You’ve nailed your brand, you have a logo, your social media accounts are set up and on a roll, you have a great product or service offering, you’ve been making sales and you’re enjoying what you do… except that eventually, this doesn’t mean much if you’re not offering exceptional online customer service.
Online Customer Service is being available to your customers in the online space: email, social media, live chat (for some businesses), comments on blog posts… anywhere your business shows up online where people can reach out to you is where you need to be. This isn’t to say that you need to be available 24/7, we all need boundaries and a work/life balance however if a customer reaches out to you about an issue, you bet you need to show up and handle it and make it right for them.
Customer issues are only a small part of the overall experience for a customer, or potential customer, online. It’s as simple as ensuring you’re responding to people who comment on your Instagram profile, or tweet at you or ask a question on Facebook. When these things go ignored, even if it’s a small comment that isn’t an issue, is when you start to break the trust of your community.
You should be pouncing on answering them because this is how you build up brand advocacy. By connecting with your people who are taking the time to reach out to you, this lets them know that you are available and you are going to support them if they do need you. In turn, if there’s ever a point (heaven forbid!) that a crisis goes down surrounding your brand, it’s these people who will step up and become your biggest and loudest cheerleaders among the naysayers.
The other thing exceptional online customer service brings is the ability to humanize your brand. People engage with people and are more likely to want to remain connected when they feel that they’re being heard and are a part of your world. You also become memorable to people, so when there is an opportunity for your brand to be referred, you’ll stand out above and beyond the brand who sells the exact same thing but doesn’t engage with their people.
Earlier I mentioned what your community can do in times of a brand crisis and that is brand advocacy, but having strong online customer service in times of crisis also means that a small problem doesn’t turn into a very large problem. I’ve seen brands ignore issues online and it’s only made it worse because then people feel ignored.
If your business made a mistake, own up to it, get into the real conversation, trust your community to listen and understand but show up online in this same capacity. Don’t wait days to respond, deal with it as soon as it comes up, even if you need to be honest in saying that you need to get some more information before you can comment. An answer is definitely better than no answer.
Having exceptional online customer service also helps to create more content for your business. By having a twitter conversation with someone, they could retweet what you’re saying to them, which goes out to their network.
When I was working for Lululemon, a guest had tweeted at us asking, "Is your clothing made out of gold or something? It's expensive!" and I turned it around with a cheeky response, "Silver, actually", which was a nod to Lululemon's silverescent fabric (anti-stink fabric) and spoke to her mention of Lululemon's clothes being laced with some kind of commodity. She loved it and retweeted it to her thousands of followers. Day = made.
So, now that I’ve let you know how and why online customer service is super, duper important I want to let you know the places to make sure you’re showing up and what makes a good response.
You want to ensure that whoever is owning your online/customer space completely knows and understands your brand voice. This means your brand’s tone of voice, how you type online and what kind of personality your brand has. This shows consistency across your brand and shows your people online that they know they can count on you.
Regardless of what your brand voice is, obviously being friendly and timely is always necessary. If you’re a one-person business, ensuring you’re letting everyone know that you’re going on vacation or what your business hours are is a really great way to provide exceptional online customer service.
Simple thank-you’s are powerful because it still shows that you took the time to connect back to the person who took the time to connect your business online. Changing up your answers to the same kinds of questions you might get repeatedly shows that you take the time to provide a thoughtful response (Let’s be honest, no one enjoys a canned response). Using the person’s name provides a nice little touch.
So where do you show up to respond to people? Anywhere they are. Wherever you have your brand online is where you need to be. Having a bit of a schedule of what to check and when is always a good plan so nothing gets missed.
Holiday season is just around the corner, which means people are about to go on a buying frenzy so now is the time to get really strong in how you show up as a business online. Making sure whoever responds to your online community knows the ins and outs of your refund policy or holiday closing dates is really important. Getting back to people in a timely manner and with a bit of holiday cheer is going to make a huge difference. Position your business as an online customer service leader and use the holidays to make your biggest impact when people will need you the most.
Since the holidays are nearly here, I’ve created a social media holiday checklist to ensure you don’t forget a thing for your online presence while you are busy with every other part of your business.
How do you provide amazing customer service? Any tips? Let me know in the comments!
By Morgan Dunn
Aside from running her social media consultancy business, she’s an Australian native who was lured to the land of maple syrup and 'eh' from a young age and has never looked back. When she’s not in front of the computer geeking out on social media, you can find her between Vancouver and Whistler, BC, trail running, biking, enjoying a good savasana or snowboarding (When the weather calls for it, of course). Morgan lives with her boyfriend and furbaby (Who sometimes assists in coaching sessions; the cats love the internet did you know?) in their little home in the mountains. You can connect with her on Instagram @thatgirlmorgs