Regardless of your industry or how much experience you have, customer service will always be challenging -- not impossible, but challenging. This is because you can’t possibly please everyone. In the digital age, customer service is exponentially more challenging than it’s ever been. However, by learning to utilize technology – instead of letting it lead to your demise – you can actually enhance your company’s customer service like never before.
The keys to customer service
Regardless of whether it’s traditional face-to-face customer service or communication in the digital age, there are some standard principles every organization should adhere to.
Customers are generally pretty good at telling the difference between shady tactics and honest communication. As an organization, you should attempt to be as honest and transparent as possible in all situations. Even if it isn’t what the customer wants to hear, you’ll come out looking credible and believable in the future.
Customer service is all about solving problems and providing information. If you can’t do anything else, be helpful. Be known as the company that provides clear answers to questions and concerns.
Your customer service is nothing without credibility. If you want what you say to ring true in the customers’ ears, it has to be backed by truth. This goes hand in hand with honesty, but also extends to knowledge of specific products and services. Anyone who deals directly with customers should have a thorough understanding of your company and everything it offers.
How easy is your customer service process? It should be simple and effortless for customers to get in touch with you. The easier you make it, the better those lines of communication will be. On the other hand, the harder you make it, the less trust customers will have in you.
Over deliver. The old principle of under-promise and over-deliver will always hold its value. Whenever possible, tell people you can only do ABC and aim for XYZ. This ensures your organization always comes out on top.
The problem with the digital age
While advancements in technology have certainly made communication easier in many regards, they have also brought some unique problems. For example, while the internet is a great tool for engaging customers in conversation, it’s also added noise. In essence, it’s spread companies thin and forced them to pay attention to dozens of different channels and outlets. Instead of merely manning the phone lines and answering emails, organizations must respond to social media posts, seek out customer testimonials, and produce fresh content on a regular basis.
Tips to make your business more responsive
Your business needs to start by focusing on responsiveness. How can you position your organization so that it quickly responds to customer queries with accuracy, honesty, and helpfulness? Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Publish information: Stop hoarding your information! If you want to proactively respond to customers, you need to publish your information and make it readily accessible any time they need it. There are a handful of ways to do this, but the easiest is by providing self-help guides and manuals on your website. You can also set up automatic reply emails that help people solve their own problems.
2. Let customers know what’s happening: The minute you let customers out of the loop is the moment they lose trust and move on to your competitor. Good customer service involves keeping customers updated on new developments and changes through your website and various social media outlets.
3. Always listen: Communication goes both ways and you must listen in order to respond. “Pay attention to every site online" where people might be talking about you, so you can find each and every complaint and make sure none of them go ignored,” says Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Local.
4. Focus on internal collaboration: Your level of responsiveness is directly tied to the internal health of your organization. Is the communication inside your company good enough? According to Invision, a prototyping, collaboration, and workflow platform provider, it’s critical that everyone is on the same page. If your communication structure is compromised on the inside, it will show when you attempt to respond to your customers.
Handling customer service on social media
When companies ask about handling customer service in the digital age, most questions revolve around social media. That’s because it’s the one tool that has the potential to either greatly enhance customer interactions or completely ruin them. Here are some tips for maximizing your interactions with customers via social media:
5. Keep an eye out: You can’t respond to things you don’t see, so make sure you’re constantly on the lookout for conversations regarding your brand or company. Set up Google Alerts for industry keywords, regularly check review websites, and keep tabs on all your social media accounts. Information should be recorded and tracked for future analysis.
6. Know when to respond: In the social media world, not every comment, criticism, or question deserves a response. When you see something pop up regarding your brand, start by evaluating it and determining whether you need to respond. You should avoid criticism if it’s found on a small blog or website, if you believe your response would only bring attention to it. When there is a question regarding whether or not to respond, consider what’s to be gained. If nothing good can come out of it, simply ignore it.
7. Humanize your brand: When you do choose to respond, don’t come back with a cold, corporate answer. For customers, the value of social media is that it allows for direct communication. Humanize your brand by speaking in terms that people understand and believe. You’re trying to respond, not sell yourself.
8. Never fight: The number one rule of engaging with customers on social media is to avoid fights. Nothing good can come out of a fight and you’ll always end up looking like the bad guy.
In the end, successfully tackling customer service in the digital age requires you to be nimble and responsive. While you can’t directly respond to every criticism or question, you can position yourself to address the ones that truly matter by ensuring you’re prepared inside and out.