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Customer Service Depends on Relationships Even in the Mobile Age Our instant-gratification culture means you need to respond quickly, provide value and let customers decide how and when to start the conversation.

By Cynthia Johnson

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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People access the internet on mobile devices more often than desktop computers, and that trend started years ago. It's also been well over a year since "mobilegeddon," when Google updated its algorithms to penalize websites without mobile counterparts.

With so many websites shifting to responsive design, consumers now turn to the mobile web and apps to address online shopping needs. Early adopters make purchases directly from their smartphones. Others use mobile devices to quickly look up items, consume product-specific content and discuss options with peers -- any time, anywhere.

The mobile browsing experience is remarkably different from surfing via desktop, and it's about much more than screen size. It's about immediacy and creating "micro moments" along the journey to purchase. A recent study shows that 63 percent of adults in the United States use their mobile devices several times in a given month to obtain customer support. Ninety percent of them reported poor experiences when interacting with customer support via mobile.

To maximize sales, customer satisfaction, repeat business and referrals, you must master the art of customer service for mobile. Here are three mobile realities to keep in mind, along with a few tips to help you handle them.

Nobody has time to wait for your slow reply.

The average response time for customer service requests is 17.5 hours. In the mobile age, instant gratification is the standard. Differentiate yourself by always responding within a few minutes.

  • Make sure your chosen customer-service software has a companion mobile app. You'll want to receive alerts when people reach out to you and reply quickly, even when you aren't at your computer. Nearly all leading service platforms, including LivePerson, offer this option.
  • Send an automatic response to every inquiry. Simply confirm you've received the message and you intend to reply within a specific amount of time. This lets your customers know their emails haven't disappeared into the abyss and assures them you have a target timeframe for addressing their issues. If you're uncertain you'll have an answer within the range you initially promised, make sure to let the customer know. Keep him or her updated on progress to show you're working to find the best possible solution. People don't always mind waiting, so long as they know they aren't being neglected or ignored.
  • Develop and maintain an extensive, up-to-date and easily navigable library of resources for customer-support team members. Your staff can refer to this approved library as they search for answers. Additionally, your team can link to this information as they offer in-depth explanations to customers and prospects alike.

Related: 7 Tactics That Show You're Getting Customer Service Right

Different people prefer different platforms.

Individuals will prefer to connect and communicate with you in different ways. For example, older people generally rely on their smartphones to make phone calls, while younger generations also depend on their devices for social media and texting.

To reach the most people as effectively as possible, provide the options they want for where and how to reach out to you.

  • Use a tool such as Bontact to offer many communication channels, all with a single platform. This allows people to choose their preferred means of contact (Facebook Messenger, Skype, email, text, phone and more). These tools also enable you to track individual relationships and carry the same conversation across multiple channels.
  • Everywhere you can, encourage people to reach out to you. Highlight these access points on your social media posts, the "About" blurbs for all social profiles, website footer, sidebar buttons and more. Let your audience see you're open and responsive to customer contact and feedback.
  • Create a thorough, rich knowledge base and FAQs library -- enabled with semantic search -- so people can locate answers before reaching out to you. Many people like to find the answers on their own before speaking with a customer-support agent. In fact, nearly one-third of millennials rather would clean a toilet than deal with customer service.

Your customer might or might not want to be your friend.

A cheery tone and emoji can be effective in a number of situations, but not all of them. While emoji are standard fare on mobile, they don't have a place in all mobile interactions. A customer who reaches out to you via your company's Facebook page doesn't necessarily want to be your friend.

Related: 6 Marketing Tactics That Build Lifelong Loyalty

Allow customers to take the lead when it comes to discussion tone. Remain friendly and courteous, without too much formality. But also keep in mind that a chummy tone might not be appropriate for some situations. Your assumed familiarity with customers depends on a number of variables, including your industry, the customer's age, his or her mood and even the channel you're using to correspond.

  • Make certain you are genuinely courteous. People know how authenticity looks and sounds. If you come off as anything less than truly genuine, you'll run the risk of turning away the customer.
  • If you notice someone is eager to be chummy with you, it's OK to do the same. Just make sure everything is done in good taste. Use light humor, GIFs and emoji where appropriate.
  • Remember, interacting with your prospects and customers is like any other relationship. As much as you want to endear yourself to them, building trust is even more important.

The bottom line.

Focus on making it easy for customers to get the help they want and need, whether they're using mobile devices or desktops. Create a rapid-response, professional and real relationship with the customer. You'll get a lot further than you would if you simply fixated on closing the sale.

Related: If You're Not Solving Somebody's Problem it's Time to Reconsider Why You're an Entrepreneur

Cynthia Johnson

Co-founder and CEO of Bell + Ivy, marketer, speaker and author

Cynthia Johnson is co-founder and CEO of Bell + Ivy. She is a marketer, speaker and author.

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