buehler

The New Year Trap

There's a lake near my home with a two-lane running and biking path around it. January always brings a large spike in walkers, runners, and bicyclists.

Most will be gone by February. These people made New Year's resolutions to get fit. Unfortunately, history and science tell us that most resolutions fail.

Business initiatives are the same way.

January is the start of the fiscal year for many companies. New investments are approved. Initiatives get started. There are many more project kick-off meetings in January than there are in December.

Like the surge of well-intentioned people at the lake near my home, history and science tell us most of these will stall out at some point in the year.


The Importance of Mastery

Let's say you want to add live chat to the mix of customer service channels you support in 2017. Your company already supports customers via phone, email, and self-service.

Before you implement a new channel, ask yourself this question first: Have you mastered the channels you support now?

You can transfer best practices and lessons learned to your new live chat channel if you're already delighting customers via phone, email, and self-service.

On the other hand, your failures will get multiplied if you're struggling with any of these channels now and you add a new one to the mix. Frustrated customers will become even more frustrated. Chaos will reign supreme.

(Side note: here are three questions to ask before adding a new service channel.)

The concept of mastery applies to any new initiative. There's no sense in adding a new idea, feature, concept, or plan to the mix if you haven't mastered what you're doing now.

It will only add confusion and complication. It will amplify frustration. And it will suck resources away from fixing what needs to be fixed.


An Alternative to New Year's Resolutions

Forget wiping the slate clean. Try incremental progress in 2017. 

One technique I've found helpful is to create what's called an Operational Direction Statement or ODS. Think of it like a theme that will guide your year.

My ODS for 2016 was "Content."

I had already been building my business to focus more on content like my customer service book, training videos, and free-lance writing.

The "Content" theme was about staying on the same trajectory, but doing even more and (hopefully) doing it in even better. So in 2016 I wrote a second customer service book (due out April 2017), created five new training videos on, created some original research, and picked-up a few free-lance writing gigs. 

Better yet, I found ways to use content to serve my clients in new ways.

One longtime client saved money by using training videos like my Innovative Customer Service Techniques course for annual refresher training instead of flying me in. My new course, Customer Service Over the Phone, targeted contact centers who desperately needed affordable training. I added new tips to my Customer Service Tip of the Week email to offer fresh content to many who've subscribed for years. And my blog subscribers were rewarded with an exclusive workbook, 10 Customer Service Activities to Supercharge Your Team.

All of this centered around the Content theme. Looking back on 2016, it was a great choice. So great that "Content" is my theme for 2017 too.

You can do the same for your operation. Focus 2017 on mastering what you're already doing and grow incrementally.