With the number of online shoppers rising, especially among millennials, either via mobile devices or traditional computers, service businesses and e-commerce retailers were forced to make changes to their customer service approach. They developed a more proactive strategy by engaging customers on multiple channels, instead of doing thing the old-fashioned way, where they had to wait for the customer to contact them first.
What are the specific measures that businesses have taken to make the experience of the online customer better? Read on to find out the five most significant trends.
1. Online self-service. “DIY is an accurate description of the millennials’ mentality: they seek empowerment to accomplish things at their own pace,” said Jeff Platon, CMO. “Recently, we witnessed how DIY expanded into customer service. Customers today are typically busy and, more often than not, on the move, and seek ways to solve their problems fast and, if possible, independently. By demanding an improved self-service experience, along with additional channels for its actualization (SMS, mobile, Web), higher investments are drawn in this technology,” he points out. “For instance, you only need to visit a company’s website to change your address with them today, no need to interact with a rep. Or you can pay your bills through your smartphone.”
Online companies are starting to make extensive use of self-service technologies, which allow customers find answers to whatever they see on a web page by simply clicking on it. That means that they won’t have to leave a page or open a different tab to read the relevant FAQ section, or even start a chat session with a representative. The availability of the right answers to the most common questions at the right place and time also works by limiting the number of submitted support tickets, resulting in lower overhead costs for the organization.
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2. Email and text (SMS) push notifications. Mimicking Amazon’s example, many organizations have started using automatic SMS or email notifications when order shipment is completed, if there are availability issues, or when a pre-order is available to ship out. In a similar manner, many service providers confirm their appointments via SMS messages, offering appointment confirmation, changing, and canceling functionality, without the need for a phone conversation.
3. Social customer service. “We are way past phone, email and live chat: Social media such as Facebook and Twitter are the new spearheads of customer service,” Andrew Caravella, Marketing VP at Sprout Social, a company that makes social media management software. “Actually, messages sent from customers to brands via social media requesting a response, increased by 17 % from Q4 2014 to Q4 2015.”
“Social media are a glorious opportunity for brands: provide excellent customer service while the whole world is watching,” noted Jim Rudden, CMO, Spredfast, a social software provider. “This has resulted in most brands laying out their processes and strategy around social customer service.” (Airlines, like Delta, even use distinct Twitter accounts only to handle customer service and support issues.) However, he cautions, “consumers on social media require a response within the hour.”
However, it takes more than just being present on Facebook or Twitter. “To be successful,” adds Caravella, businesses should “employ and maintain reactive (dealing with an issue), proactive (mass education) and preemptive (address issues before they come up) social customer care programs.” And they should make sure that those who run their social channels have the proper training and that the organization monitors “important indicators such as response time and rate.”
“Messaging apps are ideal when it comes to customer engagement,” states Scott Horn, CMO, 7, a company that provides customer engagement, chat, and voice solutions. “They are extensively used, handy and have a simplicity and casualness that customers like a lot. A lot more companies will give messaging platforms, such as Facebook Messenger, a chance as a customer service channel,” he predicts.
5. Live chat. “The e-commerce business has set the bar higher now, regarding customer service standards,” believes Simon Slade, Doubledot Media co-founder and CEO. “People want prompt help, and we must provide it to them. We accomplish that via chat software which enables direct and immediate contact between the customer and the service rep. Rapid, tailored, online communication.”
“For the 2015 fiscal year, Intuit brought SmartLook to the market, a one-way agent video that offers clients the option to ask and get assistance within the product when they need it the most,” said Alex Balazs, VP and fellow architect at Intuit. “For customer care representatives, the ability to see the screen of the customer and at what point in the tax filing process they are stuck is essential for faster problem solving. Answers to questions are provided in real time free of charge, and also give customers valuable help towards completing the return process comfortably and confidently.”
The contemporary online customer service has the customer at its center
As far as online customer service is concerned, “it’s now more crucial than ever for brands to put themselves in their customers’ shoes and to explore new paths that require less effort and produce less friction,” said Horn. “From proactive shipping updates to post-purchase support, organizations have the ability to use several channels to provide their customers with sales and service options through their favorite channels themselves.”
This process leads to increased customer satisfaction while decreasing returns, attrition, and churn.