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3 Secrets to Making Your Online Customer Support a Success

This story originally appeared on Salesforce

Chances are, you’ve experienced the crushing frustration of going in automated phone tree circles, trying to the find the magic combination of buttons to press to speak with a customer service representative. Or perhaps you’ve struggled with faulty apps that disconnect while you try to live chat with a representative.

It’s exactly this type of inconvenience that your company wants to avoid when helping customers. Your valued audience shouldn’t have to struggle with technology to get the help they need. Digital interactions should be seamless and transparent. Online customer service should make processes easier, not harder. Here’s how your company can streamline its online customer service approach to reach these ideals and form better human connections online.

Related: Apologizing Is Not Great Customer Service, Only Fixing the Problem Is

1. Don’t mimic machines.

Generally, when customers contact a customer service representative, it’s because they’ve exhausted all other options. They’re looking to you for help. Your responses should be succinct, informative, and helpful, but they should also reassure customers on a human, emotional level. Customer service representatives should avoid scripted or canned language, and strive to empathize with customers’ frustrations. Try to include simple statements of acknowledgement and reassurance, such as “I understand that the shipping delay is disrupting your plans. Let me see what I can do to help.” Showing this human empathy can help de-escalate a customer service situation quickly.

Companies that rely too much on canned, scripted, or even automated responses run the risk of alienating their customers. For example, an upset customer might initially believe that they’re receiving auto-replies via chat or email, even when a real person is responding. You can reduce these frustrations by training customer service representatives to introduce themselves by name and use natural, empathetic language.

2. Know what to automate.

Your company’s digital presence makes it possible for you to connect with an audience of thousands. The potential for visibility and engagement is much higher online compared to brick and mortar businesses. So a certain level of customer service automation is necessary to address everyone’s needs.

Related: The 4 Things Your Customers Really Want

For example, a customer who is struggling with the account creation process might benefit greatly from an automated email link to a page on your support site. However, your customers should also have the recourse to speak with your customer service representatives directly via chat, email, or phone. Automated responses should never be treated as a “one-size-fits-all” solution to all problems. It is likely that your customers will run into issues that your automated support systems cannot address.

3. Be transparent.

Once your customers decide to speak to a customer service representative, their options should be clearly available. Don’t try to hide your customer service contact information, because this can just lead to greater frustration. Be transparent about possible wait times based on your resources. Provide flexible options, such as scheduled call-backs or even video chat, so that customers don’t feel like they have to wait for long periods in a queue.

Companies run the risk of dehumanizing the customer service process by relying too heavily on automation or canned digital responses. You can build stronger customer relationships by “keeping it real” with genuine and empathetic assistance during chat sessions, email conversations, and phone calls.

Related: Good Work Plus These 3 Steps Converts New Customers Into Recurring Customers

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