By: Eric Goldschein
At its core, customer service is simple: Make sure your customers are happy. But even if you’ve succeeded in making your customers happy for a time, constantly improving your customer service should be a goal for you and your business, as it can help you stand out from competitors.
How can a business owner innovate their customer service processes? By harnessing the power of technology and forward thinking. Here are 11 starting points for your business’s customer service innovation roadmap:
Optimize Your Mobile Experience
A key part of customer service starts before any of your team members interact with potential customers. Your company’s website is often the first touchstone off of which their perception of your business develops.
And, to complicate things, customers now more often interact with the mobile version rather than the desktop version of your business’s site. 52.2% of online traffic was mobile in 2018, so odds are that at least half of your site visitors find you while on the go. Did your website’s mobile experience encourage them stay, or did it frustrate them?
Many businesses still design their websites as desktop-first and turn a blind eye to the mobile version of their site. Sure, not optimizing your site for mobile is a tech failure, but it’s also a customer service failure. Your customer is attempting to learn and interact with your business, and a glitchy mobile site can get in the way of that. Whether you’re running a fully online business or a brick-and-mortar business, you need to make sure your mobile website is intuitive and attractive.
Most customers want to figure out the answer to their question on their own. Increasingly, millennials want to avoid speaking on the phone. Make it easier for them to do so. Compile data from all of the questions and inquiries you’ve received from confused customers in the past, and create a well-organized and thorough archive of answers to these questions. And making it easily navigable is key: Organize your answers into overarching topics, and provide a map so that your customers can find the answer to specific questions.
Realistically, you won’t be able to preemptively answer every question. For those cases, consider installing a chat feature. A direct chat with a member of your customer service team acts as the perfect middle ground between surfing your website and giving your business a call. Plus, your customer service reps can help more customers simultaneously through this feature.
Provide Direct Contact Through Social
Another great way to get your customers in contact with your team is to open up conversations on your social profiles. Don’t just wait for customers to reach out to you through social media, though: Start the conversation yourself. Prompt followers into conversations surrounding your product or services. Reach out to users, even if they don’t directly mention or message your business. Follow users who tag locations near your business.
Being active and present on social media will help clue your customers into the fact that there’s actually a human operating your accounts. And, as a result, they’ll be more likely to reach out through social media with questions, doubts, or thoughts they might have for your business.
Streamline Retail Interactions
If you run a brick-and-mortar store, streamlining your retail interactions is a serious customer service endeavor. The more efficient your assistance and checkout processes are, the more likely your customers will be to pull the trigger on the purchases they’re considering. If they’re on the fence about purchasing something from your business, and they see that the checkout process involves a lot of back-and-forth—or worse, a line!—then they’re likely to abandon ship.
Even more, if an on-the-fence customer has to wait for assistance during their shopping experience, they might give up and leave. Systematize your assistance and checkout processes to ensure the quickest, most efficient interactions possible.
One way to do that is to invest in a sophisticated point of sale system that requires minimal fuss and delivers seamless checkout experiences. As an added bonus, a POS system that takes cashless payment options, like credit cards or digital wallets, will give cashiers and managers more face time with customers, providing a more human touch.
Work Towards Total Transparency
Being transparent with your customers regarding your company’s policies, processes, and mission may not always occur to you. But transparency is an important operating goal. How did you come up with your prices, and what’s the cost breakdown of these prices? What do your facilities look like? And where do you source your ingredients come from? More than ever, consumers like to have a full picture of what they’re purchasing. If you’re upfront with them about the nature of your product or service, they’re more likely to feel good about doing business with you.
Set Up Smart Samples and Trials
Offering samples and trials will help you get more customers through your door, and it will also make these customers happier. Setting up a smart system for samples or trial periods will allow potential customers to try out your product or service before they fully commit. This way, the customers that do end up going through with their purchases will know exactly what they’re getting themselves into—and that means fewer customer service fires to put out.
Plus, a free sample or trial signals that you’re confident your product or service will keep customers coming back for more.
Offer Customer Financing
If you want to make your product more accessible and easier to afford, consider offering customer financing. By offering this option, you’ll signal to potential customers that you want your product or service to be easy for them to afford. Plus, many up-and coming-tech startups will offer financing services to online companies. Afterpay, for instance, allows companies to give customers the option to pay in multiple monthly payments, rather than one huge sum. If you’re able to set your customers up with no-interest financing for your business, they’ll be more likely to buy from you.
Change the Nature of the Interaction
There is only so much you can do with the practical systems of customer service. At the end of the day, if you want to “innovate the customer interface,” you need to examine and innovate the nature of the interactions your reps are having with customers.
If your team is having mechanical, impersonal exchanges with frustrated customers, these customers could easily become all the more frustrated. Train your customer service professionals to treat interactions with customers as human-to-human exchanges with a tinge of service and education.
Provide Access to Real-Time Info
The more up-to-date both sides of the conversation are, the more smoothly the conversation will run. Many articles on customer service will encourage you to provide real-time info to your customer service team on the status of a customer’s inquiry. However, we suggest you go beyond these one-sided updates. Give your customer real-time info on how their customer service rep is finding the information or team members necessary to answer their question, or resolve their conflict. These updates will keep customers calm, even if the question or conflict takes a long time to address.
Answer Questions Through Video
Creating video how-to’s isn’t a new customer service idea, but this go-to tactic can be applied in new, creative ways. Consider integrating video tutorials into your frequently asked questions archive. If there’s a certain feature or product that customers typically have a hard time understanding, post a screen recording of a team member demonstrating it, step-by-step. If there’s a particular business process that confuses or interests customers, post an illustrated video that will help them visualize it.
These videos can not only provide visual answers to common questions, but they can also provide a human face for your business’s customer service team.
Ask Your Customer Service Team Members
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, talk to your customer service team members. Because they’re moving within your customer service systems and processes day in and day out, these team members will have keen insight to where innovation is most needed. Set up meetings with team members at every level within your customer service team, and see what’s working and what isn’t. Note and track patterns—and address them through innovative steps like the ten we highlight above.
Innovating Your Customer Service: The Bottom Line
Innovating your customer service processes won’t be an overnight effort. It will take careful planning and execution. Start small, see what works, and expand accordingly. Most of all, make sure you’re making your customers happy through all the trial and error. Innovation isn’t always a linear process, so be sure you’re taking care of your customers along the way.
About the author
Eric Goldschein is the partnerships editor at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions. Eric has nearly a decade of experience in digital media and writes extensively on finance, HR, marketing, entrepreneurship, and small business trends.