A well-done website is a valuable asset to any business. It can help build up a new one or increase the growth and influence of an existing one. However, a great site—be it edgy, informative or state-of-the-art—does not, in and of itself, get the job done. The only guarantee for ever-expanding sales or growth is to back up that amazing site with a superior customer experience.
Customers want to be able to contact you.
The truism that “the more things change, the more they stay the same” has never been more applicable than it is in the digital age. Before the public Internet and subsequent ability to do business online, the majority of one’s purchases were carried out in person, at the grocery store, the department store, the record or book retailer, etc. Though we have the option and convenience of shopping from our desk or smartphone, today’s sale or a purchase-related inquiry, like yesterday’s sale or inquiry, is still essentially a communication. Someone needs to be there to receive it and respond to it in a timely and caring manner. No website alone can replace that part of the process.
It can seem at times as if some companies use their online presence as a firewall against direct customer inquiries, apparently going to great pains to obscure contact e-mails and phone numbers, opting instead for “contact us” forms and online product/service documentation. This irreducible minimum of “contact” can easily be interpreted by customers as “Sorry, we can’t be bothered with you.” It may not be intentional on the part of the retailer or other business but, as anyone who has ever had this experience knows, that is the net effect. So, as a company, don’t be “that guy.” Put company contact info in a conspicuous place on your homepage—perhaps on every page of your site.
Doing the most with the least
A 2011 survey by American Express found that 78% of consumers have backed out of a transaction or an intended purchase because of a bad customer service experience.
Finding a new customer can be many times more expensive than retaining an existing one so businesses need to weigh the cost of providing the best customer service they can afford with the expense of losing a customer to poor customer service. If you choose or are forced by circumstances to use online documentation and “contact us” e-mail forms as your site’s level of contact, then at least do all you can to respond as quickly as possible to inquiries. In the “contact us” form scenario, set up a reasonable expectation in the customer: Once they’ve submitted the form, they should automatically receive an acknowledgement message which assures them how soon they can expect a response. Then meet or beat that expectation. In short, if you can’t wow them with live chat or a live representative on the telephone, at least promise when you will respond and then keep the promise.
Auto Expanding Lines for Peak Traffic Times
We’ve all been customers at some time, so we don’t need a full-blown analysis to know that shorter hold times are preferable to long ones. But even if your company provides live telephone representatives all or some part of the day, there is no guarantee that callers will always be able to get through and get their questions answer. What’s the solution? Modern web-based phone systems (VoIP hosted PBX) can provide auto expanding lines, which adds more incoming lines during your company’s in-bound call peak traffic hours.
Call queues help get calls answered quickly and efficiently
Auto expanding lines is used along with call queues—a “first in, first out” routing system which gives callers the choice to remain on hold (informing them at regular intervals about the number of calls are ahead of them) or to “Press zero to leave a message.”These queues can also provide music on hold and can be used to run promotional messages (“This month’s specials…” or “Visit our website at….”).
Auto expanding lines and call queues ensure that even if you don’t have sufficient personnel to field all calls in real time, your valued customers will never get a no-answer or a busy signal—and your company will maintain a professional image. This kind of system benefits to employers in another way as well, due to intelligent routing, which analyzes your agents’ in-bound phone activity and routes the next call to that agent who has had the least phone traffic, which ensures that work is more evenly distributed. In this system, the calls can also be recorded for management review. In short, call queues can give customers the impression they have reached a large call center, even if the reality is otherwise.
Answer them before they ask with a FAQ page
If you’re not ready or able to hire a fully-manned call center, then you can at least do all you can to answer peoples’ questions before they ask them. Many people begin a potential purchase by researching it first on the web and they will appreciate if they can quickly find information about it on your site. Well-thought-out and accessibly presented product information or an easy-to-locate, up-to-date and well-organized FAQ (frequently-asked questions) section can save both your customer and your staff a lot of time and energy. This can be as simple as finding out from your staff the questions that callers ask them the most. Even with limited call coverage, a solid FAQ can be the happy compromise between the aforementioned company “firewall” website and a 24-hour live call center. If done right, it can actually lower the volume of in-bound inquiries you receive.
Front line professionalism
Similar to the scenario of an awesome website with no customer support, customer support lacking in competence and understanding can be just as fatal. Whether your company is just three people, all of whom cover various duties including customer service, or is a global concern with dedicated customer service centers, it’s critical that they be prepared. Superior product knowledge is a given. Just as importantly, customer representatives should understand the message and company image you are seeking to portray to your customers and should embody that in their manner, tone, solutions and response time.