How to Deliver Excellent Online Customer Service

Good customer service has always been crucial to the success of any small business. What’s changed with new technology, however, is a growing emphasis on response times and personalized interaction. These days, customers aren’t always content to sift through a menu of telephone options in order to get their problems fixed. Increasingly, they want online access to answers, information, and solutions. Take better care of your customers by adopting these online strategies. And don’t worry – while it might seem costly and complicated, you don’t need to be a technical expert or have a big budget to apply these ideas to your small business.

Keep customers in the loop with automated emails

Sending a simple, pre-formatted message to acknowledge a completed sale or a product shipment doesn’t take much, but it does show that you care about keeping your customers informed. There’s also value in sending a follow-up message asking people how they like their purchase, and what they thought of the process. You could even combine it with a coupon or an offer on a related product.

Don’t hide your contact details

Make sure your website and any online communications with your customers prominently feature the appropriate contact information for queries and complaints. If someone is upset with some aspect of your service, the last thing they want is a struggle finding out how to tell you about it.

Offer an archive of answers and information

Get ahead of the curve when it comes to customer service issues by building a detailed, comprehensive page of Frequently Asked Questions with clear, easily navigable answers. Don’t just build it and forget about it, however. Tweak the questions and answers to reflect current complaints and queries, making customer service easier on everyone. 

Another way to keep your clients happy is by offering online resources that can help them get the most out of your products. Post and share helpful articles, how-to videos, or anything else relevant your products or services. Tying this content into typical customer interactions adds value to the experience.

Don’t wait to respond

In an online environment, it’s important to reply to incoming complaints and questions with as much immediacy as possible. Even if you aren’t able to solve someone’s problem straight away, simply acknowledging that you’re aware of the issue and working to fix it will go a long way to making the customer feel better. Don’t rely on canned messages for this – instead, try to send a short, personalized note. That way, the customer will know a real, live human is working to help them, rather than wondering whether their request is stuck somewhere in an electronic pile of complaints. At a small business, that message might come directly from a person responsible for the product, not a customer service rep, which will make the recipient feel more valued.

Offer solutions through social media

Social media is a great tool for real-time interaction with customers, no matter whether they’re engaged or enraged. If a customer posts a question or complaint to your company’s Twitter or Facebook page, respond directly and do what you can to solve their problem, preferably by putting them in touch with someone who can help. Even within the confines of 140 characters, you can be polite, personal and informative, steering customers to a specific answer on an FAQ page, a phone number for the help desk, or a PDF of detailed instructions. 

Social media can also help you get the message out if your business suffers some kind of disruption. Post an apologetic tweet if the company website crashes, for example, or use Facebook to explain why a certain product is no longer available. You can even use social media to offer your customers discount coupons and other promotions to make up for a service issue they may have encountered.

Don’t get too technical

The staff at your small business might all be experts who understand your full range of products forwards and backwards. Remember, however, that not every customer can do the same, so tone down the technical jargon on your website and in any communications. Be simple, clear and direct when addressing people’s problems and responding to their concerns; you can’t serve a customer who doesn’t understand you.

Chat up your customers

If you have the resources, adding a chat feature to your website offers immediate assistance to browsing customers before they even need to ask for it. Best of all, it also lets you learn about their habits, issues and interests. Your clients will appreciate the offer of prompt, personalized care while surfing your site. Meanwhile, their queries and concerns can help inform future product offerings or potential changes that improve service for all of your customers.

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