Hello and welcome to episode 18 of Conversations with a Digital Strategist. I’m so glad you decided to join me again this week. On this episode we’re going to talk about online customer service. I’m going to give you some tips on how to provide a higher level of quality with regard to your online customer service. The key to running a successful company is engaging with your customers and potential customers. The game is usually won and lost, not at the product level but at the customer service level. Too often we hear of companies being drug through the mud because of a poor customer service experience had by a customer. These situations are avoidable. Let’s get into this episode!
Cool Tool of the Week
This week’s cool tool of the week is called It’s Alive. It’s Alive is a Facebook Messenger chat bot builder. This chat bot builder can be used by any company that has a Facebook page for their company. Chat bots are the newest tool in the customer engagement arsenal. Providing multiple access points for customers to engage with your company, is key to a successful digital strategy. Customers and potential customers want to be able to ask questions and provide feedback, with minimal effort. Allowing them to contact you directly from Facebook and receive immediate feedback, is a win-win!
The It’s Alive chat bot builder is super easy to setup and comes with plenty of documentation. You can make the chat bot as simple or robust as you like. To get started you simply decide how you would like customers to engage with the chat bot, add what they call recipes, and click go! Recipes are a series of triggers and responses. For example, a trigger may be a customer typing in the word “test” into the chat feature on Facebook. And the chat bot’s response is “Nice, it looks like the test works perfectly!”. You can setup all types of recipes to answer frequently asked questions, provide pricing and other contact information, or get even more detailed by setting up a full wiki of keywords and responses.
I’ll be posting a product review and how-to on the It’s alive product soon. So if you aren’t following me on Twitter at Level_360 or Facebook at www.facebook.com/Level360LLC, I suggest you do so. This way you will be notified when that post goes live. The It’s Alive tool is also perfect for startups and small businesses. Pricing starts as the cool price of Free ninety-nine and packages increase from there depending on the number fo chat bots and engagements you expect to need. For more information about It’s Alive, check out their website at ItsAlive.io. And if you didn’t know, now you know.
No matter what industry you’re in, you will, at some point need to interact with people. Whether you have a B2B or B2C B2G or any other B2 company, you must interact with customers, potential customers, vendors, partners and others. There simply is no getting around this fact. Any and every time you interact with someone, it is considered customer service. Even if that person is not a customer. So, yes the term is a bit misleading.
Each interaction results in some sort of judgement. The person you are interacting with is going to judge you on that interaction and vice versa. That’s just human nature. However, when you’re trying to run a business, you will want each interaction to be a positive experience for the other party. Otherwise, it could spell disaster for the business you’ve worked so hard to build.
I know this all sounds so elementary, doesn’t it? You’re probably thinking, “duh, Jessica! Everyone knows this already.”. You would think so, but actually, everyone doesn’t already know this. If everyone already knew this, we wouldn’t have customer service horror stories! The word vendor wouldn’t be a swear word in some industries. And people wouldn’t mind calling customer care at any company.
The truth of the matter is, customer service in America, in 2018 SUCKS! From restaurants to doctor’s offices to toll-free customer support lines; customer service is awful. Don’t believe me? Do a quick Google search for bad customer service, and read through the list of horror stories. Better yet, call tech support at Time Warner. Ahem, I mean Spectrum. Changing your company name doesn’t make you better at customer service; anymore than standing in a garage makes you mechanic.
Online Customer Services is Worse!
And, as bad as customer service is in general, online customer service is worse. Why? Because there are no facial expressions, no voice inflection, no body language to read. Nothing! Just words. So everything comes across as short and curt. Customer service is easy to fix, just change your staff and hire pleasant, informative, caring people. But online customer service requires a lot more effort.
Because there is no way to show that my “no” isn’t a “NO”, it’s difficult to have some conversations online. Online customer service requires, training. A lot of training. And everyone isn’t cut out for online customer service. But let’s be honest, EVERYONE isn’t cut out for customer service in general. If you have some sort of online customer service platform, there are things you need to take into consideration and do, in order to make it a benefit not a hinderance for your company’s reputation. Let’s talk about it.
Types of Online Customer Service
First, let’s look at the different types of online customer service.
- Live Chat – text based or video based chat sessions via a website or mobile application, allowing customers and potential customers to engage with you or your staff
- Chat Bot – text based automated chat session usually via Facebook messenger, but sometimes with a custom chat platform. Automated meaning the customer or potential customer is not speaking to a real person, but a computer system. I suggest never trying to pawn a chat bot off as a real person. Let the customer know they are speaking with a bot, but that the bot is very knowledgable and can offer a wealth of information. You can even get creative and name your bot. In fact, create a whole persona around the bot. Aflac uses a Facebook messenger bot that is supposedly managed by the Aflac duck. They call it DuckChat.
- Text Messaging – text based short-form chat via a mobile phone using the text messaging feature
- Email – text based long-form communication via email
Online Customer Service Tips
Now, allow me to go through a few tips that can help you offer the highest quality online customer service, you can. When it comes to customer service, you don’t want to just do better than status quo, you want to knock it out of the park. You want the customer to leave the engagement thinking, “Wow, that was informative AND enjoyable”. So, how can you improve that customer experience?
Train Your Staff
Online customer service training is not the same as customer service training. Your online customer service staff should go through customer service training AND online customer service training. It’s not going to be a one or the other situation. Online customer service training explains how staff can engage with customers in a way that doesn’t come across as rude, cross or curt. It discusses having a knowledgebase at the ready, so the engagement doesn’t take too long. Many times, customers use online chat thinking it will get them to the answer they’re seeking quicker. So, it behooves you to have answers at the ready, when customers come calling.
The training should also include information on how long a customer should wait before receiving a “I’m still researching your question, please give me just a few more minutes” message. Similar to telephone support, being placed on hold or waiting for the representative to look up some information feels like an eternity to the customer. It’s important the representative is astute to proper timing. Also, if you are providing text based support, like live chat; the representative should be able to type fairly quickly.
Last, but probably most important, your staff should be well trained in spelling and grammar. The worst thing in the world is reading something and not really know what the writer was trying to say. The experience could have been extremely enjoyable for the customer, but misspellings and bad grammar can spoil the whole thing.
I cannot stress this enough, if you are going to provide online customer support, you must actually be available to answer questions. If I come to your website, and your chat service always says “we’re away”, it’s defeating the purpose. If you do not have the ability to be online at least during normal business hours, you may want to try another type of service to offer online technical support, like email.
Remember, however, some live chat platforms offer mobile applications, which allow you to accept and reply to chats via your mobile phone. So, if you are a person chef, you can still answer incoming chats when you are away from your computer. You could also hire a service to man your online chat platform. The platform Tawk.to has this type of service. Another alternative is to use a chat bot, that can answer the most frequently asked questions, and kick the rest of them back to you. This way, you can focus on those visitors who have unique questions.
Use the RIGHT, Most Reliable Platform
Selecting the right platform for your business needs is important. Do your research and document all the features available on the market. Then compare against the features you believe you will need the most. For example, if you are a small shop, you may not need a tool that allows unlimited “agents”. You may only need a few seats. Or, if you have a large website, you may want a platform that allows you to setup automated responses. So, if a visitor has been on a page for more than 30 seconds, the chat automatically pops up asking the visitor if they need assistance. If you aren’t sure what you will need, you can always pilot different platforms to test their usefulness. Or, you could work with your friendly neighborhood Digital Strategist to determine the best tool for your needs. Your options are endless. Shameless plug!
As you are selecting a platform, you will want to pay close attention to its reliability. What is the average uptime? 99.9%? You want a tool that is available as close to 100% of the time as possible. It’s a terrible thing to be in the middle of a chat and have the chat cut off because the system suddenly disconnected.
Whether by auto-responder email, phone call or survey, you will always want to follow up with the customer to ensure they had a positive experience. You’ll want to check three things. One, was their question answered? Two, do they have any follow-up questions? And, three, did they enjoy the experience. The first question tells you how good a job your representative did with providing information. The second question lets the customer know you care about them getting all the information they need. And the third question, let’s you know how the representatives are engaging on a personal level with customers and potential customers. Always, always, always follow up!
Ok, so while this episode didn’t go into a whole lot of detail about online customer service, you now have the basics of what it is and how you can make it better for your customers. In the coming months, I’m going to be releasing an online course for businesses on how to improve their online customer service. This will be a must attend digital training that will explain everything, as I say from the rooty to the tooty. Stay alert for that course. I’ll announce it both on here and on social media.
Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of Conversations with a Digital Strategist. If you have questions about anything I covered, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like more information about me, visit my website at Level360.co. I’m also social, you know. Follow me on Twitter at Level_360. Or on Facebook at Facebook.com/Level360LLC. Until next time, live true, work smart, and in the words of one of the greatest strategists to ever live, think different! Bye!
Intro and outro music by: DJ Quads
DJ Quads Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/aka-dj-quads
DJ Quads YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCusFqutyfTWRqGhC8kHA5uw