Customer service no longer means answering your email only during business hours. Nowadays, you need to set the bar higher. Customers expect you to be “on call” when they need you, not when it’s convenient for you to answer inquiries. Unfortunately, many businesses just don’t “get it” when it comes to customer service. They place blame on the customer first whenever something goes wrong, and customer service departments are set up like old-school direct marketing companies. Not all businesses have fallen into this trap though.
Customers Do Business After Hours
One of your biggest problems is that you’ve moved into the digital age, but forgotten to bring your entire business with you. Many companies believe that putting up a virtual store is enough. It’s not. When you have a brick and mortar operation, you can close your doors. Not so with a website. When you operate an online store, users can purchase from you at any hour. While this is obviously good for sales, it presents another challenge – customer service.
Users have become accustomed to receiving customer service on their terms. Even when they can buy during regular business hours, many consumers view customer service as something that caters to them, not the other way around. If they’re buying online, they expect to be able to call or write an email at 2 a.m. and receive a response within a reasonable amount of time. Sometimes, customers want an answer immediately. Twitter, Facebook, and other social networking sites have trained users to expect instantaneous service and updates. You should prepare your business to deliver.
Your Website Isn’t A Brick and Mortar Store
The reason customers expect a more dynamic customer service experience is that they can be online when you’re not. When you close the doors to your brick and mortar business, you can go home. Customers can’t come in and shop around. When you leave your office for the day now, your website is still up. People can “come in,” shop around, and buy stuff. You don’t operate a brick and mortar place anymore. It’s time to update your company, not just your website.
Make Your Site Dynamic
One of the more innovative ways to update your company is to offer dynamic customer service. You don’t need people answering phones 24/7. You do need some way to answer commonly asked questions. A database of searchable answers would be nice. Use a boolean search function so that users can type in partial keywords, misspelled words, or partial phrases and find the topics they’re looking for. “Click-to-call” and virtual assistants are also an excellent way to add additional functionality not only to your website but to your business.
Finally, don’t skimp on contact details. While you might think it’s silly, adding a contact form, phone number, physical address, and even a few other methods such as text messaging or online chat will make your users feel more comfortable about doing business with you. Since they can’t see you, it’s nice to know that they have many ways to reach out to you. You’re not hiding. Three ways to contact you is OK. 10 ways to get customer service shows that you’re completely transparent and accessible when the customer needs you most.
Take A Tip From A Company That Does It Right
Look at Lenstore.co.uk. This company makes it easy to get service. While having a phone number is an absolute must, the company also provides a physical address and several other ways to contact someone at the company – including Skype. Lenstore clearly isn’t hiding anything, and it shows. There’s even a newsletter sign-up form. While it might seem odd, newsletters can address customer service issues before they happen via systematic education about a company’s products. Sales events, return policies, commonly asked questions, seasonal shipping issues and specials can all be transmitted via an email newsletter. The company can even keep in touch with existing customers using personalized email and advanced email list segmentation.
Even though new business is great, at the end of the day it’s the existing customers that are responsible for your company’s stability and longevity. The way to keep them happy is through superior, dynamic, customer service.
About the Author
Guy Ascher is a business website consultant. He is always researching the latest innovations in website customer reach. He enjoys sharing his insights on various business blogs.