Online customer service

So your website is up and running, and you have the basics covered. Now it’s time to think about turning good to great. Improving your online customer service can deliver big results. Increased customer loyalty, reduced business costs, and more sales are just a few of the benefits.

In this module, you’ll learn about the basic customer service features every online business needs. You’ll also discover new ways to take your customer service to the next level, and opportunities to help your customers help each other.

Part 1: Essential online customer service features

Most customers now expect the same level of service online as they receive from bricks and mortar businesses. You might want to consider the following.

  1. Your basic website structure

Customers want to quickly find and understand the information they need. Ask yourself:

  • Is your website easy to navigate?

To find out, ask customers for feedback, or conduct a usability study.

  • Is your website easy to understand?

Simple language is always best. If your business is international, think about translating content into other languages.

  1. Contact information

Include your business’ email address, telephone number or mailing address on every page.

  1. Frequently Asked Questions

A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page that answers simple queries (such as your opening hours) can save time for both you and your customers. However, while you’ll spend less time on the phone, it’s important to consider whether conversations with your customers actually lead to further business. Assess what works for you.

If you do include FAQs, consider including a search function so customers can quickly locate the information they need.

  1. Customer queries and feedback forms

Make it easy for customers to find out more, and encourage their loyalty by inviting feedback. Just make sure you respond promptly so your customers know they’ve been heard.

Part 2: Live chat

Once you’ve got the customer service basics covered, you’re ready to get more sophisticated. There are a few different low-cost features you could add to your website. But for a truly personal online customer service, live chat could be the answer.

By integrating instant messaging into your website, live chat lets you talk to your customers as they’re browsing your online information.

Benefits include:

Reduced customer service costs

While telephone consultants support only one customer at a time, live chat consultants can often manage multiple customer conversations at once.

Increased sales

Live chat is a chance to improve on-the-spot customer service, to troubleshoot, and to help match customers to services that meet their needs.

 Live chat is much more than just a way to control costs. Done right, it can improve customer service and increase sales.

Live chat technology 

Many software vendors, such as Live Person, Bold Chat, and HelponClick provide chat technology to integrate into your website. Some of these can be surprisingly inexpensive. They also give you options on how you can respond to customers.

For example, you could have:

  • Live chat with a customer service rep via instant messenger.
  • Click-to-call technology that enables a customer to speak to the same consultant every time.
  • Automatically generated responses to common questions.

All these options allow a customer service rep to engage with multiple people at a time.

Making live chat work for you 

Here are a few things you can do to get the most out of live chat.

Don’t ask your phone consultants to manage your live chat

Unless your company is truly tiny, use different customer service reps to respond to chat and phone inquiries. That way, each staff member can be focused on the task at hand.

Don’t overload reps with too many chats

If the questions or product are complicated, you may want a one-to-one ratio. Reps answering more general questions can often manage up to a half dozen enquiries at once.

Don’t have a chat button on the site unless there’s someone standing by

One of the quickest ways to alienate customers is to have them click ‘Chat now’ only to find there’s no response. Fortunately, chat software can either remove the chat option, or replace it with ‘Leave us a message,’ when chat reps are unavailable.

Use scripts – wisely

While scripted responses can be efficient, pre-prepared responses that don’t match the tone or content of the enquiry can frustrate customers. Pay careful attention to when and how scripts are used.

Go beyond chat

Customer service chat can give reps the chance to promote specific webpages (such as a service matching the customer’s need) by including links in their chat messages. With the customer’s permission, reps can also take over the customer’s browser to assist their learning or troubleshoot. Both can be effective ways to give customers targeted information about your products.

Part 3: Creating an online customer forum

Creating opportunities for your customers to support each other can be one of the most powerful ways to deliver customer service.

Customer benefits:

  • Customers feel they are part of a community.
  • Peer support often results in quick answers to common customer queries.
  • The answers customers give each other are often better than answers from staff.
  • While negative comments may be posted from time to time, a forum can create a better sense of trust between you and your customers.

Additional business benefits:

  • You don’t need as many resources to answer common questions.
  • By monitoring posts, you can quickly identify and address problems.

Online forum technology

Many companies offer the technology you’ll need to create an online customer forum on your site. Some options include:

  • Zimbra
  • Reality Digital
  • Website Toolbox

Most online forum technology can be tailored with your own logo and branding.

Further resources

If you’re ready to investigate online customer forums, begin by researching other organisations’ forums. All information was current at the time of writing. When you go to any of the links below, you will be leaving the DBK site.

www.flyingsolo.com.au/forums – An active online forum for small businesses for you to see how it works.

Cotap.com – A quick and safe mobile messaging service for businesses, their suppliers and customers.

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