In the era of technology, online and email customer service has become one of the most important aspects of a business. Consumers are relying more on technology to solve problems and face-to-face customer service is becoming less relevant.

Online and Email Customer Service

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But what is online and email customer service all about and how can it benefit your business? This guide will answer these questions and look at the key steps you need to take in order to create a viable online and email customer service strategy.

WHAT IS ONLINE AND EMAIL CUSTOMER SERVICE?

Customer service is among the most important aspects a business needs to get right. In its essence, customer service provides your customers the full service – not just a good product and service, but also a quality experience before, during and after a purchase.

Customer service entangles many different aspects from servicing the customer to supporting them throughout the process. In the past, most customer service dealt with face-to-face communications, with telephone and even postal support included in the service at times.

With the technological revolution, customer service has changed slightly. Different online customer service methods have become increasingly important in today’s world. Online customer service entails anything from email, chat, and even social media interactions. Today’s consumers are more likely to look online for support rather than visiting the physical shop to solve an issue. Therefore, it is crucial businesses pay enough attention to getting their online customer service right.

Online customer service, such as email customer service, often gives businesses the ability to respond quicker and even outside of office hours. It is possible to ensure the first point of contact happens less than 24 hours from the customer contacting the business. In many instances, this is done through automated responses.

If your customer is unhappy with the product and service, they are likely to contact you through your website, for example. Instead of having to wait long for a physical response, your business could respond with an email to explain the process. Even though this doesn’t necessarily solve the issue straight away, it gives the customer a sense you’re working towards a solution.

Perhaps the most important thing with online and especially with email customer service is the ability to strike a balance with automated and real responses. You cannot rely solely on generic messaging, as customers still seek personal contact with companies.

WHY SHOULD A BUSINESS HAVE AN ONLINE AND EMAIL CUSTOMER SERVICE?

If your business has a good customer service record with the traditional methods of customer support, you might wonder why you should add an online customer service to your strategy. But as mentioned above, today’s business can benefit greatly from online services and customer service is definitely among these reasons.

The increasing use of technology not only in products, but also during the purchasing process has increased the need for good online customer service. Online shopping itself has grown rapidly in recent years. It is estimated that online shopping retail sales will near $370 billion by 2017, up from $231 billion in 2012.

In addition, customers are more likely to search for more information on a specific product online before a final shopping decision. According to one study, 84% of store visitors use a mobile phone during the shopping trip to find out more about the product and service.

Why is this important in terms of customer service? Because 40% of customers choose companies based on their customer service and nearly the same amount of customers might switch to a competitor if the service is bad. Customer service reputation is essential because people check online reviews and make decisions based on user recommendations. In fact, nearly 70% of shoppers read reviews on social media, with over 50% of consumers now willing to share their own customer service experiences with other people.

Furthermore, since customers are looking for information online, it is crucial they receive it as fast as possible. A Forrester study showed that 45% of people would simply abandon a purchase if their queries weren’t solved quickly. For these simple queries, a good online service would be vital. Online and email customer service is the preferred method of nearly 40% of customers when it comes to simple issues.

Finally, the increasing focus on customer service isn’t just something businesses and business experts are talking about. According to a Forrester survey, 63% of people believe customer service is now more important than in the past.

There are nearly 4 billion email accounts in the world and 91% of consumers regularly check their email – in fact, they check it daily. Therefore, email customer service is among the easiest channels to reach your customers.

The benefit of email and other online customer service channels comes also from the self-service aspect. Consumer behavior is changing and people are now more than happy to make their shopping experience as self-serving as possible. In just five years, consumer preference towards automated self-service has doubled to 55%. This means that instead of picking up the phone to solve problems, your customers are more likely to write an email or check with a chat function.

Perhaps the most crucial reason for many businesses considering about their customer service options is the numbers behind online and email customer service. Online-based customer service can cut costs in your business because of the partial automation. Partly automated email service, for example, means you don’t need as much staff to look after the customers and you are still able to provide 24h service to your customers.

THE STEPS TO CREATING A GOOD ONLINE CUSTOMER SERVICE STRATEGY

The above should convince you of the importance of online customer service. But not all customer service is good and you need to carefully plan and execute your customer service strategy in order to enjoy the full benefits.

Step 1: Ensure consistency

Perhaps the most important step to take to guarantee good online customer service is the creation of a culture of consistency within your different channels. This means consistency both in terms of the message as well as the quality of the service.

Whether your customers are searching your website for information, contacting your email customer service or calling your customer service support directly, the message and the quality needs to be consistent. You need to make sure the online customer support team solves the problems in a similar manner to your face-to-face customer support team.

Consistency ensures that when customers contact you again, they don’t notice any difference in either the message or the quality.

Step 2: Provide enough training to your team

One of the best ways to guarantee consistency is adequate training of the customer service team. If your online customer service team isn’t trained and motivated, you are unlikely to be able to provide quality customer service to your customers.

First, you need to find the right customer service personnel with the correct skills. When it comes to online customer service representatives, appropriate knowledge of IT is necessary. In addition, you want to pay attention to their customer interaction skills even if they won’t be speaking to the customers directly. You need to have people who are passionate about helping others and have empathy towards other people.

Second, you need to provide enough training for your employees. Training isn’t necessary only at the start – you need continuous training to ensure your customer service personnel is always on top of your business. Make sure you regularly improve your customer service levels through training and different team-building exercises.

Step 3: Put emphasis on speed

Your online and email customer service strategy also needs to put emphasis on speed. The reason many people prefer online customer service is in fact the instant access to solutions it provides. The whole purpose of your online customer service should therefore be on solving customer problems in a timely manner.

If you are using online chat options, you need to make sure response times are under a minute. For email service, you need to provide an instant automated reply to customers and make sure you reply to your customer within 24h.

While speed is important, you naturally don’t want to sacrifice quality for speed. But it is a good idea to inform your customer as quickly as possible on how long you might take to fully resolve the issue and what are the reasons behind any possible delays.

Step 4: Focus on security

Online customer service shouldn’t overlook the importance of security. Whenever you are dealing with customers online, you need to make sure third parties won’t access any information they provide you with. Security is an essential part of customer service because you want your customers to trust you.

Make sure you also educate your customers as part of your online and email service. For example, you should tell your customers to avoid sharing personal information and account details on your email service and to keep their passwords hidden at all times. Make sure they understand the kind of information you are likely to ask and what sort of information they should share with you and on what channels.

If you show your customers your business takes security seriously, you end up building more trust, which in turn will help you generate more business in the end.

Step 5: Cut direct contact by providing enough information

Your online customer service strategy should also focus on providing customers information without necessarily having to contact your team. This is not only going to cut down costs, but it also makes customer experience quicker and smoother – something the modern consumer is always looking for.

Your website, for example, should have a simple and easy to use FAQ page. You could even use the email service as an FAQ platform and email customers answers about the most sought questions first and then allow them to contact you for further details. You can benefit a lot more if you can solve customer problems upfront and without the need to contact you directly.

Make sure you keep track of the questions and queries your customers raise. If you see a certain question popping up regularly, consider the ways you could answer it directly on your website, social media or email service.

Step 6: Foster good service with a follow up

Online customer service should also focus on continued service, even after the problem has been solved. Email is a great way of doing this. If you have an online form, always ask for a customer email so you can follow up with them after they have contacted you.

The follow up doesn’t need to be anything big – you want to provide the customer a chance to rate your customer service and to provide them details on how they can contact you in the future if more problems come up.

Step 7: Improve your service by focusing on metrics and asking for feedback

Finally, a good online customer service strategy must also focus on improvement. The easiest way to do this is by focusing on feedback and customer service metrics.

As mentioned above, you should definitely contact your customers after they’ve dealt with the customer service department and ask for feedback. You can make this easy by sending a customer service survey or by asking them for a short review, for instance. A link to these sites at the end of on email makes it easy for the customer to provide feedback and this will help you improve your service in the future.

In addition, some customer service metrics are worth focusing on with your online service. For instance, customer response times are a crucial part of ensuring your service is swift enough. You also want to measure the different channels customers use to contact you. Are you receiving most contact through chat or social media? Analytics like these help you redirect efforts and ensure your customer service is up to scratch.

HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF EMAIL CUSTOMER SERVICE

As well as focusing on the above steps with your online customer service, it is essential to ensure you make the most of your email communication. Many businesses overlook the effect and importance emails can have in forging good customer relations. But the emails you send to your customers can have a big impact, not just in terms of better customer service but also as a brand building method.

Use emails as advertising opportunity

First, you need to understand customer service emails aren’t only about aiding the customer with his or her queries; you can also use them as a marketing device. Naturally, your first priority is on solving the problem the customer has, but the emails you send are more than a tool to help.

This means that it is important you focus on building your brand through the emails you send and provide information to the customer that could lead to new shopping decisions. It is important your customer service emails have information about your new product lines, perhaps suggestions of other products the customer might use based on the query, and exclusive offers for the customer.

Follow the right email etiquette

Businesses are not only overlooking the power of email customer service, they are often ignoring the correct email etiquette. It is crucial to make sure your customer service emails follow the correct format.

The most essential aspects of good email customer service etiquette include:

  • Proper grammar – you need to make sure the language you use is free of grammar mistakes. Customers will be put off by bad language, and mistakes, so avoid them like plague.
  • The right kind of language – you also need to strike a balance between a conversational tone and a professional tone. Software Advice’s survey found online customers prefer a casual tone in customer support, so you don’t want to make your emails too full of jargon and professional language. At the same time, you don’t want to fill your customer service emails with emoticons and slang, as most people won’t like this overly casual tone.
  • Personalization – finally, your customer service emails should use personalization. For example, it is a good idea to start your emails with the customer’s name and to add similar personalized features within the email. This makes the customer feel like the email isn’t just a generic response.

Create emails that have an impact

Customer service emails should aim to have an impact. First, you naturally need to make sure the customer enquiry is solved in an efficient manner. But as mentioned above, you also want to ensure the email leaves a positive impact and one that might get the customer to react.
How to ensure your emails have an impact? Make sure the message is clear and precise. You don’t want the email to be long and filled with information the customer wasn’t looking for in the first place.

You also need to make sure there is a call to action in your email, even when it is about a customer service issue. This could be a link to a feedback form, a link to purchase a new product or to leave a review, or just a button for directing the customer to your social media channels, for example.

Focus on email templates and auto-responding messages

Finally, it is important your online customer service, especially your email service, takes advantage of automatization. The great thing about online customer service is that you don’t need the same manpower to keep it going as you do with traditional methods.

Cut the response times by creating auto-responding messages. For example, the initial email your customer gets could just be a quick acknowledgement that you’ve received the enquiry and a step-by-step guide on what will happen next.

The most important thing to remember with an automated customer service email is to ensure it allows for personalization and that you always follow it up with a response from the customer service team. Only use automated messages as part of your online customer service strategy – never rely on them solely.

FINAL THOUGHTS

As consumers are turning more towards technology when it comes to purchasing decisions, online customer service will increase in relevance. Online customer service is a great channel to use when your business is looking to provide quality service in a cost effective manner.

For online and email customer service to work appropriately, your business needs to focus on delivering fast, personalized and efficient service even if you won’t be dealing with the customer face-to-face. In the end, creating a strong online customer service strategy is one of the best methods of brand building and in ensuring your customers keep returning to your business.

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