Whether you run an internet-based company, a service provider or a brick-and-mortar shop, customer service is crucial for your businesses. With more customers than ever before buying online and using the web for information, feedback and reviews, interacting with customers has never been easier than it is right now. However, with so many platforms available and engagement more visible than ever, businesses need to know how they provide support to customers online. The more options you can give customers to get in touch with your business, the higher they will value you, increasing satisfaction and spending. Customer service is an art form and getting it right online is critical to success.

The benefits of online customer service

With customers having more choice than ever, going the extra mile to help them out can be the difference between repeat customers or one-off buyers. Whether it’s how you respond to negative reviews or if you are informing customers of potential delivery delays, communication is key to customer service. There are several benefits to prioritising online customer service within your business:

  • Immediate support:

In today’s online world, customers expect your business to respond to queries very quickly. A fast response shows that you value their time and business. Research shows that 71% of consumers aged 16-24 think a quick response time dramatically improves their experience with a company. Customer service staff should have access to as much information as possible to promptly resolve queries online. New technologies such as live chat and social media messaging allow for immediate online support. 

  • More flexibility for staff:

Hiring customer service employees could mean working in shift patterns. This suits people of all ages as they can choose a shift pattern that suits their lifestyle. Customer service teams who use online tools are often able to work from home and work shorter hours over more days. This can help to increase the customer service provided as well as staff retention.

  • Increased customer satisfaction:

If customers have to visit a branch or pick up the phone to speak to someone in customer service, they will be less likely to shop with you again. Keeping customers satisfied should be a high priority of any business, so the simpler you make your customer service tools, the more they will return. In fact, 75% of customers value customer service so much, they are willing to spend more with companies that prioritise it. 

  • A choice of channels:

Whilst many customers are happy to connect with a business over social media, not all of them will use it. Making your website customer service friendly, as well as having an accessible email address, gives them plenty of options. If customers don’t need an immediate response they may be happy to wait longer and send an email. If they need a quicker reply, a live chat function or social media is more beneficial.

How can businesses provide online customer service?

Many businesses are put off by online customer services because they believe that the cost outweighs the benefits or that their staff aren’t equipped to handle new technologies. As you can see above, the benefits of online customer service are invaluable to any business, no matter how big or small. Online customer service tools can be cost-effective and, in return, increase income and customer satisfaction. These are some of the most effective options for online customer service:

  • FAQs:

While not an instant response tool, the more in-depth a company’s FAQs section is on their website, the fewer general queries they will receive. Returns and refund policies, delivery details and complaints procedures should be easy to spot and explained thoroughly. Taking the time to go through potential problems and scenarios in advance means customers know what to expect on the whole. This can help improve your customer service by giving consumers the information they need online, without ever having to get in touch. 

  • Email responses:

An auto-reply feature on your customer services emails, stating how long it will take to receive an answer is a must for managing expectations. You can also include links to FAQs just in case customers can answer their own questions. Three to five business days is the maximum time to expect a reply, but within 24 hours will increase customer satisfaction.

  • Social media:

Dedicated social media channels for your brand is a necessity in the 21st century. However, for customer service, larger companies should consider setting up a separate channel. You can use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram messages for customer service, and many customers will prefer this way of communicating. State any operating hours in the bio of these pages for customers to see visibly and reply as promptly as possible. If you want your customers to remain loyal, build relationships with them over these platforms. 

  • Live chat:

A live chat feature is one of the best website tools any business can set up. There are options available for AI-powered chats, which don’t need much human intervention, or real-time chats with customer service agents. If you are using a real-time chat, make sure to include any working hours so customers know when to expect replies immediately. AI-powered chats effectively handle basic customer queries and can refer more difficult conversations to a customer service team. 

Online customer service doesn’t have to be complicated; implementing a couple of features is often enough to keep your customers satisfied. Larger companies should try to offer as many ways as possible for customers to get in touch, whereas smaller businesses need only focus on a couple of key tools. Either way, customer service is an integral part of any business and embracing online technologies is essential.