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How to Offer Superior Online Customer Service

How to Offer Superior Online Customer Service

Online customer service can make or break your business. There are now an infinite number of sources for customer opinions that have the potential to damage your business’ reputation if you’re not providing online great customer service. 

If we put it simply, you can’t afford to provide bad online customer service or ignore customer requests. Others will know about it and switch to a competitor with the snap of a finger. 

If you want to avoid this, we’ve got a solution for you: offer superior online customer service. Don’t know how? We’ll walk you through everything you need to do. Let’s get started.

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What is online customer service?

It’s pretty self-explanatory, but online customer service is the process of answering customer queries, issues, or concerns using online tools or channels. These channels can include email, phone, social media, live chat, text messaging, or messaging applications.

How can you offer customer service in an eCommerce store?

There are lots of different channels available to you, to provide a point of contact for your customers. We’ll run through a few of the most common channels and the pros and cons of each.

Phone number

Not only does adding a phone number to your online store offer customers a convenient and familiar way to contact your company, it also builds a sense of trust. You are not hiding from your customers and are willing to let them speak with a human, in an era of computers and smartphones. 

Interestingly, most customers will not take the time to call a company — it is time consuming and everybody is all too familiar with the irritation of long phone queues. This should never be your only method of contact, but it should be available, especially for certain kinds of stores attracting more traditional buyers.

Of course, a telephone line is the most difficult touchpoint to support. Phone operators can only speak to one customer at a time, the costs are high, and calling your company takes the customer to another medium, away from your website. Far too often, customers can be passed to more than one person and experience long wait times.

Email support

For those seeking direct communication and preferring anonymity, email is perfect. No direct contact is necessary, which minimises phone-anxiety. As the retailer, you can organise messages, prioritise them, and take your time crafting helpful responses.

Some customers may think, however, that email isn’t personal enough or won’t get them the response they need fast enough. Email can create a pause in the buying process, so the speed with which you respond to these types of inquiries may make the difference between a customer who browses and one who buys.

Social media

Few avenues are more convenient than social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and specialised online forums are easy to access, search, and spread the word on. Depending on your target customer, you can be almost certain that a large portion of them are on social media. 

Most companies have social media accounts, so reaching out is simple for customers. This is your chance to offer great service and have your entire customer base witness it, as long as you’re actually offering great support. Someone needs to manage your social media accounts frequently, monitoring for questions or feedback.

The downside is the same as with email — customers don’t know when, how, and if they’ll get a response. Although a customer may get the opportunity to vent about a bad experience (which is often all they’re looking for) it may not be the best venue for reaching resolutions.

Online (or ‘Live’) chat

Businesses that treat us as human, make us feel heard. They actually exert the effort required to resolve problems and make deeper connections with their customers than those that never allow interactions with a living, breathing, person.  

The main downfall of online versus brick and mortar stores is their lack of real-time sales assistance, which will often lead to frustrated customers who abandon their shopping carts and search elsewhere. Live Chat is convenient in that it provides customers with immediate answers while leaving the buying process intact. It also allows for anonymity while providing some sort of human contact for those feeling uncomfortable without it.

How to provide great customer service

Now that we’ve covered the different channels available to you, let’s run through some best practices, and how you should be conducting yourself on those channels. 

There’s a number of ways to offer an online customer service experience that will always leave your customers feeling satisfied. From making sure you’re available to your customers (wherever they may be), having the answer to any question they may have, or just having a great attitude, great online customer service shows itself in many different ways. Let’s take a look at some of the things you can do:

Make sure you’re accessible

There’s nothing more frustrating than struggling to find a way to contact an online customer service team. Make it super simple for customers to reach you through their preferred channels. If you don’t, you’ll just frustrate them even more.

Whilst it might be tempting to bury your contact form or phone number to reduce support requests, this strategy could cost your customers. Every inquiry you turn away might be a lost opportunity. 

Make sure you’re accessible, and responsive, on all channels you are present on. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, you name it. If you’re present on those platforms, your customers will expect you to be responsive on those platforms. Also, make sure you place a clear ‘Contact Us’ or ‘Help’ link where your customers can easily find it on your website. Make sure your contact page has been indexed by search engines so your customers can easily find it, too. 

The moral of the story is that you need to be accessible. Superior online customer service isn’t just about the service you offer your customers, it’s about the accessibility your customers have to your customer service.

Master your product knowledge

As a customer support agent, you will have to understand your products incredibly well. After all, you’re basically a product expert, and your customers will expect you to be, too.

Having extensive knowledge about your product is a fundamental skill in online customer service. It is ideal not only to understand the product intricately but also to believe in its capabilities. You should be capable of discussing features and use cases insightfully, demonstrating to customers how the product can benefit them. You should also, needless to say, be able to troubleshoot any issues or problems that the customer may have with your product.

Maintain a positive attitude

Having a positive attitude is so important whenever you’re providing online customer support. Your customers are likely frustrated and possibly in a hurry, so they might be prone to speaking quite bluntly and expect you to resolve their issues quickly. 

Making sure that you’re friendly, helpful, and positive in all interactions can help customers feel reassured that their issues are going to be resolved. Approach each question with enthusiasm, empathy, and a genuine willingness to help. 

Respond quickly

While addressing smaller issues swiftly is more important, superior customer service goes beyond speed alone. Customers understand that more complex problems take more time to resolve, so it’s essential to differentiate between responding quickly and fully solving their issues. Quick responses are appreciated, but it’s equally important not to rush customers off the phone or close a ticket quickly. Instead, focus on providing excellent service by ensuring issues are completely resolved, even if it takes a bit more time.

Make your service personal

Customers prefer dealing with a person rather than a faceless company – and even chatbots too, for that matter. They don’t want to feel like just another number, or get generic responses. It will bother your customers, especially, when they are passed around between different people. Your job is to ensure that you’re providing a personalised service with the customer in mind.

Make sure you know your customer’s name, and speak to them like a human being. You will only frustrate your customers further by offering automated responses and treating them like another brick in the wall. Personalisation is your easiest route to a seamless, positive experience with your customers every single time.

Offer additional information to your support team

We all get frustrated when we have to repeat things, especially when it comes to customer support. Imagine a customer having to tell your team the same problem they’ve already contacted you about. Whether it’s intentional or not, you’re adding insult to injury for your customers.

You can avoid this by providing additional context, or information, for your team about individual customers and issues they may have had. Ask your sales team to jot down notes about customer’s problems on a CRM. This way, your entire support team can access this information, if the customer contacts you again about the same problem, and they won’t have to repeat themselves.

Help your customers help themselves

You can help your customers help themselves with a knowledge base, or help centre, or whatever you want to call it. Basically, you need to offer your customers the tools to resolve issues themselves, rather than having to contact your support team to fix their issue. When customers can easily find what they need, it saves them time, and it saves your employee’s time.

Listen to what your customers commonly bring up as problems they have had. You should, firstly, think about flagging this with your product team to see if there is anything they can do to abate the issue. But, if it’s just a general problem, you should focus on creating articles, how-to videos, step-by-step instructions, and more to instruct your customers how to use your company, product, or service. Focus on the following:

  • What people search for the most (either on search engines, your website, or from your chat logs)
  • Searches with no answers
  • Problems your support team has flagged
  • Most popular help centre articles

Understand how your customers use your knowledge base and spot where they get stuck. Your content team will be able to create content that hits the nail on the head – when it comes to tackling your customer’s issues. So, you’ll have happier customers, and support staff with more time available to do other things.

Listen and understand 

We hate to break it to you, but if you’re dealing with customers often, you will have to get used to complaints and frustrated customers. After all, they wouldn’t be contacting you at all if everything was fine. 

Your customers are busy people with issues that need resolving promptly. They’ve likely spent good money to ensure that they can use your product or service, so will be unhappy when that thing isn’t working the way they want it to. 

Approach every conversation with every customer from a place of empathy. Consider yourself someone who is actively listening and understanding their problems or concerns, rather just having to deal with them. The way you approach these conversations will strongly influence how they resolve themselves. 

Be calm and composed, and take time to listen to each issue they have. Follow up by expressing your sympathies that they’re going through this difficulty, and explain how you plan to resolve their issue. Simple, clear, and honest communication will go a long way.

No matter which customer service method you choose to implement, you need to establish communication style guidelines and make sure that they are followed.

Make employee training a priority

Adequate training for staff is integral to providing the best customer experience. Once your employees know what is expected of them, an empowering company culture will encourage them to grow and develop their skills, and take pride in their work. A great customer experience both online and behind the scenes can only work in your favour. 

Remember to incorporate customer feedback and take their expectations into account when growing your business. Customer service is often a competitive advantage and can set a business apart from its competitors.

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