Before social media or dynamic websites, how would customers contact a company for support? For the most part it would be via email, telephones or even physical letters. Companies could take their time and craft the perfect response. However while that was going on, the customer would be left waiting. Those were the days!
In recent years, customers have become more demanding. They want greater flexibility and require real-time interactivity, i.e. they don’t want to wait a few days for an email response, they want answers immediately.
The critical fact is that companies are no longer the ones dictating the channels for customer communication. In an interview, marketer Richard Sedley pointed out that for marketing campaigns to succeed, the key principle was to “be where [your] audience is rather than always trying to drive traffic back to you.
This principle must be central to your customer engagement strategy. It’s no longer enough to merely provide support, a company also needs to be approachable and available on a variety of channels.
In this article we’ll explore the methods of engaging customers using multiple support channels.
Do your Research – Figure Out which Channels your Customers Prefer
Before you can start engaging your customers, you need to figure out where and how they want to talk to you.
The quickest way to find out which channels your customers favor is by looking at your industry. If you sell shoes, take a look at where your competitors are talking to their customers. Alternatively, you can use industry benchmarks to determine which channels of service the market prefers.
According to the Aberdeen Group 94% of organizations are providing support and services to customers across multiple channels and 49% of organizations are now supporting more channels than they did 12 months ago. In the coming years, organizations believe that the following channels will receive the most significant uptick from customers:
- E-service (self-help, FAQs, etc.): 53%
- Social media: 37%
- Live Chat: 36%
- Email: 34%
The importance of social media in customer support is unsurprising, however the emergence of live chat and e-service is a strong indicator that customers appreciate immediacy in their service.
Provide Immediate Answers Using Self Service
Studies have shown that an overwhelming 60% of customers hate waiting longer than a minute before receiving support. If that figure doesn’t startle you, it should. What it means is that sometimes you must have your answer ready, even before the customer asks!
Since it’s impossible for a company to always be available and respond within minutes, providing customers with answers immediately requires a different approach. The solution is to have an extensive knowledge base with wide ranging articles, how-tos, FAQs and other information that your customer can peruse at their leisure.
Building and maintaining a self-service portal can sound like a daunting task, but thanks to services like WalkMe it can be quick and painless. By using a WalkMe’s walkthrough creation tool, SohoOS.com managed to save 50% on support costs and increase user engagement by 10%.
Hence, it’s not necessary for the company to build its own platform. You just need to meet your customers need and provide the support they require.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Social Media
The drumbeat of social media is unavoidable. Everyone is talking about it and everyone is using it. Zopim’s experience with social media is a testament to the impact even a small business can have in a space dominated by influencers like Justin Bieber.
The fact of the matter is, whether you want to use social media for your customer service or not, your customers are going to be there talking about you. Considering that 74% of online adults use social networking sites, there’s a good chance one or more of your customers will be using it. Further, it’s likely that they are talking about your brand and you aren’t even listening.
So, as a start you should monitor mentions of your brand across the most popular social media networks (i.e. Facebook and Twitter). You don’t immediately need to jump in and start talking to people mentioning you, this might be considered rude. Rather, see the tone and narrative customers are creating about your brand and use that to plan your campaigns.
The key with social media is not to constantly blast your brand’s promotional and marketing messages. Instead focus on building a meaningful relationship with each and every one of your customers. You’ll notice very quickly that customers will be responding to your messages.
Engage your Customers Using Real-Time Chat
The final channel that’s seeing a surge of growth is live chat. According to a survey conducted by Forrester, 44% of respondents said that having a live person answer their questions while they were in the middle of an online purchase was one of the most important features a website could offer.
Considering the importance of immediate service, it’s no surprise that live chat is such a popular support medium. Further, live chat is similar to telephone calls as it offers the same one-to-one real time connectivity. However, despite its similarity to call centers, live chat has a few unique benefits.
First, with live chat companies can target their customers individually. They can keep track of past conversations and tailor future messaging to ensure it remains consistent. Second, using live chat, companies can talk to multiple customers at the same time. Although it’s not advisable to talk to more than 4-5 at once, it’s possible to engage upto 10 at a time.
Third, live chat allows proactive interactions. This means that instead of waiting for a customer to contact you with a problem, you can reach out to them and ask them if they need help. According to a survey conducted on customers who had been proactively invited to a chat, 94% of them were satisfied with their experience. Proactive chat is useful because it enables companies to target customers with specific information, tailored to their needs.
It’s imperative that you let your customers decide how they want to contact you. So, you must make yourself available on as many support channels as possible. This way, your customers will always be able to reach you and solve their problem within minutes.
Get the Whitepaper Free
This is just a taste of our research into customer engagement and personalized support. If you’d like to learn more about:
- Building meaningful relationships with your customers,
- Creating personalized engagement campaigns to target customers individually, and
- Discovering the best channels for regular engagement
Download our whitepaper One to One Marketing – How to Add Personality to your Customer Engagement Campaign for free today:
Abhiroop Basu is an opinionated tech and digital media blogger. In the real world, he works as Content Strategist for Zopim (a subsidiary of Zendesk) and can be found at abhiroopbasu.com.