Are you looking for simple and effective ways to create a better online service experience for your customers? Play along with me here.
Imagine you’re the maître d' of a renowned haute-cuisine restaurant. You’ve worked hard to create the most unique menu in town, a unique environment and immaculate interior design. The restaurant was built on your obsession with creating an unforgettable experience for your customers from the moment they step through your doors, and the 5 stars you regularly receive prove it.
Now imagine walking through those same doors and witnessing your head waiter rudely dismiss one of your loyal customers: a food critic, no less. In your mind’s eye you see it all: the bad press, terrible reviews, the stress and embarrassment you’re going to get … on top of losing a loyal customer.
Of course it is. And not it’s not just because losing face is unpleasant. Poor customer service is bad business, and that's not a matter of opinion. It's research-based fact.
Let’s look at some numbers. According to a recent Bain & Co. study, only 1 in 9 companies ever reach sustainable, profitable growth. So what separates the winners from the losers? Two words: Customer Service. Companies that survive and thrive invest twice as many resources into customer advocacy.
Here are a few more numbers to chew on:
- Acquiring a new customer is 6 to 7 times more expensive than retaining an old one
- 78% of all consumers quit transactions because of bad service
- 7 out of 10 North Americans are ready to spend more because of great service
It’s as simple as this: customer service pays. With the right strategy, it can even be profitable.
Impossible, you say? It’s not. Enter the scalable, efficient, automated customer service strategy.
Here are 4 of the best methods to keep costs low and your customers - happy:
- Community Support Forums
- Social Media
- Customer Support Live chats
We’ll describe each in turn.
Community Support Forums
Most organizations have FAQ sections on their website. You probably do, too. Unfortunately, most of these FAQ pages fail to give consumers the answers they need. As a result, slightly discomfited customers quickly become disgruntled consumers, oftentimes letting their friends and family - and the world - know.
This is just one of the reasons why successful businesses are leaving the old FAQ page behind and implementing self-serve support forums to deliver varied customer support content.
Customer-driven online forums and other forms of customer support communities are nothing new. It’s a successful strategy that’s been around for years, and there’s a good reason why: because a properly executed, self-serve support option not only emboldens a company’s brand, but it also leads to better revenues and customer retention.
Customer-driven support communities are different. By interacting with their peers, customers can skip past the basic fixes that aren’t helping them, or worse, that they’ve already attempted. They can get straight to the root of the problem, receiving the same level of help that a corporate-based IT or customer support wing could achieve.
Typically, these forums allow users to both receive and offer help. Many consumers enjoy helping out by responding to questions, especially if they get perks and rewards in exchange. This means you can populate your support forum with user-generated content, creating an extensive knowledge base thanks to your users.
Here’s how Hootsuite does it:
And the cool thing is, it’s not at all hard to do. You don’t need to make your own forum from scratch; some platforms (like Vanilla) even offer forums that are indexable by Google, meaning it gets you organic search traffic. Say, “Hello, SEO”!
Customer operations software can be cumbersome to install, use and scale. Training demands time and energy from help-desk employees. Why not use social media to address some or all of your customers’ queries instead?
Interacting with your customers on social media is not only efficient, it shows them you care - particularly when you respond quickly. Isn’t the “100% response rate; typically replies instantly” badge on Uber’s facebook page impressive?
Possibly one of the easiest methods of boosting your customer service strategy, social media is something you can instantly incorporate into your operations.
In the 90s and early 00s, chatbots were a major source of annoyance. Obviously automated, they could be immediately identified thanks to their choppy, unnatural English, poor timing, and lack of a pulse. As a result, they were slowly but surely phased out in favour of outsourced chat operators who at least gave the impression of listening.
Things have really changed since! In July 2014, a chatbot named “Xiaoice” passed the Turing test (an intelligence test for a computer, requiring that a human being should be unable to distinguish the machine from another human being) for the first time in history.
Today, most chatbots can even be programmed with multi-step scripts that help them:
- suggest appropriate customer service content,
- respond with perfect timing, and
- divert the conversation to a chat operator when necessary.
That being said, while chatbots can definitely help process initial queries and optimize your service staff’s time, depending on the complexity of your product, you’ll still want a human to handle some or all of your customer support conversations. In other words, it’s best to combine chatbots with…
Customer Support Live Chats
There’s no doubt that chatbots are cool and getting cooler by the day, but high-quality customer service still needs a human touch. Live chats are an excellent solution to help automate, scale and optimize customer service via real-time online conversations. They do this by:
- giving users more ways to reach you,
- minimizing long, drawn-out email exchanges, and
- directing users to the self-serve forum.
Most major brands are already using live chats:
And with terrific tools like LiveChat and BoldChat, you can do the same without paying an upfront fee. How painless is that?
In conclusion, excellent customer service doesn’t just save face; in fact, it makes or breaks your business. The key is to offer excellent service without spending a fortune on it - especially in the digital era, when customers expect on-demand, around-the-clock support. Thankfully, there are many ways to accomplish this without breaking the bank.