Have you ever left a store because of the customer service? Either they were too overbearing, nowhere to be found, or downright rude? The same can go for shopping online. If you don’t get the support you need, you’re unlikely to finalize your purchase. So, what are the best practices of online customer support to make sure you make sales and don’t lose them?
We talked to Craig Borowski, market researcher for the help desk recommendations website Software Advice and he shared his tips for best customer support practices.
You did a survey on live chat customer service—what was the most surprising thing you learned from this?
This was one of our more interesting surveys and the results opened a lot of eyes. I think the biggest surprise was the degree to which live chat is a strong preference with consumers, and not just younger consumers who are more accustomed to similar forms of communication (like SMS chatting with friends) but with older generations as well. We expected the preference to drop off much more quickly as the respondent's age went up.
What role does customer support play in making online sales?
Buyers these days have a lot of options, especially when it comes to shopping online. If a potential customer has a question about a product and they can’t find the answer quickly and easily on one website, they’ll usually have no difficulty finding their answer, and making their purchase on a competing site.
How should businesses offer customer support (email, live chat, other)?
There really isn’t any one-size-fits-all answer for providing the best customer support. It depends on the context and the system the business is using for their help desk or customer service team. We can say, however, that whichever channel is most convenient, and requires the lowest amount of customer effort, will oftentimes be the best. For ecommerce—or any other context where customers, the company and its product or service interact online—then live chat is often the best. But live chat is best for providing quick, easy answers.
Note: Want to try out live chat on your own Jimdo website? Check out some of our favorite, easy-to-install customer service widgets.
How do customer support preferences vary by age?
For the most part, online shoppers have a very strong preference for live chat. This is especially true of millennials and other younger generations, but it’s increasingly true of older generations as well. The degree of live chat preference over other channels, like phone, varies by age. But age isn’t the only factor, a lot depends on how well the company implements live chat. For example, if a live chat window invites someone to chat too often or at the wrong time, then that can easily annoy customers, regardless of their age.
What are some creative ways the businesses you surveyed are using live chat?
One of the most interesting things we saw businesses do was co-browsing. Co-browsing is a live chat feature that lets a customer give permission to a live chat agent to temporarily take control of their web browser. The agent can then give a sort of virtual tour of products on the website, recreating the more personalized experience shoppers have when they’re assisted by salespeople in brick-and-mortar stores.
More and more companies too are using analytics to decide when to offer a live chat conversation. So rather than offer it to every visitor, it can be offered to specific visitors based on their past or current activity on the company’s website. For example, if a customer has spent twenty minutes browsing an online FAQ page, then the company might assume they have a question they can’t find an answer to. A well-timed offer to live chat, using language specific to the customer’s actions, can really impress customers.
What are best practices for responding to unhappy customers via chat, email, and social media?
Always remain calm, respectful and professional. Make the customer understand that their problem is being listened to, taken seriously and that the agent handling their complaint will work with them toward a resolution. Complaints on social media need to be handled with particular care and attention, because they’re public. If the interaction goes poorly, it could affect the brand’s reputation. When a customer complains on social media, companies often acknowledge the complaint online, but then find a way to switch to phone or email to work toward a resolution. This protects the customer’s privacy, and mitigates the risk that one very vocal complainer will dominate the online conversation and affect how others feel about the company.
What are new or future trends you predict in customer support?
I expect we will begin to see more intelligent live chat implementations, including those that are more contextually aware and those that are able to track customer usage to better tailor the responses they receive. We already see many businesses refining their chat implementations manually and through better agent training. A few years ago, consumers who initiated a chat would often be greeted by an agent with one thing on their mind: sell, sell, sell. Companies are realizing the power of a live chat engagement, and branching its use cases out to departments other than sales.
Content Marketing and PR at Jimdo
Melissa joined Jimdo in August 2014 to support social media, public relations, and the blog. She has experience in marketing ranging from event management to content marketing. When Melissa isn’t drafting a blog post, you can find her watching stand-up comedy, attending a concert, or rooting for the Oregon Ducks.