Customer service – online tips

Old customer service wisdom suggests that a satisfied customer will tell a couple of people about their good experience but a dissatisfied customer will tell ten. But that changes online. Posting an unfavourable review is easy, it can be seen by thousands, and it has no expiry date (i.e. once comments are online, they’re difficult to remove). Add in Twitter and Facebook rants (or Instagram, or Tripadvisor, or…) and how they can be shared, commented on, comments shared, etc. ad nauseam and a poor customer reaction online starts to look positively dangerous.

2020 has seen an acceleration of the increasing shift to accessing products and service online, as businesses in all sectors are turning to a process of digital transformation just to survive. Writing at the end of the year and looking ahead, 2021 seems to offer much more of the same.

So, how do you ensure great customer service online?

Revisit your customer service standards

You probably already know the value of having customer service standards and clear procedures (for dealing with orders, enquiries, complaints, etc.) and have them in place. But are they specifically geared to the online world? People tend to expect fast replies and more flexibility online – are your people prepared to deliver? Ask yourself where your processes could be more efficient.

Check your online reputation

Reputation is everything and it’s entirely possible for your online rep to be very different to that of the ‘real’ world. In fact, you may find that over time your customers divide into two clear camps – those that deal with you online and those offline – and your reputations with those two camps can be very different. Add to this the online ‘review culture’ in which any and every service can and will be rated and it becomes essential to keep track of what people are saying about you.

Customer contact

Often, product or service quality (while important) is not the deciding factor. The key is in the communications – how do you customers feel after being in contact with you? Check each point of direct contact in the customer journey when support is being offered: Is it necessary? Is it working?

  • Automate for efficiency – When someone joins your mailing list, places an order, makes an enquiry, initiates any kind of contact, your response is a branding opportunity. It’s common practice to set up automatic email (or other) responses: order confirmations, shipping tracking notices, etc. What else can you do with that automatic message? Request feedback? Offer a voucher or discount for future use? Direct them to other (complementary) products or services?
  • Popup chat windows – That little window that appears on a website, asking if you have a question, is the online equivalent of the shop assistant asking if you need any help. It might not be needed or it might be essential, either way, it’s creating the chance for some interaction. You have the option of using and AI chatbot to (rapidly) handle common queries but ultimately, most people appreciate the option of conversing with a human being, so worth considering as an option.
  • FAQs – Before you get to the ‘human being stage’, providing stock answers to frequently asked questions is another way to communicate with customers. Remember, you don’t have to include everything; the idea is to deal quickly and easily with the quick and easy customer queries. These may change over time so keep your FAQs page updated. And always provide a clear route to escalate any queries that the page doesn’t answer.
  • Make contact easy – The above are all ways to deal with customer issues automatically, with minimal direct human input. That approach won’t deal with every query. What’s more, the queries it doesn’t address are probably more complicated/sensitive and all the more in need of a rapid and accurate (and helpful) answer. Besides, for a customer, it can be extremely frustrating to have a question your site doesn’t answer – at this point, if it’s not clear how they can contact you direct (a phone number, a customer service email address…) they’re more likely to go googling for an answer… and then you’re at the mercy of whatever opinions have been posted online about your product or service.

The overall goal of your online customer service strategy is to build a community of supportive customers and users – “supportive” in that they support both you and each other. Such a community can become a strong ally, or a very critical ‘friend’. What is your online customer service encouraging them to be?


For more on successful customer service, give us a call on 01582 463464; we’re here to help.

Categories: Customer service

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