It is three a.m. and you cannot sleep, so you decide to fire up your computer and get started on some early Christmas shopping. You surf the web looking for those impossible to buy for people in your life, and finally you find just the right thing. The problem is you are having trouble in the checkout. You go to look for the customer service number and see that they are closed at this ungodly hour. So you go to bed without having made that purchase and end up picking up a gift card when you are at the checkout in the grocery store.
As an online business owner, this scene should make you cringe, because someone just lost a potentially big sale for no other reason than technical problems. Could this have been avoided? Absolutely! One of the emerging trends in online shopping is having a chat based online customer service professional, to help customers with trouble shooting and even product questions. In addition, many organizations are moving a lot of their customer service functions to forums and social media sites; in essence crowd sourcing much of their most frequently encountered problems. So what exactly are the advantages to the online customer service approach?
1. Instant Access 24/7: In our “I don’t care how, I want it now!” society instant access to customer support is crucial to business. Live chat and social media customer service platforms allow customers to reach out to companies anytime day or night. Live chat is especially good for this, because it means, that there is always a person there for someone to talk to getting problems fixed while the customer is ready to buy. If a person has to wait for support, you likely have already missed the window in which they are willing to part with their money.
2. Reduce Cart Abandonment: Technical problems are often one of the leading causes of cart abandonment. What if you had a way to tell when people were having problems, and an easy way to reach out to them? You do! Many online customer service tools help you to figure out when your customers are spending long amounts of idle time on your site, usually indicating that they are having problems with the site. It then allows you to send a chat window offering to help. This is the online equivalent to a helpful clerk helping you as you wander lost looking around the store. By reaching out when a person is having difficulty, you can turn a frustrating experience into a great customer service experience.
3. Transform Negative Experiences into Positive Ones: Customers are far more likely to tell their friends about negative customer service experiences than positive ones. This can be especially damaging in the social media age where, that dissatisfied customer can broadcast their negative experience hundreds or even thousands of friends with a single status update. In such an environment, being able to transform that experience is critical. An online customer service approach is helpful in two ways. First as mentioned above, a chat service provides you with an opportunity to help someone who is having trouble, quickly and efficiently without them having to sit on hold for a phone representative. In addition, it gives you a chance to collect more information about that customer so that you can tailor offers to their needs and concerns to get them to continue shopping with you. The second way, is through social media. When a customer posts a negative review of your product or service in a social media setting you get an opportunity, to show not just that customer but all the people who are watching the conversation your willingness to go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction. Timely and thorough responses to customer service issues posted on a social media platform have the potential to turn the whole narrative surrounding your service in your favor.
4. Crowdsourcing Customer Support: Another often overlooked benefit to having online customer support venues is that many times, customers help each other out. If you have a Q&A forum, Facebook, or any other medium where people can post questions and responses, you will find that many of your followers are eager to answer each other’s questions. Many times these answers are creative and they give you an insight into, not just the shortcomings of your product but also ways that you can improve it. Plus, if users are helping each other your staff is free to handle some of the more complex issues that come up.
5. Get to Know Your Customers: One of the disadvantages of doing business online is that you lose that personal element that lets you get to know who your customers are and how you can best serve them. Online customer service approaches give you an opportunity to reclaim that advantage. Representatives who chat with customers get a level of personal interaction, that otherwise would be lost. It gives them an opportunity to collect information that you can’t always get through analytics tools and helps you to individualize your service for that person. Likewise interacting with your customers through social media gives you a glimpse into who your customers are, their likes and dislikes, and gives you the opportunity to target your products and advertising better than solely through web analytics.
As you can see there are many advantages to taking an online approach to customer service. The question is how do I do that? There are many different types of services at your disposal for providing the online chat option. In addition, social media is easy to obtain. However, it is highly recommended that you consult with an expert to develop a plan that integrates your customer service option. Additionally by using a social media platform you will need to develop a content strategy that helps you communicate effectively with your prospective and current customers. A professional consultant should be able to help you with this as part of an overall strategy for ensuring effective online customer support.