When it comes to conducting business online, the core principals remain the same, while many of the specifics (and the tools used) can evolve rapidly.
The same goes for handling customer service online: At the end of the day, it’s all about taking care of your customers — but how you do that hinges on your ability to adapt to the many options that online support offers and your customer's expectations.
From choosing the correct support channels, to using online resources to get out of the way, to understanding how to properly conduct online support is paramount to creating a meaningful customer experience.
Here are a few tips to help you improve the way you interact with customers online:
1. Do some discovery: find out what your customer really needs
One of the most important things when it comes to online customer service is to determine your customer's pain points and what they will likely need from your support team.
This information can be attained by doing your research, noting patterns in support tickets or recurring issues, walking through your own unique customer journey, or evaluating market trends in your industry.
Also, whether its in sales, account management, or customer support, you have to remember to meet your customers where they are. If they’re already on your website, make sure they can find any answers they may need right from the page they’re on. That way, customers can find contextual help without leaving your site and without taking up time with customer support.
At the end of the day, considering the needs of your customers takes priority over anything else. So make sure you have the right information, tools, and people to offer them a great experience.
2. Sometimes, you just need to get out of your customers’ way
Self-Service can be an enormous benefit to your customers and your employees, yet you'd be surprised to see just how many organizations don't invest the time or resources to make quality self-service tools for them.
And let’s be clear up front: customers love self-service.
Customer self-service empowers customers to find answers, how-to tutorials, and other support content on their own without the need for a service representative. Customer self-service usually combines knowledge bases with automated handling of basic tasks— think FAQ forms or password resets. Knowledge bases allow customers to ask and find answers to product-related questions, access step-by-step directions for using and troubleshooting products, and otherwise learn more about your company and offerings.
Customers want, expect, and prefer self-service options. Beyond the obvious benefits of giving the customer what they want, self-service tools let you provide 24/7 support at a fraction of the cost of staffing a call center around the clock. It's a win-win for both sides.
Self-service is no longer a “nice to have”. It’s a necessity to provide a positive customer experience. Help them help themselves.
3. Deliver real time customer support
Real time support is a critical aspect of improving online customer service. is a popular channel that empowers your agents to deliver instant sales and support assistance to your customers.
A staggering 46% of customers prefer live chat compared to just 29% for email, and 16% for social media.
Implementing live support service also helps to deliver effective support solutions and boost customer satisfaction:
- Faster resolution: With live chat you can deliver instant resolutions to customers, thus closing issues faster and reducing wait time significantly.
- Reduce support tickets: Offering immediate assistance to customers reduces the number of support requests and helps to improve team productivity.
- Proactive conversations: Start as proactive chat with customers when you see them stuck at a specific page. It will help them to clear their doubts and make quick decisions.
4. Respect your customers’ time
Do you know how long your customers wait for an initial reply?
Or how long the average time to resolution is?
What about how many times a customer has to go back and forth with your team before they get their questions answered to their satisfaction?
The longer you make customers wait to hear from you, the more time you give them to start exploring your competitors’ offerings. We don’t have to tell you that what gets measured gets managed — unless you’re already keeping an eagle eye on your customer service metrics, chances are there are some opportunities for optimization.
Make sure you're tracking your online support tickets and staying on top of your metrics and goals, as well as keeping up to date with the right tools.
Efficient service = Happy customers.
5. Even though it's online service, remember to keep it human
When you’re working with customers online, via email or chat, the temptation can be toward a just-the-facts style — many teams even use concrete templates and scripts. But a pleasant and normal-human-sounding tone can be a bit challenging to convey via text in this context.
Conveying empathy via your virtual tone is critical in online customer service. One crucial skill that goes a long way with customers is mirroring — matching their tone lets them know you’re on their side.
When a customer is formal, keep your tone strictly professional. If they’re more casual, relax your tone too — it’s okay to crack a joke or include a funny GIF in your reply if the customer seems to have a sense of humor.
Mirroring builds rapport and puts your customer at ease, reducing the amount of interpretation needed to understand what you’re trying to communicate.
With this particular principal there are also a slew of tools that can help you add a more personal touch. Customer Support teams all over use a screen recording tool like CloudApp to record video explanations of themselves walking through a product or solution. That extra step can go a long way in making your customer feel valued.
6. Keep your product knowledge fresh
Just because online customer support gives you more leeway and time to look things up than, say, in person or phone support does, doesn’t mean support teams should rest on their laurels and rely solely on what the documentation says to help customers.
Forward-facing employees should know the ins and outs of how your product or service works, like any power user in the real world would. Having a solid product foundation not only allows you to help more customers faster, it helps you understand their experience so you can become their advocate.
Of course, you can’t know the answer to every question. Even the most seasoned support pros need to collaborate with engineers and designers on some of the more complex conversations. At the end of the day, customer support is a team sport.
7. Listen to customer feedback
Customer feedback is one of the best ways to gather business-specific data that lets you understand how your customers really feel about the product or service you deliver. Listening to customers can be a great way for you to gather insightful data and use it to improve online customer service.
When you ask for customer feedback and listen carefully, you are fundamentally providing a window to manage customer experience, reduce customer churn, and even improve your products and services. It is the best way to gain valuable brand ambassadors who will spread positive word-of-mouth for you.
Customer feedback also keeps you consistently informed of whether customers are (not) happy with your brand. Happy customers are more than a satisfied customer, they retain with your business.
Here is how customer feedback improves online customer support:
- Customers always appreciate when businesses ask them if they are happy (or unhappy) with your service.
- Listening to customer feedback shows you actually value their opinion and that you are taking the responsibility to resolve it.
- They value your company vision to resolve their problems and fulfill their needs. It puts a customer in the central position of your company and this is the right way to run a business.
8. Invest in the right resources and technology
As we mentioned before, customers become more and more demanding each year. To deliver excellent customer support service you need to use various tools in your customer support workflow, think of it as a swiss army knife.
Do you still use social media channels only for marketing purposes? Today customers more and more tend to use social media when they would like to share their experience with companies, complain, or just ask questions. If such posts remain unattended, this could harm your brand and scare away potential customers.
On the other hand you don't only need tools which are used in direct interactions with customers like email, phone, social media and live chat. You also need to introduce a CRM or ticketing system which allows you to track interactions with your customers. In addition to this, it’d be necessary to train your team to use all these tools to their full potential.