Navigating the minefield of digital customer support

Navigating the minefield of digital customer support

Nov 20 2015 | by STEPH BELLIS

Nowadays more than ever, negative customer feedback is a terrifying prospect that all businesses would like to avoid. Thanks to the rapid increase in digital technology, customers from anywhere at anytime can write a scathing review on your product or service that can feel like a very real and very personal kick in the stomach! Of course you take it personally, any decent business person would, but trust me, knee jerk reactions and replies aren’t going to get you anywhere. 

It might sound scary, but actually giving customers a place to talk to you can directly can improve the level of customer service you offer and can have a great effect on your customer satisfaction. Therefore, having a strategy for how to manage your customer support services digitally could be one of the most important projects you could incorporate into your 2016 plans.

To give you a head start, I’m going to cover some of the places you can find and talk to your customers online. There may be more than you think:

Social media
Starting with the obvious… It is pretty common knowledge now that if a big brand annoys you by not serving the right number of fries with your burger, or missing your delivery slot, Twitter and Facebook is the best place to turn. It feels good to let off steam and feel that you are doing others a favour by warning them of your poor experience (read: get a 10% off voucher for next time you go). But, what people say about you on social media should not be your focus. How you deal with negative feedback is the most important factor here and having a good strategy will help you achieve that effectively. 
Instant responses are great, and they don’t have to have all the answers. Having a team in place to support you if you are a larger business is important too; get product management and technical support involved to help share the workload. 
A negative review that is handled well can actually have a much more positive impact on a customer who just had a standard experience to start with. Here’s an example of a good response from Debenhams.

Your website
It goes without saying that customer support contact details should be available on your site especially if you are selling a product or service! Be it a contact form, a list of email addresses or just a good old fashioned telephone number in the header - it should be there. You will only frustrate people further if you don’t offer this information to them.

Live chat
In the strange world we live in behind our screens, some people don’t like actually speaking to people (weird huh?). Live chat is a great way to offer instantaneous support to customers on your website. This may be pre or post purchase support so again, having the right team in place is important. Chats can last anything from a few minutes to up to an hour depending on the your business but the great thing about live chat is agents are often able to handle 2 or 3 customers at the same time - something that they cannot do on the phone. And you can easily manage the volume that your business can handle, so there is no chance of getting overwhelmed!

Video chat
A stage on from live chat, video chat is great when you think it would be really useful to demonstrate something to your customers. Schuh are using video chat to show customers their shoe stock through the screen, and they are achieving some great results reporting that over £1 million of their online sales now come via video chat!

Online forums have been around since the beginning of time, so some might feel that they are a bit stuck in the past. For some businesses, however, web forums are an extremely valuable resource for customers. Industries that require technical support can really benefit from using forums. If someone posts a technical question that gets a clear response, there is the potential for endless customers to benefit from that post if they are experiencing the same problem. There is also a great SEO benefit in hosting a forum providing it needn’t be a closed members only area. 

Instant messaging
Be it by SMS, WhatsApp or even SnapChat, providing customer support via instant messaging is becoming quite popular and it comes down to convenience. Customers can communicate with you on the go, and respond in their own time. For larger businesses, the planning and preparation will need to be considered carefully as it will be difficult to gauge the volume of messages you might receive. But if done effectively, customer support via instant messaging allows you to improve your customer service offering whilst keeping any potentially negative information out of the public domain… sounds ideal doesn’t it?

As with all new digital strategies, we recommend carrying out thorough customer research before undertaking any work. Speak to your client base and your target market and find out what channels they would prefer to use to contact you. Good luck :)

Steph Bellis

Navigating the minefield of digital customer support