Online customer service is more than just providing assistance

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Social media remains the terrain of the client, where s/he is free to post, complain and make requests. ‘online customer service’ has become a well-established concept, but there are still challenges to consider in undertaking it. Listening is the key. Listening to both the customer and the market. What’s the need -and desire- that should be fulfilled? After this, comes the selection of your strategy. Only then can you initiate interactions aimed at finding a solution or answer. The following tips will help you keep your eye on the goal and serve as a springboard for a good beginning.

Being where the client is? Or steering channels?

Many organisations ‘place the client centre-stage’, by using on- and off-line monitoring to get insights into relevant postings on social networks, news and review sites. Unsurprisingly, many customer service teams thus react to postings on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, via messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, or review-sites such Trustpilot. The channel you should utilise is mainly dependent on the wishes of the client and the strategy you have chosen. ‘Being active everywhere’ is really not always the best choice. You need a good connection with the Customer Service department, Marketing or PR.



The choice of channel for customer service thus depends not only on the wishes of the client, but also on whether you are able to fulfil their wishes and requests with respect to speed, ease and quality of the solution offered.

An extra step for your clients

Excellent customer service is quick and easy and offers something extra. It doesn’t end with supplying a reaction to questions and complaints expressed on social media. It must cover all online channels where consumers air opinions. How about monitoring radio and TV broadcasts? Establish the channels you need to keep watch on, and choose the views you will react to.



“Online customer service begins with listening. Are you seeing questions and complaints on social media? Are your clients posting reviews of your brand or products? Are you being mentioned on blogs and forums or in comments on news items? Don’t hesitate to start a conversation!”

Aims of online customer service

What you achieve depends on what your purpose is. Has the customer service team been launched with the idea of reducing the workload of your call centre (i.e. with the aim of cost-reduction) or do you want to react faster or better to developments in the market? Good customer service doesn’t just contribute to better service provision but also to reputation management, sales and marketing.

The web is crawling with potential clients looking to make a purchase. A good web-search with the right keywords offers the possibility of responding proactively. You will also be in a position to pass on to the rest of your organisation suggestions for improving service provision. Are you repeatedly getting the same complaint? It would be wise to closely examine your processes to see where there are opportunities to solve the problem.



The place of online customer service within an organisation
Ensure that online customer service is well situated within your organisation. It is often closely connected with the marketing, PR and communications/editorial departments. Because, of course, online customer service is the eyes and ears of the organisation. This department quickly recognises when things are getting out of hand on social media or where structural improvements can be made, and can relay this information to the communications department. Moreover, customer service has a clear idea of what information the organisation wants disseminated. So there are short lines going in both directions.

4 tips for successful online customer service

  • Online customer service is, therefore, an extension of Communications and PR. It is vitally important to have people here who understand the rules of this game. This requires a different level of competence and knowledge than traditional customer service.
  • Use up to date information to guide the customer service team where necessary. Measure response times, or evaluate each employee using random sampling to examine their answers with regard to knowledge of the product or service,their formulation of the answer, and the degree to which the member of staff displays empathy in dealing with the client.
  • Clients ventilate unrequested opinions via social media. But it is still useful to gather their views using customer satisfaction research. In order to get a comprehensive picture, compare the customer satisfaction scores on the various contact channels with each other.
  • A clear online customer service strategy is necessary so it can be used for reputation management, service provision and lead generation. With a good policy, you establish when, where and whether questions will be dealt with. It lays down the desired style of response for each specific situation, the tone of voice and action to be utilised, so that the team is not taken by surprise.
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