Sometimes we are so focused on winning new customers that we forget what we already have. By improving online customer service, you are taking an important step to ensuring your customers stick around for the long-term & continue to contribute to the bottom line. This article explains our favourite online customer service best practices and our approach to managing customer expectations.
Covering The 3 Pillars Of Support
Providing winning customer support for your website falls into three categories and it’s vital that you address all three. Simply offering amazing after-sales support won’t please everyone, and even if a person has had a fantastic support experience in the past – their opinion will quickly change if they can’t find what they are looking for. The 3 pillars are:
Pre-Emptive Support – what helpful information can you provide to your web users before they even know they need it? Making critical information immediately available is one of the easiest methods to delight your customers – as it saves them having to think about requirements, wait on busy support channels and delay using their products or services.
Accommodating Support Channels – choosing the right customer support channels is key. Customers should have a range of different contact methods and be able to choose a channel that suits their personal preferences and makes it easy to get the right level of support on their first interaction with the business.
Clear & Helpful Communication – if you want to delight your customers with web support then how you choose to communicate with them really moves the needle. Every single detail needs to be considered from your tone of voice, speed of execution and any support follow-up messages.
Understanding Pre-Emptive Support
One of the best ways of improving your online customer service is to build a cathedral of helpful content, which specifically answers customer questions & problems. Content can be packaged up in a variety of ways, but you’ll want to make it as easily accessible as possible throughout your site. Areas to focus on could be:
- An FAQs Section – which contains detailed answers to the most important questions customers have with your products or service.
- Company Knowledge Base – if you offer a complex product then creating a knowledge base of articles (broken down by topic) can save lots of support hours on the phone.
- How To Videos – a selection of videos that teach users how to complete certain actions or explain how parts of a service work are great. They can also be embedded in support emails or PDF guides.
- Webinars – these are great because they cover specific topics whilst giving customers the chance to ask questions during or at the end of the session. If you’re regularly producing webinars, you can also repurpose them into offline versions which then add to your catalog of pre-emptive support content.
After investing in self-serving customer support content, what next:
Link to that content from places like E-Receipts, Email Footers & Social Media
Make the content easily findable from your website architecture, maybe by having an entire site section dedicated to support
Encourage customers to always leave feedback & ask questions, making it easier to create future pre-emptive content
Choosing The Right Customer Support Channels
Different customers will have different time restraints and their problems will also vary in terms of complexity. If you are following online customer service best practice then you should be giving customers a variety of different support channels they can use to communicate with. By giving people a choice, it improves the chance their request will come through a support channel suited to their requirements and creates a greater sense of control. Popular support channels include:
- Web Chat – which enables people to have a direct conversation without leaving their landing page. This is perfect for those who are time-poor & need an immediate answer.
- Ticketing Systems – allow people to leave a support request with a specific team. They are typically updated as their request moves through different parts of the support chain.
- Telephone Support – if people would prefer to speak to someone, then telephone support is the way to go. You can even outsource this to external companies who can then offer round the clock 24/7 support.
- Social Media – creating a dedicated support channel on Twitter is extremely popular, this helps people ask questions on the platforms they already spend time on.
- Web Forms & Email Support – email is one of the preferred support channels for most consumers, they can send a message without having to wait & also get a paper trail of any instructions or interactions.
After choosing the right customer support channels for your business, what next:
Make it clear what times of day people can expect a response from each channel
Focus on increasing the knowledge of the people operating each channel
Analyse the performance of each channel, you should learn how satisfied customers are when asking for support, what their wait times are on average & why certain requests are unfulfilled
Communicate The Right Way
If you are going to improve your online customer service then how you communicate is everything. When someone reviews the customer support for your website they are not just looking at whether they can reach you easily, they are also looking for an answer to a specific problem. This means whenever we are dealing with online customer service problems we need to give the customer everything they are asking for, as efficiently as possible. Ways to achieve this include:
- Referencing Existing Content – when replying to a user’s email then you should answer their query within your reply. However, if there is any related content already on the website (pre-emptive content), then why not link to it.
- Be Concise – when dealing with customers we have to respect their time. No matter the support channel, if you know the answer to their problem you should look to get that across immediately – in a way that is easy to understand.
- Be Careful What Words You Use – when writing communications give some consideration to the wording and tone of voice. For example, you should look to use positive words rather than negative ones. Additionally, any jargon could confuse the customer – so try to keep it simple where possible.
- Closing Conversations Properly – as customer service conversations draw to a close be sure to end them on a positive note – by thanking that person for their query. This is also an opportunity for a final check to make sure that person has everything they need, and that their problem has been resolved.
You should start by defining some simple rules on how you will communicate with customers online. After this you can also:
Spend time on the look & feel of your communication channels, so that they represent the brand well
Set automated reminders which trigger if a customer service request hasn’t been responded to in a set period of time. This will differ depending on the platform used
Reach back out to customers a few days later to make sure they are happy and using your services as intended. This is also a golden opportunity to cross-sell additional products to happy customers or ask for online reviews
There are now so many online customer service best practices that not all of them will be relevant for your website. The trick is to really understand what level of support your customers require and to try and incorporate the best ideas into your existing customer journeys.