Digital Customer Service: Best Practices for Small Businesses

It has been more than one year since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) changed the world. It has also changed how entrepreneurs are running businesses to try to stay afloat. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, people will continue to work from home and do everyday activities online in compliance with social distancing measures and other safety protocols to curb the spread of the disease.

As people and businesses adjust to the new normal, new ways are being discovered and created to continue operations. One of the things that have changed is customer service. Today, we are entering the digital age of customer service. In fact, many customers are expecting businesses to transition to digital customer service.

What is digital customer service

Digital customer experience combines all digital interactions—chat, messaging, phone, co-browsing, social, online voice, and video—for customer care, using any combination of bots and human agents.

digital age of customer service

If technology is constantly advancing in the form of mobile phones, mobile apps, and web-based communications, so are consumers. In fact, they expect businesses to be as advanced as the technology continually being produced and released to the market.

Though some businesses have been slow in the uptake, significant strides have been made to create new channels for their customers to reach them and draw new ones.

Businesses must invest and switch to digital customer service because online consumers have bigger demands in terms of customer service and satisfaction. A customer’s impression of a brand is created from the first impression. If the company does not provide a consistent digital experience, the customer’s loyalty to the brand erodes.

In addition, most customers today are Gen Z-ers and millennials, and they are all active participants and users of technology. What’s more, by utilizing social media and other technology, you are gearing up your business to better innovations that will eventually come out.

How to deal with digitally-savvy customers

Below are some of the best practices in digital customer service for optimum customer experience:

  1. Meet your customers. Before the age of digital customer service, a business would receive complaints and commendations from customers through phone calls. But now, there are multiple channels where customers can leave comments, complaints, or reviews.

This is actually a good thing because you will be alerted when somebody is talking about your brand so you can meet your customers halfway. This also allows you to learn and listen to what they have to say about your business. However, searching for your brand can get tiresome and difficult if you are not tech-savvy. Here are some ways to make this easier for you:

  • Use social media to your advantage. Today, millions of people are on social media, so it is wise to engage with them here. It is easy to create a social media profile that can also be used as an ecommerce platform outside your website.

Through social media, you get to engage with shoppers on your ecommerce store as they tag you in their online postings, which can act as free marketing.

  • Create Google Alerts for mentions of your brand online.
  • Save searches on social media for mentions of your brand, services, and products. Include common misspellings of your brand, products, and services when searching or creating alerts.
  • Third-party apps such as Mention and Hootsuite are useful tools for automated listening.
  • Create a dedicated customer support email address and telephone number, and place them in platforms that can be easily seen. Some customers would still rather contact you through these means. Include business hours, as well, to make customers know the times that you are available.
  • Set up a review page in sites like Yelp and Google My Business.
  • Create rules of engagement. Once you have established a communication channel, you have to set up rules of engagement or guidelines on responding. Do the following when dealing with customers:
  • Respond to messages within 24 hours. Customers love feeling valued. Firstly, define the amount of time a consumer can wait before you respond to their messages. Second, if a customer leaves a message or comment on your social media page, always respond.

A simple “Thank You” will do wonders because it means that you appreciate the time they spent reaching out and leaving a message.

  • Do not leave messages of praise and complaints unacknowledged. This makes it appear that your company is out of touch and oblivious to its surroundings.
  • Never argue. There are times that miscommunication and misunderstanding will happen, especially in a digital platform. For these types of engagements, do not approach with hostility, even if the customer is in the wrong. Instead, do it with empathy and understanding.
  • Make sure that the information you are giving to your customers is the same and consistent. Provide your staff with a script that contains common questions customers may ask, rules of engagement, and announcements that your customers must be made aware of.
  • You can also publish the information or frequently asked questions (FAQs) on your website or social media pages to give your customers a chance to solve their own problems before contacting you. Take note of new questions to add later on.
  • Another way to be consistent with your information is to release a video for more snackable info.
  • Instead of typing your replies randomly to your customers, use a template for more consistent messaging. Create various templates so that the messaging does not seem cold and automated (even though it may be automated).
  • Be aware of recent digital trends when it comes to dealing with customers, especially new technologies.

Digital customer service trends

As digital customer service is becoming the new norm for businesses, including telecommunications, electricity and utilities, banks and financial institutions, ecommerce, and the like, these trends are shaping up to becoming mainstays, making significant advances in the quality of customer experience.

  1. VoIP Phone. A voice-over internet protocol (VoIP) phone is a technology that allows you to make voice calls using an internet connection instead of a traditional phone line. Unlike traditional phones, VoIP can also be used for video conferencing, email, and instant messaging. These are the other advantages to using a VoIP business phone:
  • Cost-saving
    • Scalability
    • Mobility
    • Simplified and wireless system
    • Can be used remotely and in multiple locations
    • Better Productivity
    • Automated and smart, streamlined and more efficient communication system
  • Artificial intelligence. (AI) has become an essential tool for brands because of the many ways it has improved the customer experience: helping businesses understand customers better, providing a real-time decision, and offering predictive behavior analysis through data mining and algorithms.
  • Chatbots. Chatbots also use AI to automate sales and marketing tasks. Plus, it allows brands to scale their service by up to 70%, as AI chatbots can answer FAQs instead of going directly to a customer service representative. Numerous companies focus on creating chatbots and other tools to help other businesses improve their customer service.
  • Algorithms. Businesses today use algorithms to create personalized, timely, and relevant experiences. These are sourced from search engines, search engine optimization (SEO), and ad clicks.
  • Video. Videos have become an excellent tool for promoting a brand, especially now with the rise of social media platforms that use short or snackable videos such as Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. YouTube is still a popular video platform but for videos that are longer than 60 seconds. Brands also use videos as marketing materials to promote their services and products.
  • Using social messaging apps. With the pandemic limiting certain services, companies have shifted to social messaging apps such as Viber and WhatsApp to reach their clients and draw in new ones.

This kind of digital customer service and marketing has become effective as more and more people prefer texting or messaging their concerns to brands rather than calling. What’s more, by using social messaging apps, companies can utilize chatbots and automation.

Customer service goes digital

With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, it is difficult to predict when businesses will return to normal operations. But as long as there are customers who need your products and services, companies will continue to flourish. Fortunately, there are several ways to continue operations, thanks to the digital technology available today.

Digital customer services give companies new ways to stay connected with customers. By having efficient digital customer service, your business will improve significantly, bringing you more profits and growth opportunities and ultimately exceeding your customer’s expectations.

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