How’s your customer service? Above and beyond? Average? Needs attention?
In the not too distant past, customer questions and complaints would come via the ring of the telephone or plop in your letterbox neatly sealed in a crisp white envelope. The digital age means your customer can now use any number of avenues to contact you; social media, email, website form or even in blog comments, if you have them, switched on.
While all this communication is great, it can put extra pressure on small to medium businesses who are solo traders or have a small number of staff. However your customer chooses to contact you, you must be ready answer questions and address complaints in a timely manner.
To provide excellent customer service in the digital age keep the following in mind:
Social media matters
Your customers will communicate with your business via the medium they feel most comfortable with. For some people this will be a direct conversation over the telephone, others will head straight for their favourite social media platform.
If you have a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google + or similar business site you need to be vigilant. Consumers will ask questions (or make complaints) via private and public message and even in comments to posts.
No matter how your customer chooses to interact with you their communication is important as it keeps you in touch with how you and your business is performing in their eyes. If you are unable to answer immediately, acknowledge their question and let them know you’ll get back to them as soon as you can.
Website forms and email
Unbelievably, some large companies still think it’s acceptable to take 7 days to answer an enquiry via the web or email! If you rang them on the telephone would they take a message and call you back in 7 days? This is not an acceptable level of customer service, especially if you want customers to continue doing business with you.
The digital age has sped things up—information is available in an instant, online goods arrive on your doorstep within a day or two and you can connect with people all over the world. Instantly. This quicker pace means your customers will expect things to happen a lot faster on your end.
Any communication via a website form or email should be answered within a maximum of 24 hours. Although a little on the impersonal side, auto email responders should be set up to acknowledge an enquiry has been successfully delivered and they can expect a human to respond to them shortly.
When the going gets tough
Complaints or public whinging about your brand can be lurking anywhere. Accept that you won’t be able to control everything being said about your company but vow to do your best to respond professionally and quickly when you’re aware of it. If a customer makes a legitimate complaint publically, acknowledge it and invite them to discuss it privately.
Keep your response simple: “Hi XYZ, We’re sorry to hear your ABC product isn’t as you expected. Please email us via firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact details so we can rectify the problem”. Don’t put the onus on them to call you, simply ask for their details so you can follow up with them.
Negative comments or general whinging about your brand needs to be assessed on a case by case basis. Sometimes it’s better not to respond if there appears to be no basis for the complaint.
Remember without customers you have no business.