With the majority of businesses taking to the internet in at least some way, customer service has changed. Gone are the days of customers having to physically visit a store to return a product, and even picking up the phone to lodge a complaint is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
The internet has altered many things in our lives, and not least how we expect the businesses we deal with to handle customer service. All online companies should be taking steps to ensure their customer service is a good fit with e-communications and helps, not hinders, the customer relationship. To do this, there are several things that online customer service must address and be aware of.
If you have a website your customers will be able to visit it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And they will also expect to be able to get in touch with you 24/7. This does not mean they want to be able to pick up the phone and speak to an adviser at 3am, but it does mean they want to be able to find contact information and start a conversation whenever it suits them. To help them do this your website should clearly show your email address and phone number, and you might also consider a contact form and live chat facility at certain times.
If a customer comes into a store on the high street or speaks to someone on the phone it is obvious that their comment is being listened to. But if they have sent an email or filled out your contact form they will want confirmation that their message has been received. Set up your system to send an automated response immediately. This should give an indication of how long it will take for a customer service adviser to respond and give your contact details in case the customer wants to chase up their enquiry.
Choose words wisely
Email is great for all sorts of reasons, but it can sometimes be a tricky medium to master. Things you type in a written message might be interpreted differently from how you intended, and this could upset your customer. Read through emails before you send them and think carefully about whether a phrase could be mis-construed. For example, “as I said on the phone” might be taken as a passive-aggressive reminder of what has already been said.
Online customer service is not only about replying to direct communications from customers, but also encompasses social media. An active presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram can encourage and boost customer relationships. Again, if you are going to use social media be sure to choose your messages carefully and make it clear to customers if you are not going to be able to respond to interactions quickly, or at all. Social media profiles can also be a great way to enhance your marketing efforts through competitions or feedback surveys.
Lyndon Ogden is an advocate for great customer service and its potential for increasing business.