How to Optimize Customer Service Across Touchpoints

Mar 04, 2013 4:18 PM  By

Your customers’ opinions, complaints, and word-of-mouth recommendations about their online shopping experience can now be amplified exponentially thanks to social media, sharing tools, and plain old email forwarding.

For online customer service, a wide array of channels are in play: 60% of consumers use FAQs or other information on a brand’s web site, 54% rely on customer service email, 37% use live chat, and more than a quarter of consumers use click-to-call services, virtual agents and online forums featuring input from other customers. One in five consumers now uses mobile text messaging or Twitter for customer service, according to Forrester.

While these options are a boon to shoppers, implementing them poses a challenge to you as a merchant. Consumers expect effective service wherever they choose to access it. Increasingly, they also expect service to be available instantly around the clock. Failure to meet their expectations carries a heavy price: nearly a third of consumers have complained about poor service using social networking sites or third-party review sites such as Yelp. And if they can’t find answers, 45% of consumers will abandon an online purchase altogether, according to Forrester.

But as a merchant, you are newly empowered, too. You can move beyond reactive customer care and into proactive relationship building. And you can accomplish this by delivering targeted service messaging appropriate to preferred customer touchpoints. Meeting consumers’ high expectations can reap substantial rewards: shoppers who use social networks for customer service are three times as likely to recommend a brand after a successful interaction, according to NM Incite.

How do you deliver fluid, user-driven customer service to boost both sales and loyalty?

  • Lay the groundwork with internal changes for greater consistency and open communication
  • Build substantial self-service content with help from your customers
  • Adopt a proactive approach, touchpoint by touchpoint.

Structuring for optimized service

While customers are satisfied overall with retailer customer service, there are gaps in their experience: 87% of shoppers report satisfaction with merchants’ online customer service, but only 73% are satisfied with phone service. With social customer service, the gap widens: 36% of shoppers reported receiving both fast and effective responses; 14% received a quick but ineffective response; 8% received an effective but too slow response, according to NM Incite. Consumers’ expectations for speed appear to be very high.

To optimize your organization for maximum customer satisfaction, begin with retooling your existing customer service to tap new sources of feedback. Consider several strategies to structure both your team and your information for maximum fluidity:

  • Strive for a consolidated customer service toolset.
  1. Track all customer interactions with your brand, whether online or offline, to make them available to both call center and online staff.
  2. Go beyond logging purchases and interactions with support staff to include information across touchpoints, such as loyalty card usage, email subscriptions, and social networking activity.
  3. Give customer service agents access to information that enables them to better meet customer needs, such as customer reviews and ratings and technical support information.
  • Enable collaboration among team members and with other departments. Maximize responsive service by encouraging agents in different customer service channels to work together and cross-train with other departments.
  • Structure online mechanisms for swift, appropriate response. Use readily-available technology to route shoppers to the help they need more effectively. Here are some examples:
  1. Create stand-alone email addresses for incoming requests from social media.
  2. Set up a stand-alone Twitter profile for customer services.
  3. Include searchable self-service content on your eCommerce site
  • Align external messaging with internal capabilities. Promote your multiple service options and hours of operation beyond your web site, across touchpoints.
  1. Display a specific customer-service link, an “800” phone number, or hours of operation as part of your Facebook presence.
  2. Dynamically display the availability of live chat on your eCommerce site as catalog retailer Title Nine does. Provide other resources during off hours, such as customer service FAQs or the ability to leave a message.

Delivering content beyond the customer service page
Self-service content that shoppers can access any time and in any context is becoming increasingly popular, with 60% of consumers saying they consult FAQs or other customer service information online to save time, according to Forrester. In response, many merchants have already moved beyond basic information such as shipping rates and return policies, to create an array of product- and service-based content that proactively addresses shoppers’ questions and concerns.

Develop general and product-related content. To create relevant, responsive customer service content, map your existing content to identify gaps and outdated information, and then build new information accordingly.

  • Ensure that the customer service basics are covered. This includes shipping information, product guarantees, return policies, loyalty incentives and benefits, gift card information, physical store locator with hours, and availability of other touchpoints, such as Facebook.
  • Supplement standard product content with service-oriented details. Include product-specific customer service details beyond product descriptions and images that help inform shoppers’ purchase decisions, such as dimensions or fit detail; warranties, care, and maintenance information; how-to information; and product comparisons. Health and fitness merchant Beachbody offers shoppers a comparison chart showing the different packages available for its P90X fitness program.

Tap into customer-generated content. To boost relevance and address up-to-the-minute concerns, make use of your customer-contributed content. Not only is this faster than internally revising documentation or product descriptions, but this also builds your credibility by showcasing authentic voices while giving you guidance for future product development and customer service content. Here’s how:

  • “Q and A” product information. Add functionality to give shoppers information not included in brand-supplied product content or customer reviews. Other customers and staff experts can respond online to posted queries. You gain valuable insight into shoppers’ priorities as well as gaps in your official product content and documentation. Even if “Q and As” are limited to select products, you can give it broad visibility to boost usage by spreading the content across touch points, especially social media.
  • Service feedback. Feedback and suggestions about the customer service experience can be incorporated into future versions of content to help streamline processes. You can:
  1. Enable shoppers to rate your customer service content
  2. Offering instant surveys after live help interactions
  3. Let customers review and endorse staff experts, as appropriate.

Ken Burke is founder and chairman of ecommerce
software and solutions provider MarketLive.