How to Improve Online Customer Service: 5 Proven Methods

Providing customer service online may be tricky. Your customers want an instant response, but they may still need human assistance from your employees. So, how to keep a customer on the site and make her happy?

Customer service can make or break your business, even if you operate online. How to organize customer service for your website, and what know-hows to introduce to ensure your visitors become loyal customers?

Customer Service: Past and Present

Strange as it may sound, there was the time when customer service was not considered important. Businessmen thought that consumers had to be thankful they had a chance to buy something, so they did not care much about their sentiment.

Gradually, things began to change, and customer service came to the fore as the means to resolve conflicts and drive sales. Companies took to developing “code of conducts” and “ethical policies” as they understood that customer care was the foundation of their success.

Moving online, if only partially, after the year 2007 brought more concerns to businesses. Social networking became a popular channel to share consumer opinions about services and goods. They also opened the unknown land of public relations with consumers, which many businesses were hesitant to enter for fear of doing or saying the wrong thing. However, success stories of both giant multinationals and small local businesses showed: every company would have to embrace the web if it wanted to stay alive.

Today, accommodating the customers’ needs either offline or online is almost taken for granted. Not only do businesses deploy various technical services to make browsing the website and making purchases smooth and hassle-free, they also care for their own needs. For instance, they use a website lightbox to retain customers and improve their engagement.

5 Ways to Improve Your Online Customer Service

So, if you are running a website for your business, what can you do to improve your customer service and push customer care to the next level? Below are some ideas that may be particularly useful or which you can use as a stepping stone in developing your consumer relations.

Various Contact Options

How can your customers reach you, if needed? Include as many contact options as possible. A toll-free number is a must if you trade country-wise. If you only trade locally, provide a mobile or landline number for your customers. Emails are still popular but allocate some time to understand which social networks your customers use and create customer care profiles there, too. It will mean that your customer service employees will have to undergo additional training, but the result may be totally worth it. A contact form on the site is another must. To avoid getting too much spam through it, add a CAPTCHA.

Most importantly: signpost all contact options clearly, so your customers instantly see what choice they have. There is nothing more daunting than browsing a website where you would like to make a purchase and seeing no contacts AT ALL.

Real-time Customer Care

Some customers may not be entirely happy about pop-up windows with a robotic assistant offering them help. This is the way forward, however, in terms of online customer service. Depending on the scale of your business, different bots may be applied to different needs. For instance, banks widely use robotic assistants that substitute telephone bots. They have a variety of preset questions and answers and help make a preliminary choice on the website. Another kind of bot that we often find on sites may be human-operated. Through a pop-up window, a customer may ask for personal help choosing a product, for a call-back, or enquire about an existing order. Nearly all sites that provide services or sell goods use this latter type of on-site assistant.

Self-Service Options

We know these customers who never want to be approached in the store. They prefer to have an upper hand in their decisions, and you can respect that even on a website. Let your customers make an informed choice by providing the following:

  • a FAQ page;
  • a Wiki;
  • explainer videos;
  • a free e-book.

You do not need to use them all; just pick one or two that will be relevant to your customers and make it visible in navigation. A page with FAQ is likely to save tons of time to your customers and service people alike.

Social Proof

Other customers’ reviews used to scare the businesses more than an economic crisis. A storm of criticism may be nerve-wracking indeed, but it can also help improve the product or service. On the other hand, having positive reviews on the site may drive sales better than traditional advertising.

If asked, website owners would prefer to post specially written reviews as comments on the site. In this case, they feel in control of criticism. However, customers spend most of their personal time on social networks. A review left by someone via their Facebook or Twitter profile dons credibility to the opinion, and this is what social proof is about. People do not like being conned, so provide them with an option to comment via Facebook or another social network, and you will gradually build a loyal clientele.

Lightbox Pop-ups

In addition to products that are always “in stock” on the site, there may be some special ones that you want to specifically offer to your visitors. A lightbox pop-up is excellent for:

  • extra content (e.g. an e-book);
  • free email subscriptions;
  • extra discounts;
  • warning messages (e.g., an abandoned cart).

When designing a pop-up like this, make sure it

  • does not cover the entire screen;
  • has a catchy but not irritating design;
  • delivers a clear message;
  • and has noticeable buttons.

This is a great way to keep a customer browsing, to extend their time on the site, and even to convert them.

Conclusion

Customer service is a cornerstone of every business today, alongside product development. Every investment here will provide an impressive return in sales and happy, loyal customers. Study the opportunities your business has here and do not hesitate to blend the best practices with your own experiments.