How you can better service your customers online

Alex_PirouzTNToday, the gap between customers’ expectations and the service they receive can be huge. Here, Alex Pirouz explains how your reputation for the quality and quantity of service you render precedes you in your marketplace.

Today, the gap between customers’ expectations and the service they receive can be huge. Here, Alex Pirouz explains how your reputation for the quality and quantity of service you render precedes you in your marketplace.

We have all had the experience of throwing a stone in a pond and watching the waves ripple across the surface in ever expanding, concentric circles. Just as a ripple hits the shoreline, your reputation for the quality and quantity of service you render precedes you in your marketplace.

Today, the gap between customers’ expectations and the service they receive can be huge. There’s an explosion of communication channels that customers use, including voice, digital channels such as email and chat, and social channels such as Facebook and Twitter.

Online customer service, in an increasingly web-based business world, is imperative if you want to retain a loyal customer base, doing business online means communicating with your customers in a different way – without the intimacy and interaction a shop front affords, your website needs to create a connection with the customer.

Toby Schulz, co-founder of MyNappies.com.au, has built his entire online business around providing exceptional customer service. He believes the key to truly providing great service, regardless of what industry you operate in, is strong customer relationships.

“You have to start building a relationship with every customer from their very first interaction, whether that be them signing up, placing an order or simply making an enquiry,” he explains. “By personalising this first interaction you achieve many things, the most important of which is that you start to build trust. In the online world, trust is king. If your customers do not trust you and your business then no matter how good your product, is they will not buy from you.

“One way we surprise customers is by writing every first-time customer a handwritten thank you card from one of the founders. This isn't something you can measure. But we feel it is something which we would love to receive. And if our customers know we take the time to write them a thoughtful note I think they are more likely to trust us and pay attention when we send them an email.”

There has also been an explosion of touch points, like smartphones, tablets, and self-service kiosks. Customers expect efficient, consistent, personalised service experiences across these channels and touch points. There’s no denying that mastering the service experience is hard to do. Yet focusing on leveraging digital channels is one way customer service leaders can move the needle on customer experiences. Alex_PirouzLG

Here are some ways how:

  • Understand who your customers are. Customers know what good service is and demand it from each interaction they have, over any communication channel that they use. Start by pinpointing the channels that your customers want to use, deploy them according to best practices, and monitor their uptake rates, which will change over time.
  • Don’t offer digital silos. Customers don’t choose to interact with you on a single communication channel from start to finish. They interact with you over the most suitable channel for them at that point in time – which could be their mobile device, a chat session, a phone call, email, or web self-service from their tablet device. They expect to start a conversation on one channel and continue it over another without having to restart the conversation.
  • Understand what your customers are trying to do. Steer your customers to use the right channel for their questions, and maximise the value of that channel for them. For example, don’t let them use email for time-sensitive requests—guide them toward a live-assist channel like chat or the phone.
  • Get away from one-size-fits-all service. Customers expect personalised service – they expect you to know who they are, their purchased products, their service issues, and their channel preference. In addition, they would like to know whether you have read and responded to their feedback.

To be able to deliver a personalised service experience, customer service applications need to be integrated with other systems that hold customer information – customer databases, commerce platforms, product recommendation engines, web content management systems, and marketing automation apps, to name a few.

These pointers are just the tip of the iceberg in crafting winning customer service operations. There’s also the selection of the right technologies and the implementation of the right business processes.

While customer support has typically been viewed as a cost of doing business, a great customer experience strengthens the customer-brand bond and encourages repeat sales. Each satisfied customer and positive experience will ripple throughout the social web in the form of online reviews, happy tweets and excellent word-of-mouth referrals.

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