Digital Customer Service: the 10 Cornerstones

Customer service is about solving the problems of your customers. Now, companies have to manage customer service across multiple channels. When people have a negative experience online, they blame the company. Not responding to customers on review sites and social media is worse than having a phone line that goes unanswered, because there are thousands of people witnessing the neglect.

Whose job is customer service? The truth is, customer service is the responsibility of everyone in your company. Building a brand means delivering on a promise again and again. It means consistency and maintaining effective customer relationships.


The 10 cornerstones to success in digital customer service

1. Respond to reviews quickly

When customers take time to leave a business a review, it’s essential to respond in a timely manner. Nearly nine in ten consumers read online reviews to determine the credibility of a business, and it’s important they see that the business has an active, responsive voice. Not only will other people who visit the review site see the response, but it’s possible those people could share the review and response with their own networks. All reviews should be acknowledged by your business. The only exception to this is star-only rating reviews. These are permitted on Facebook and a few other top review sites.

2. Provide a consistent experience

Depending on the type of product or service that you offer, customers may interact with several people at the company before the final transaction. Your business needs to make sure that throughout the entire experience, that your customers are having positive interactions. The same story should resonate throughout your customer service efforts, and that story should be customer-centric.

Apple is an example of a company that provides a consistent experience throughout their customer funnel. From their website with its sleek, minimalist design to the simple and elegant phone you take home, Apple products and website offer a cohesive experience.

3. Experience your customer journey

Most businesses have put together their online presence somewhat piecemeal—create an account on one social platform, add chat integration to the website, build a blog, expand offerings, etc. While this is the most common way to build out a business, it doesn’t always equal the most seamless customer journey. Go through your buyer’s process. Search for yourself online, look at the website content, sign up for the newsletter, etc. Note any bumps and bruises you find along the way and how you can make the whole experience more cohesive.

4. Use social media as a two-way street

Perhaps the best thing about social media is that it means a sort of democracy for customers and businesses alike—everyone is on the same playing field. While social media can be tiresome, let’s be sure we don’t ruin one of the best things about it—the fact that consumers can have conversations with businesses. Share helpful content, engage with consumers and occasionally share promotional info about your products or services. Asking questions, holding competitions and sharing content relevant to your audience are all good ways to engage with consumers. Don’t just talk, listen.

5. Have a high performing website

People visiting your website are not patient so your business needs to have a webpage and assets that load quickly. Nearly 50% of consumers expect a page to load in two seconds or less, anything longer than that, consumers start dropping off. The abandonment rate for viewers waiting to start up a video is a steady curve up and to the right. When website visitors have a poor experience on a company website, they blame the company, not Google, wifi issues or whatever else may be the problem.

6. Open communication and transparency

Consumers can detect sales-y language from a mile away. It’s best to be direct about your offerings, and even your shortcomings. Nail your sales approach and provide consumers the information they’re looking for. Even if you are unable to solve every problem your customers have, they’ll appreciate your honesty and will be less likely to leave. Set your brand voice, share your truths. Being honest with consumers, even if it appears to be a negative, usually pays off.

7. Get your listings right

Having a thorough understanding of listings is essential in the digital space. Getting business listing information accurate (name, address, and phone number) across the web, though, is one of the most important things your business can do to create a better digital customer service experience. There are many important directory and listing sites. Also, having correct listings with the four major data aggregators (Factual, Acxiom, Neustar-Localeze, and Infogroup) is one of the keys to disseminating accurate listing data across the web.

8. Positive attitude

The power of a positive attitude and its influence on customers should never be underestimated. Optimism is a cornerstone of customer service. Small changes in language and wording can make a huge impact on customers:

  • Option one: I’m sorry, we won’t have that product in our software this month.
  • Option two: That functionality will be available at the beginning of next month! Our development team is hard at work on a few other features that are useful to you, as well….

Abrasive or abrupt language is very off putting in customer service, even if it is not directly rude or negative.

9. Use email effectively

Make sure when you email your customers, that you have something to say. The communication should be timely, relevant and helpful. Having an effective call to action is essential—give them a reason to read and engage with the email. An automated newsletter is fine and can be a good piece of communication, but never have a do not reply email.

The heart of digital customer service (number 10)

Your customers may say they want the best product, and that they want it at the best price. While that is true, what they want most is authenticity. Authenticity is delivering on a promise. Authenticity is consistency. Authenticity is digital customer service.

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3 Tips to Make Your Website Actually Useful

Gone are the days of a “form over function” internet. Where once the simple novelty of seeing a business online, in any fashion, was often enough. Now, today’s more savvy audiences simply want to get where they are going. So with the priorities of today’s business websites being speed and ease of use, here are 3 tips that can make sure you are providing your customers the information they require in the best way possible to help you make conversions either on your site or in person.


1. Where is the business?

Contact information is the most important information you can have on the internet. Seems simple enough, yet many well-intentioned websites make this information difficult to find. Studies show that people will tend to look at the top left corner of your website first, like they’re reading a book. This is where the most important information should be, your contact info—don’t make customers scour the page looking for a way to find your business.

There is lots of data you can include in the contact information section. The trick is finding the balance of information overload vs. unnecessary vagueness. There are three things you need to specifically include:

Hours of operation

People seeking this information are likely close to buying, so having your hours of operation listed accurately and in a fashion that’s easy to read is a huge priority. Here are two examples, one bad and one good, to showcase how your hours should be listed online

Don’t do it like this
We are open Mondays – 8:00 am-5:00 pm, Tuesdays – 8:00 am-5:00 pm, Wednesdays – 8:00 am-7:00 pm, Thursdays – 8:00 am-5:00 pm, Fridays – 8:00 am-7:00 pm, Saturdays 12:00 pm-5:00 pm and the service shop is also open until 7:00 pm.

Looks hard to read, right? It doesn’t look nice, it’s hard to look at specific days, and you don’t know if the service shop is just open on Saturdays, or if it’s always open until 7:00 pm every evening.

A better example
Sales:
Mon 8 – 5
Tues 8 – 5
Wed 8 – 7
Thurs 8 – 5
Fri 8 – 7
Sat 12 – 5
Sun Closed

Service:
Mon-Sat: 12 – 7

Looks a lot nicer, right? It’s a lot easier to read and find the information you need. The most important part is to make sure the hours are accurate. Even if it takes an extra line to better explain a confusing set of hours, customers greatly appreciate knowing when they can expect your business to be open.

Address

Unless you’re an online retailer, your address is an essential part of your contact listing. But just like hours of operation there is are a variety of ways to share your location. Here is how we recommend it. Provide enough information so that Google maps can locate the business. For people in major cities, often times just your street address is sufficient. But if your business is a little tricky to find consider linking to a map application, or have the map right on the website. If you’re going that direction, make sure to use an accredited map engine like Google Maps, instead of a hand-drawn creation. People tend to be a lot more familiar with popular map formats and might get confused/scared at the sight of your beautiful artwork.

Phone number

This is the number where customers can most easily reach you. Businesses with multiple departments equipped with individual phone lines, might want to stick those on a “Contact Us” page. There’s no sense in cluttering your home page with 30 different phone numbers. Businesses should have one phone number on the homepage display to be a catch-all for any inquiries. Don’t forget an area code for those out-of-town customers. Make it easy for on-the-go customers to hit a button and have their mobile device ring the business instantly.


2. Who is the business?

You likely have a lot to say about your business so the real challenge here is the distillation of your story. Here, think of the company from the customer’s’ perspective; what makes you unique? Why are you better than their competitors? What do you do for customers? These question will likely shed light on the most important information to share, at least at the top of the page.

Once you’ve got your top level information cased, consider designing a way for interested customers to learn even more about the business. There you can dive deeper into your history, philosophy, and share any achievements or media coverage your business has had in its past.


3. What does the business do?

This is where functionality needs to be the highest priority. Customers are looking for confirmation that your business is what they are looking for in the moment they are searching. You can’t afford to have this information be anything but concise, easy to find, and extremely helpful. It’s challenging to know the exact right strategy for your business but a tactic we recommend is taking a look at your closest competitors for insight.

Look at those website and assume the perspective of their customer. If you like something about the way their website works, make a note. If you find something super inconvenient or confusing, again, make a note. Have these notes inform your approach.


Conclusion

A lot of people think a website should be an online version of your business. In reality, this is virtually impossible. A website is more like a messenger for your business. It’s a tool for relaying information about the business to potential customers. If your messenger is long-winded, confusing and tries to use flashy bright colours to grab attention, the customer is not going to be engaged. If your messenger relays all the information in a simple, concise and memorable way, customers will be much more likely to engage. It is quite likely a website is the first impression the customer might have of your business—remember, you only get once chance to make a first impression!

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