​How technology can improve your customer service

​Are you doing everything you can to handle complaints and help your customers, online and offline? Make sure you don’t drop the ball …

1. Use social media to handle complaints

Social media is transforming the face of customer service. These days, if somebody has a problem with a brand, they’ll be on Facebook or Twitter before they’re even out of your shop. And everyone will know about it (and how you handle it). In fact, a study by Genesys found that 80% of the social media messages that companies get are about customer service, not marketing.

If you don’t respond well, or aren’t even on social media, the problem could escalate and you could have a PR crisis on your hands. So what does ‘best practice’ for social customer service look like?

  • Have a presence on the major social networks so you can respond to customer complaints.
  • Get your tone right. You don’t want to sound like an automated machine, but you have to sound like you’re taking the issue seriously.
  • Use tools like Hootsuite to track mentions of your brand and check it every day.
  • Suggest customers send you a direct message with their complaint, but don’t try to silence them or delete a negative comment — this will only make things worse.
  • Offer a solution and follow up with a phone call if you feel it’s needed.

It’s not just about minimising the negative: social media is amplifying positive word of mouth. NM Incite found that 71% of people who turn to social media for customer service and have a positive experience say they are likely to recommend the brand.

2. Don't forget your phone manner

Sometimes, only a phone call will do. But the biggest mistake businesses make is forgetting the basics: not answering their phones. You don’t need to hire a full-time receptionist, a phone system like BT Quantum can:

  • Personalise a message for your most frequent customers.
  • Redirect calls to your mobile phones.
  • Help you keep tabs on how you’re doing in terms of missed calls and call length.

3. Online customer service

Your website should be just as helpful as you are on the phone. Bad online customer service will alienate customers and waste your time solving problems that you should have fixed before the customer even ran into them.

Here's a few tips -

  • Create a page of FAQs (frequently asked questions) to answer the most common questions your customers have.
  • Be open and make it easy for visitors to find your contact details, including your phone number, email address, postal address and social media profiles.
  • Ask customers to log in to personalise their experience and let them access all their account details online.
  • Automate the sales process to keep customers in the loop about the status of their order or account.

4. Online forums and reviews

Reading a bad review or complaint can hurt. But since so many people use review sites to decide who to buy from, you can’t ignore them. All the usual rules apply: acknowledge their dissatisfaction, tell them how you will deal with it or explain why it happened and then put forward a solution.

You don’t have to trawl through all of them every day: you could use Google Alerts to notify you as soon as someone mentions you online. It’s also worth searching for your company online. If any review sites with negative comments pop up on the first page, you might want to focus on those first.

Don’t be tempted to pose as a customer when replying to somebody, though. The users of forums are pretty good at sussing out a fake post, and the damage to your reputation if you get found out isn’t worth the risk.

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