How to Win at Online Customer Service
By , posted on May 23, 2014

Running a successful online business isn’t just about your site’s traffic, conversions, or the products that you sell. All these are of course, critical, but one component you should never overlook is customer support. Remember that how you serve your customers after they purchased your products or services is just as–and in most cases–even more important than getting them to sign up in the first place.

A happy and loyal customer base breeds even more business. Repeat customers don’t just buy from you more often, they also tend to spend more. According to Laura Lake, “Repeat customers spend 33% more than new customers.”

Happy customers also tell their friends about you, so keeping your existing user base pleased will generate more business in the long term.

In this post, you’ll learn how to become a customer service rock star online. We’ll offer tips on how to deal with support issues on various channels, and what you can do to step up your customer service efforts.

Before all that though, let’s get a few customer service myths out of the way.


Myth #1: Only unhappy customers complain

The first mistake is thinking that only unhappy customers complain. Salesforce has found that less than 25% of customers voice their concerns when they’re dissatisfied. Meanwhile, the majority of your customers–roughly 70 to 96%–stay quiet, but are less loyal and tell around 3 people about their bad experience.

This is why you should be diligent about making sure that each and every user is satisfied. Take the initiative to reach out and follow-up with them after the purchase to get their feedback.


Myth #2: Speed is the most important thing in customer service

While being able to resolve customer complaints quickly is certainly a plus, bear in mind that speed isn’t everything. Multiple studies have shown that while people value speed when it comes to addressing their concerns, they actually have a higher regard for the quality of support as well as the attitude of the staff.

This is something you should instill in your customer support team. Let them know that being fast is important, but it should not compromise the quality of service that they provide.


Now that we’ve busted some customer service myths and have given you an overview of how to deal with complaints or concerns, let’s move on to more specific tactics. Below are some tips you can implement in your customer service department. Check them out and find ways to put them into action:


Live Chat

Live Chat is probably the most straightforward form of online customer support. If you haven’t done so yet, be sure to have a live chat app on your website so you can assist customers throughout their browsing or shopping experience.

Live Chat can be very effective in driving engagement, sales, and satisfaction. Econsultancy cites that this medium has “the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel, with 73%, compared with 61% for email and 44% for phone.”

If you already have a live chat app on your site, here are some pointers to help you make the most of it:

– Don’t immediately chat up your customers – Immediately jumping into a conversation can catch users by surprise and turn them off. Give them a few minutes to browse your site and let them get used to the experience. It’s also best to check out the pages they viewed and the amount of time they spent, first. Doing so will help you tailor your approach.

– Display your chat’s availability – Don’t have someone manning the chat app 24/7? Be sure to clearly display your “business hours” so people would know when to message you.

– Test, test, test – Which welcome messages work best? What’s the ideal time to approach customers? What should you tell them? The only way to answer these questions is to test out different live chat tactics.


Online Communities

Another popular form online support, having a branded support community for you business gives your users an avenue to discuss issues and ideas. If it makes sense for your business, consider setting up a forum where your customers can talk about known issues and brainstorm solutions. (Be sure to moderate these forums though.)

Do note that online communities aren’t for everyone. This form of customer support works best for software companies that have a wide and engaged user base. Before launching a support community of your own, first determine if it’s right format for your company.


Social Networks

Now this one is a must. Whether you’re a big business catering to a thousand users, or a local biz with a core customer base, offering customer service via social media is something that you should do. More and more people are turning to sites like Facebook and Twitter to air out their complaints or concerns. These posts are often public, so if left unchecked, they could end up ruining your reputation.

That’s why it’s essential to assign someone who can monitor your social feeds and quickly jump in and address customer concerns. Did someone tweet about a bad experience? Connect with them immediately and see how you can make it up to them. Did a customer leave a nasty post on your Facebook wall? Have someone reach out and make things right.


Review Websites

Review sites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor enable businesses to claim their listing and respond to reviews. If you’re listed in any of these sites, be sure to claim ownership and regularly monitor them so you can address the ratings and reviews of your customers.

Again, these reviews are public, so they can make or break your online rep. You can’t afford not to address them.


Offline Customer Service

Just because you’re an online business doesn’t mean you can ignore offline channels. Also offer phone support so people can call you with their concerns.

Having a phone number on your site doesn’t just give users another avenue to air their questions or complaints, it also builds trust. A phone number and physical address on your site makes you look more credible and offers a more “official” vibe.

  • Smart tips here. Speed counts, as does holding on to good customers and letting go bad customers 😉

    • Thanks, Ryan! And yep, letting go of bad customers has also worked for other companies. It takes guts to “fire” your problem customers; but when done right, it can increase profits, productivity, and enable the business to serve its customers better.

      Thank you for the comment!