If you have been in business for any length of time you know that customer service is perhaps the most important aspect of commerce. Learn how you can use Internet technology in creative ways to help provide your customers with the best service on the planet and outshine your competitors.
What Exactly IS Customer Service, Anyway?
I was curious about how the world’s collective intelligence summed up the term so I turned to Wikipedia.org: “the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase.”
I really like that definition but I would like to expand upon it…
Truly exceptional customer service is not merely a set of policies, procedures and formulas. It is an attitude; a way of life. It is literally serving your customers as individuals. When delivering quality service is important to you your customers will know it by how you treat them. Companies who make service a high priority value their customers more than the individual transaction. They never take their customers for granted. If they make a mistake they will take responsibility for it and do whatever it takes to make it right. They make it as easy to do business with them as humanly possible and they employ creativity by making their customers’ lives better.
The Internet Is Awesome — Use It to Your Fullest Potential
When you hear the phrase “customer service,” what exactly comes to mind? A call center and toll-free phone number? Perhaps a questionnaire included in the packaging of your product? While these resources are valuable, the World Wide Web can revolutionize how you serve your customers without costing a lot of money. Think outside the box; leverage the Web to your fullest advantage and your customers will thank you.
Here are some ways you can use your website to provide cutting-edge service that your customers will love:
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
No matter what business you’re in, there are probably a few questions that customers ask over and over again. Wouldn’t it make sense to collect those questions and produce a page with that content as well as the answers? This way your customers can save a phone call and get some if not most of their questions answered quickly just by viewing that page on your site.
- Searchable Knowledge Base
Most people using the Web today are information junkies. They want to find the answer to their question or issue immediately and with ease. They want self-service and a knowledge base provides just that. A knowledge base is a searchable collection of articles organized by topic which allows visitors to find solutions to their issues as quickly as possible.
- Live Chat
If your customer needs help immediately and they don’t have time to search through a knowledge base or read a page of FAQs then live chat can be a life saver. This feature allows them to communicate with someone at your business through your website using an instant messaging program. If you’re going to implement this on your site make sure to keep it manned during your business hours.
- Web Forms
Online forms, through which site visitors can submit information, are a great way to serve your existing and prospective customers. There are many uses for this technology. Some examples include a quote/estimate request, appointment scheduling, and customer satisfaction survey. However you choose to use them, web forms allow your website users to be proactive in communicating their needs and doing so on their terms instead of requiring a phone call.
People love free stuff, and your website is a great place to provide it, but that material should have value to your customers. Has someone in your organization written a white paper that would be of interest to your target market? If so then publish it on your website and make it easy to find. If you’re in the software business provide fully-functional, downloadable trial versions of your products that are good for 30 days. If you sell electronics then publish the user manuals in PDF format on your site.
Publish a blog on your website and update it regularly with fresh articles on subjects of interest to your specific customers. Not just fluffy sales pieces that don’t offer any useful information. Real content that saves them time, money or both. Show that you’re interested in providing valuable and timely material that will benefit them, free of charge.
Be Open to Feedback and Be Willing To Change
Some of the best ideas out there will come from your customers. Listen to them. Ask them for input and be willing to implement their ideas. You might be surprised by what you’ve been missing or how making simple adjustments can make a huge difference. Never be too stubborn to consider a suggestion, and always consider your customers’ perspective when evaluating how your business can be improved.
Cool technology is no substitute for good, old-fashioned customer service. Implement features on your website that will enrich your customers’ lives but always remember to serve them, too. Make sure a human being answers the phone when customers call. Return voicemails and e-mails in a timely fashion. Make sure to empathize with frustrated customers when they’re dissatisfied and offer solutions instead of getting defensive. In short, use common sense and always treat people like you would want to be treated. Your customers will thank you with.