This is every retail employee’s most resented phrase. But in-person customer service skills used to be all a representative needed. Clients would enter a shop with a problem and the sales associate or manager would have to physically agree on the solution.
I do not recall the last time I walked into a store to discuss a problem. In present day, there are multiple channels and ways to get ahold of the company whose service you require.
To get a better idea of how users are looking to get in touch with organizations, let’s talk these methods and channels out.
The following channels are just a few examples of how you can get and stay in touch with those who support your business.
Have you ever been publicly shamed? It does not feel good. Having your dirty laundry or mistakes aired out for others to see is not only embarrassing as an individual, but it can even be harmful to a company or organization. Users often take to social media to air their grievances because it invokes a response from both their following, and the vendor.
Once a vendor realizes there’s a conversation going on publicly about an issue it’s imperative to jump in and respond. How you respond is dependent on your company vibe and audience relationships.
Spotify's customer service strategy involves a lot of Jeff Goldblum Gifs:
Sometimes, companies will respond in a snarky or sarcastic way, which is relatable to the joking or roasting culture that is common for Twitter users. Many others take a more earnest approach, apologizing for the situation and promising a solution.
Your company should interact on social media in a way that is most in line with your brand. If you’re an insurance company known mainly for tweeting promotional information, it would be out of character to joke around with or tease an unhappy customer. If you’re an organization whose social media presence is overwhelmingly casual and fun — take @MoonPie, for example — it would make more sense to send a playful or sarcastic response.
No matter what, always keep your audience in mind, and consider which is the best way to respond in any situation. When you’re on social, you don’t know who’s watching or taking screenshots for later. Even if something is online for a second or minute, a user may have already captured it and can share it with their following.
Live chatting is another quick and easy way customers have recently been able to get in touch with support. Cable companies and phone companies alike are beginning to offer assistance through live chats with agents.
Live chat software allows customers to continue on with their chores or business while they wait for an agent to respond, as opposed to being tied up in the store or on the phone. It also creates documentation or textual proof of the conversation so there can be no bones about what information was given, or what solution was decided on.
Many organizations are also adopting chat windows on their website homepages in case visitors have questions or want additional clarification. This gets them talking to an informed employee who has a chance to make a positive impression.
This also provides the opportunity to collect a visitor’s contact information, should they be willing to provide it. The company could later choose to reach back out to that client to see if they have further questions or if they have continued interest in that organization’s products or services.
Find the best live chat software solution for your business, according to real user reviews from people like you.
Phone calls and call centers are still a viable way to contact customer service representatives or, for smaller businesses, the employees and managers themselves. It may seem old hat to pick up the phone and dial your way through a phone tree, but this is still a main form of communication for much of the population, as well as many organizations who have yet to adopt other methods.
Depending on your good or service, phone communication may make more sense than a live chat. Many drug stores or stores with multiple departments use phone trees as a way to direct questions to the correct employee. Larger organizations have call centers built out with employees whose roles center around the efficient handling of phone communications.
We will talk more about how to develop a phone call or call center strategy in a further chapter on which software solutions can help you with customer service strategies.
Portals are only relevant for organizations that have a customer-facing web solution. For example, if you’re a doctor’s office that wants to offer patients a way to look at all of their healthcare information, you’ll have a patient portal that gives them a unique login and individual account.
Portals exist for software accounts, pharmacies, banks, and more; there is no limit to which industries can deploy portals. Within portals, there will often be a way to get into contact with the company or organization through a module that allows users to send messages. If your organization has this type of software, it’s imperative employees are monitoring communications.
Often, a portal software will integrate with your email systems so any messages sent through the software will be directed straight to an inbox.
Image courtesy of ClienDash
This ensures no vital messages are missed and employees don’t have to keep eight different tabs open in order to catch customer concerns. While portal software itself is mostly a self-serving tool — it empowers users to find and analyze their own documents and information — it does have some customer service elements in it and could be worth considering to expand your offerings.
Many websites feature a “contact” page where users can include their name, contact information, and a message of what they need or what’s concerning them. Those messages can be customized to go to a certain inbox for a company's email software, again putting these requests where your employees already spend their time.
People are writing reviews: on G2, on Yelp, on TripAdvisor, just to name a few. Anything from restaurants, to nail salons, to historic monuments (seriously, you have to check out reviews from Stonehenge tourists who were upset the site is just a bunch of rocks) are being reviewed online after a visit.
More importantly, people are reading these reviews. I have friends who travel and won’t visit a restaurant unless they know it has a good rating. Other friends won’t buy makeup unless they’ve heard someone they know vouch for it. People share experiences, and people trust experiences.
If an organization is not keeping up with their perception on review sites, and not responding to negative reviews, they’re missing out on an opportunity to manage their brand. Companies should look to a reputation management software to help manage their online reviews in one single dashboard.
While customer reviews aren’t a direct request for customer service or attention, it’s an opportunity for a company to go above and beyond by proving they look for that kind of feedback. In order to take advantage of these opportunities, and receive more earnest feedback than even a focus group could provide, try and be present on the pages where your company is listed.
Many customers prefer to handle issues through learning. Especially for software products or anything that requires user adoption, a knowledge base, forum, FAQ, or other genre of self-service content is a great way to help users help themselves.
There are more opportunities for outreach and customer conversations than ever before, and it can certainly begin to feel like there’s more dialogue than you can keep up with. But what a wonderful challenge to have! It means your customers are so affected by your business or service that they want to understand it better, offer opportunities for improvement, or confront issues to continue your relationship effectively.
Go out and serve
Keep in mind that your organization does not have to be on every one of these channels. This breakdown exists to inform you of your options and let you know where your customers may be gathering to discuss your business. A customer service manager will deep dive into the company’s core values to determine where you can and will make yourselves available.
Now that you understand some of the popular channels associated with customer service, continue reading to learn about the various professional teams you may need to construct in order to keep business running smoothly.
Grace Pinegar is a lifelong storyteller with an extensive background in various forms such as acting, journalism, improv, research, and content marketing. She was raised in Texas, educated in Missouri, worked in Chicago, and is now a proud New Yorker. (she/her/hers)