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Customer service is the key factor in customer satisfaction. Over the years, businesses have migrated to the digital world. It has become important for all organizations to maintain a strong online presence.
The instantaneous ‘click & buy’ has been instilled into our online habits. Nothing short of ‘real-time’ pleases us. Taking customer servicing offline is a big put-off and can hamper sales. Present day customers have many alternatives to your products or services. Brand loyalty can only be commanded by taking traditional customer servicing online. Businesses need to keep devising ways to keep improving it.
Here are the basic guidelines on improving your online customer service.
#1. A ‘help yourself’ model for users
It's the technology–driven age. Businesses are moving away from physical stores to the online space. We’re trained to understand the e-space and like to do things on our own. We are put off by the intrusiveness of calls by the customer support executives. Keeping this in mind businesses have to devise new ways to improve their content online.
First thing to keep in mind is simple. Everything about a product or service has to be online – its features, how to use it, specifications. They need to be detailed and well researched. Base them on questions one might have in mind and preparing answers for the same. These can be FAQs, product descriptions, technical specifications and tutorial videos.
Chatbots also come in handy, when a customer wants a specific issue addressed. This saves time as they don't have to go through a sea of data provided.
Extra information like warranties, return policy and grievance redressal procedure must be enunciated. Most importantly, businesses must research on what might go wrong. Detailed troubleshooting options must be described on the website or the app itself.
This exercise helps in three ways:
1. Reduces manpower in answering redundant questions. This saves up on the cost with the added bonus of being convenient.
2. Customers are more likely to buy a product or service which has all details available online. In short, online content helps build trust.
3. There are customers who are reluctant to share personal details online. They want all details of the product or service to be provided online. This is definitely a less intrusive way of doing it.
Thomas Cook, the travel giant, started using a self-service solution. It now automatically responds to 120,000 monthly inquiries. Shortly after the launch, their support load was reduced by 20%.
#2. User-friendly and streamlined customer service path
Ease of use and minimalism are what made Google the king of search engines. Whether you are new to the world of internet or a geek at it, everyone like simplicity. A logical, stepwise approach to trouble-shooting and resolving of issues is critical.
The first step is to have all information about your products or services on the website and indexed. A simple search box on the site can be used to locate the indexed information.
The next thing is to make the procedure for troubleshooting or initiating a query super easy. Apart from FAQs, clear and precise forms can be included. Make them convenient to fill and inform the customers about the next steps in the process. This builds a trust among customers. It shows you taken efforts to make problem solving easier and convenient.
At any point, the customer might find it easier to communicate their issues to a help team. Hence, he or she must be able to reach out to the business in person. A 24-hour support does come in handy here. But, keeping everything online reduces manpower considerably.
#3. 360–degree communication with customers
The internet has changed the way we communicate. Innumerable new venues for communication have opened up. And the list keeps growing every day. Social media is one of the major channels – it has become embedded in almost all the steps of the buyer’s journey.
With this sort of virtual proximity, users expect to get in touch with the companies with a single click. Businesses are then expected to respond immediately. While this means you have to be alert all the time, you can use this to a huge advantage by being available all the time.
Think about offering a seamless, omnichannel experience to your users. Include social media and all the other places where people might be talking about your brand. These include industry forums, blog, review websites, etc.
This kind of communication will help in gaining the unwavering trust of customers. These then go on to become organic promoters of your business. So, effective communication means reaching out to your present users. But now, it also includes reaching your future prospects through them.
Needless to say, most successful businesses today practice 360–degree communication.
The Financial Times (FT) wanted to drive a younger audience to engage with its publication. In partnership with Essence it decided that a multichannel approach was the answer. The result: visits doubled on the mobile site month on month while the campaign was running.
$4. Constant updates about purchases
“Hey Jim! Your query is being worked upon and we will update you within 24 hours.” Sounds reassuring, doesn’t it?
Constant communication is the key. Whether a customer buys a product or generally wants to know more about it. Whether it be through emails or text messages, keeping in touch a good practice. It becomes all the more important when a customer raises a query or a grievance.
Right at the beginning, you should acknowledge the receipt of the query. Give them a unique tracking id. The customer should be able to track the progress. At every stage of the query redressal process, the customer should be in a loop. Keep them informed to reassure his or her query is being handled.
Nowadays, customers post their grievances on social media or other public platforms. These must be handled fast too. A prompt response lets the customer know that you are listening (while also leaving a positive impact - More on it later!).
#5. Maintaining the human factor
A personalized response is always better than a canned, automated reply. It leaves a greater impact. It is important when the user leaves a great review. It becomes more crucial in case they post a grievance. This is a good practice especially on social media platforms and discussion platforms. This brings out the human side of the brand. This connects better and helps boost the brand image.
Witty replies and humorous undertones in conversations help shed the corporate personality. They portray the brand as accessible and one which emotes like regular beings. It is a great brand building exercise and is a step towards maintaining brand loyalty.
Look at brands like Charmin (79.6K Twitter followers), and Old Spice (218K twitter followers). Charmin is a toilet paper company. Old Spice is a men's grooming company. These brands use humor and sassiness to their strengths and it works. Their conversations are hilarious and that helped them build a differentiated brand image.
#6. Let your customers speak for the quality of your services
Sure, your products might be great. But you need one more thing to attract new customers. Positive, affirming reviews about your products. Search Engine Land reported that 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This was in 2014. The number has gone up to 92% now.
Think about it for a minute. 92% of the people who are considering buying your product will look at what other people have said about it.
As crucial it is to have satisfied customers – it is the same for showing this to other users. Set up a working system for gathering feedback and reviews from your users. The ones which are great – show them off. On social media, on your website, blog – everywhere you can show your users how great your services are.
Even while trying your best, some of your customers might have a bad experience. It happens. And the customer might leave a bad review on a visible platform like your social media. This situation, contrary to being disastrous, can be used as an opportunity.
Apologise and accept your mistake – and then work towards solving it. You’re showing how prompt you are in case something goes wrong. This will build a more positive company image for other customers.
In a nutshell, what improves your standards of customer service as an online business? Communication - always one step further. That is the simplest answer. Imagine all the scenarios that the user might face during his journey from a prospect to a customer. Further, imagine scenarios when they stay as one. Provide them with the right information, at the right time, at the right place - online.
Here’s a handy infographic about improving your customer service online by un[travel] which can help you step up your customer service game.