10 Easy Ways To Improve Customer Service and Interaction Online

17 Mar

It costs more to find a new customer than to keep an existing one’ and it’s no different online. Of all the time you dedicate to customer service, at least half of that should really be spent on retaining the customers you already have. And no, it doesn’t take as much time as you think. In fact, a lot of the things you can do to retain customers will improve your business processes and make you more efficient.

1 – Use Customer Relationship Software (CRM)

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be using a CRM. Many of them available today are completely online, so there’s no actual software to fight with. In return, you can track customers, include their social networks, keep records of complaints, and even collect information that will allow you to customize your offerings to meet their needs. I haven’t even mentioned mailing lists and list segmentation yet! Really, you can’t beat them.

There are all kinds out there to choose from. For large companies with involved processes, systems likeSalesforce will likely work best. If you’re a small business owner or service provider, you might consider something like Batchbook. Check out a number of platforms before making your decision because they all work differently and cater to a different set of needs.

2 – Social Media Monitoring and Social Networks

I can’t emphasize enough as a user, a consultant, or a business how important it is to monitor and interact with your customers on various social networks. I understand the interaction part of that statement takes time, but it’s well worth it. Not only can you improve brand loyalty and sell to new and existing customers, but the opportunity to catch bad PR and keep it controlled is really priceless.

How can you do it? I know I’ve recommended them before, but Google Alerts, while not always the best system, is a huge help. For social networks, you really can’t beat WhosTalkin. I use them both and regularly recommend them for my clients and can confidently say they’re worth far more than their weight in gold. Six Revisions also has a good collection of tool reviews if you’d like to know more (Scoutlabs and Radian6 are the big boys in the market, offering full monitoring, analytics, and analysis).

3 – Live Chat Systems

A short time ago, I had the privilege of being involved with a company that was struggling to get sales. It seemed like no matter what they did, they couldn’t seem to convert the traffic arriving onto their site into sales. Sure, they were getting some sales, but not like they had been a year or two prior. So what did they do? Installed a live chat system on their website.

With this system, they were able to monitor visitors as they went through the sales process, and offer assistancewhen they seemed to be looking for information or having difficulties. They not only greatly improved conversions, but were able to collect a ton of useful feedback about their sales process, copy, and products. They simply couldn’t have done it without this.

WoopraSightMax and several other programs have this integrated right into their systems, but there are plenty of separate systems as well. There’s even a WordPress Plugin for this! Seriously. If nothing else, try it.

4 – Guarantee, Warranty, and Complaints

A lot of new clients come to me thinking that, if they don’t offer a warranty, guarantee, or give customers a chance to complain, they’ll have fewer complaints and less work if a customer isn’t happy. They’re right. Sort of. The truth is, if you don’t give customers a chance to give feedback or make them feel like they can rely on the products and services provide, they’ll just go elsewhere. This is a recipe for disaster.

Make sure your customers know there’s a guarantee in place and their money is safe. Even if they don’t use it, knowing it’s there will help them trust you, and this is a vital trait in any sale. The important thing to remember is, even if you don’t offer a guarantee or warranty, you’re going to get idiots who just want to take advantage of you and make money. The same goes for feedback and complaints. Make it as easy as possible. (And don’t forget email lists — make it as easy for people to unsubscribe as it is to subscribe to your lists!)

5 – Stay In Contact With Customers

This is a bit of a tricky one. Some are tempted to just send out a blanketed email message every so often. The problem with this concept is that it certainly doesn’t make a customer feel special. If you really want to keep in touch with your customers, send a personal note or even a hand written one every so often, even if it’s just 30 days after a purchase to find out how that person is getting along. The point is, people don’t like to be treated like anonymous cattle.

6 – Battle Shopping Cart Abandon Head On

If someone leaves your site in the middle of the purchasing process, take a few minutes to find out why. You might be amazed by what you find out. It might even end up making you a sale in the process. Regardless, this gives you actionable information you can use to improve your business and your site.

7 – Indentify Your Most Important Buyers

All customers are important, regardless of how ‘big’ they are online or how much ‘influence’ they have. However, customers who buy a lot regularly are your bread and butter and should be treated as such. Go through your lists and identify your most important customers. Then, assign them each their own service reps or at least make time to contact them regularly. Offering them added value services and products are also a great help.

8 – Feature Your Customers

Everyone loves praise and likes to be acknowledging for the things they’re doing. Make special opportunities to feature your customers on your site, in your marketing, newsletters, and content. As a bonus, the verification you get will help you drive more paying customers to your site. There are lots of companies that do this well. ThinkGeek is a great example. They use customer photos all over and offer discounts in return.

9 – Go the Extra Mile

Repeat after me: “Underpromise and overdeliver. Always take that extra step.” Wowing a customer is the first step to making and keeping them loyal. Deliver early if you can, extend sales to existing customers, and give them special deals they couldn’t get otherwise. Free gifts without a hitch are always a good way to please customers (but only if you’ve done your homework first)! It’s easy to do, and you’ll find yourself doing less damage control because, even if they are disappointed, they aren’t likely to be as upset about it if they generally receive good service and value from you.

10 – Collect and Use Customer Input

Have you ever seen that movie Kate and Leopold? In it, the brother tells Leopold to wait to turn the dishwasher on until the girl (Kate) could see it. This way, she would notice that he did it and earn him the brownie points he was looking for. This is great advice for businesses too.

Routinely take time out to ask customers how their experience is and what you could do better. Then, use it and make sure the customer and everyone else know you used it. It will prompt more feedback, and your business will be all the better for it.


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