In today’s competitive business environment, no business that wants to succeed can afford to neglect customer service.
The speed and efficiency with which a company responds to enquiries and complaints can have a big effect on its reputation and long-term growth. With numerous competitors just a mouse click away, businesses there’s no room for complacency and sloppiness when it comes to communication.
Different people like to communicate in different ways, so the best organisations should always strive to engage with their prospects in multiple ways. By opening up different channels of communication and insuring full integration of each, businesses can better serve their customers and gain a competitive advantage.
Let’s take a look at three ways online businesses can communicate with and serve their customers:
Online chat services such as Zopim are a great way to reach out to your prospects and customers when they are browsing your site and you have their attention.
Not only is this instant communication incredibly powerful, it also creates a great first impression of your business. It shows you are on the ball and available to answer any questions, without being intrusive or annoying.
Whilst some people will prefer to browse your site for the answers they are looking for, many just want to have their questions answered in the shortest time possible. For them, the opportunity to chat with a real person in real time is an ideal solution.
For sales departments targeting prospects, chat is a great way to engage with people whilst they are in researching the available options or looking to make a purchase. Chat gives you the opportunity to form a personal connection with your prospects and answer any queries and objections on the spot. After spending time and money to get visitors to your site, you don’t want to lose them. By not engaging with them you run the risk of them becoming confused or distracted, and clicking away to a competitor’s site, never to return.
Another advantage of discovering customer queries and concerns by using chat is that this information can then be shared with the marketing department so website copy can be updated. Confusing sections of text can be re-written and common queries can be added to the FAQ page.
Not everybody prefers the immediacy of chat, or maybe they’re just too busy start a conversation at that time. Email is a powerful way to communicate with people, with many people using their inbox as the central point to manage their work. Email is also useful to share more detailed information and when an instant answer is not required.
While smaller businesses may be able to deal with emails as they come in, larger organisations should implement a ticket base system such as zendesk to ensure that no communication is lost or neglected.
Over time, your business will find the same queries coming up over and over again. These should be noted so you can create a series of prewritten standard responses that can be sent out promptly when requested.
However, care must be taken to ensure these standard responses actually answer the question that has been asked. Visitors can find it very frustrating to ask one question and receive a canned response that fails to answer it. For this reason, your customer support staff should be trained to carefully read all queries before responding. You should also give them the freedom to personalise any standard responses as the situation requires. This personal touch can pay dividends, making your business seem more human and approachable.
In today’s web-connected world it can be easy to overlook the humble phone. However, there are times when it’s just best to pick up the phone and speak to someone.
Having the right phone system and supporting infrastructure in place really gives your business the opportunity to stand out. A cloud hosted phone system is usually the best option, offering all the features and flexibility you need to best serve your customers.
A strong, customer service focused phone system is built around a virtual PBX switchboard. This handles incoming calls from one or more virtual phone numbers and directs them to the appropriate extension or service. Simple services include call diverts, voicemail and information lines, whereas more advanced services include group diverts (hunt groups), the time of day service to set automatic call handling rules and supervisor functions to manage customer support teams.
Calls to your general support line can be placed in a queue with call waiting (so they never get an engaged tone), or simple call menus (Press 1 for sales, 2 for billing, etc.) can help to quickly connect the caller to the person they need to speak to. Just a word of caution here, even though the technology allows the creation of complicated call menu trees, callers generally dislike being presented with option after option. Care should be taken to simplify the process and direct people to the right department at the earliest opportunity.
Larger organisations with multiple offices spread across the globe can also benefit from choosing a hosted phone service. For example, if the company is providing 24 hour customer support spread across multiple call centres around the world (a ‘follow-the-sun’ set up), a virtual phone number set up in each country can divert calls to whichever customer service centre is on duty at the time of the call.
Customer support is often an afterthought for most businesses, whereas it can be a powerful tool to help drive the growth of your business. Creating a customer support plan and putting the right systems in place is time well spent.
No matter how you choose to communicate with your customers, the most important thing is to base your support around the needs of your customer. It usually pays to trial different options over an extended period and then simplify to get to the best customer support system for you.