Implementing best-in-class online customer support and building a well-trained team are critical to customer retention. As the saying goes, ‘A happy customer is a repeat customer’.
But, how can you actually develop the best strategy to consistently deliver that top-notch customer service experience? Here are seven tactics that will help.
1. Get to know your customers
To provide top-notch customer service, you must understand who your customers are and connect with them on an emotional level.
For example, if you’re selling entry-level computer software, your customers likely don’t know a lot about technology and will need patient support to see them through. These people will likely require step-by-step instructions to teach them how to use your software effectively. So, you should ensure these are in place for your support team.
Being more empathetic by putting yourself in your customer’s shoes is the first step to anticipating their needs successfully. Listen to the thoughts, feelings, and opinions they express on social media, online review sites, forums related to your niche. Ask for customer feedback or reviews and keep track of their pain-points in your CRM using a ticketing system. This comes in handy when the same customer interacts with different associates; each new associate will always have a “paper trail” of previous communications and respond in an appropriate manner.
2. Hire for soft skills first
Prioritize hiring new employees based on their communication skills first, and their industry and technical knowledge second. After all, something such as how to use help desk software can be taught, but people with excellent communication skills are hard to come by.
For example, an online customer may be more likely to view a representative as rude if they answer, in short, clipped sentences. Like face-to-face customer interactions, they expect friendly an associate to be friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. Therefore it’s important your employees use phrases such as “Please” and “Thank You” or “I apologize for that” when issues arise when communicating online. Unlike traditional methods of communication, support staff won’t be able to display friendly support by their voice tone or inflections.
In the next tactic three, I’ll explain how to train your employees to put these friendly online communication skills to use.
3. Train your team to handle common customer scenarios
You can’t just throw any customer service representative in front of a computer and expect them to handle online customer service effectively. Online platforms are very different than traditional face-to-face customer support. For example, in person, people rely on facial expressions and body language to communicate effectively. When customers are unable to see—or even hear—a representative, miscommunications often occur. For this reason, even an experienced employee will need some level of training to carry out online support.
It’s a good idea to ensure your team is fully trained before having them handle customer support. After all, if a customer calls in multiple times about the same issue, you wouldn’t want them to get different responses from different employees.
Use interactive simulations that takes them through scenarios they may encounter when interacting with a customer online. These simulations can be personalized based on your employee’s answers, so as your staff goes through these simulations, also provide them with a dialogue sheet that highlights questions they should ask the customer to lead them to a solution.
Online simulation training can not only improve employee knowledge retention that they can be applied during real-life customer interactions, but prevent miscommunication with the customers.
4. Make it easy to contact you
Your website should make it easy for customers to find your contact information.
Be sure you have a user-friendly navigation bar at the top of your website with an easy-to-find “Contact Us” tab that sends users to a contact us page.
The contact us page should contain a form that will allow customers to email you. The goal of this form is to gather the most vital information needed for you to reach back out to your customers. Now, don’t go overboard. Keep the form How can we help?” field.
You should also include your contact information at the bottom of your website on each page as customers are likely to look there for it as well.
Another way to make contact easy is through an online customer support line or live chat system. Access to this line should be visible across every webpage, with clearly labeled buttons for customers to initiate a conversation if they have questions while they navigate your website.
The availability of your customer support depends on several factors such as your business model, the locality of your business and customers, and the size of your business to name a few. If you’re a small local business, offering customer support 24/7 may not be ideal especially if can’t to do so, unlike an international business that has offices across the globe.
No matter the size of your business, you want to make your customer support availability is clear as possible to your customers. Let your customers know if you’re available Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM or every day and hour of the week.
Learn more: The Psychology of a Good Live Chat Conversation
5. Create a wealth of content on the web
It’s not enough to create a website that gives customers a way to buy your product. Providing them with plenty of information about what you have to offer is also important. Today’s customers expect that the products and information they’re looking for will be where they expect to find them.
Using different media to create content for your website will showcase your authority in your industry and give your customers the information they want without making them contact you.
These different types of content should include:
- Detailed product and service descriptions
- Informative blog posts
- A resource library (e.g., how-to videos and detailed documents, such as PDFs and infographics)
In his video, “Better Online Customer Service,” Scott Gerber, founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, discusses the usefulness of web community-powered forums via social media networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. These networks are tools that allow customers to connect with each other and figure out problems collectively or find answers based on the experiences of others without having to contact support.
6. Respond immediately to customer pain points
Monitoring your brand online helps you provide better customer support. People often use social media outlets to complain about companies, so you need to monitor Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any other accounts you use where customers can leave feedback about your products or services.
Respond immediately when a complaint is made on your social media page. This will allow customers to see that you care not only about their business but also about their perception of your company.
A recent study by The Social Habit shows that 32% of customers expect a response within 30 minutes when they use social media to contact a brand. And 42% expect a 60-minute response time. Obviously, speed matters, so be prepared to have someone on your team at the ready to respond around the clock.
Take a page out of T-Mobile’s book
Here’s a personal account of a real experience I had as a T-Mobile customer, where I was left feeling as though their support team truly cared:
Last summer when I moved into my new apartment on the outskirts of town, making phone calls was like pulling teeth because my signal was weak.
Before calling to complain or finding a new service provider, I began to search for solutions. Within a few minutes of perusing T-Mobile’s online support center, I came across the signal booster enhancer. I was wary about the price, so I proceeded to contact @TMobileHelp via Twitter before purchasing the product.
I ended up getting the signal booster enhancer for free; once I told them I was so frustrated with their poor signal that I was considering switching carriers.
Not only did I get the booster for free, but they also waived the deposit. This showed that they really cared about the quality of their service and making me happy after experiencing so much trouble using their product.
7. Avoid the tech jargon; it causes confusion online
Ever try to explain something via text only for your message to get lost in translation or have to go over a solution several times before it finally sticks? Explaining in-person would have been much easier correct? At least you could show your customer what you’re referring to.
Don’t assume that customers understand all the technical aspects of your business, and keep your language simple and clear.
Using very technical language online will just confuse and alienate your customers, who may be put off if you respond to their questions with jargon that makes no sense to them or causes confusion. Give them the most essential information in the simplest terms, and leave it at that.
For example, if you sell computer parts and a customer reaches out about how they can upgrade their system, there’s no need to explain every detail of how the computer works. Just let the customer know what part they need and how it meets their request. The customer will then have everything they need to make an informed decision.
Remember, you’re speaking to a real person
As professional author and speaker Jeffrey Gitomer says, “Memorable customer service can only take place in a human-to-human situation.”
Customers want to feel like they’re talking to a real person during online interactions. So your agents must develop a rapport with them. They can do this by:
- Greeting the customer
- Asking them how they are and how you can help them
- Responding naturally to their concerns
- Ending the conversation on a friendly note
Customers want an effortless online experience when interacting with a company. In fact, 83% expect some sort of support along their shopping journey. Come across as a human who wants to resolve their concerns, and you could win yourself a customer for life.
Which customer service tactics are you currently using that have proven to be beneficial for your organization? Which isn’t working so well? Leave a comment below and let us know.