Almost all businesses have at least some online presence today. With just a couple of exceptions like Primark, almost every major physical retailer has an eCommerce store where its customers can also go and buy their wares.
The benefits are plentiful. It is cheaper to sell to customers online, you can reach a much larger market without having to open multiple branches, and it’s possible to tailor your offering to each individual customer.
But if your customers are buying online, what is the best way to provide support to them while they’re there?
Help Centres and Frequently Asked Questions
While some customers need their hand holding while they have their problems resolved, others prefer to get faster answers and solutions by using a help centre. These allow companies to write responses to common questions and provide guides to resolving known problems.
Most help centres include a search function that allows users to quickly find what they’re looking for, but they also provide category listings for manual navigation.
Because the customer is able to deal service themselves through the help centre, this makes it one of the cheapest customer service channels available.
The versatility of this option means it can work for almost any business and the low cost makes it attractive to larger businesses that receive a lot of customer enquiries each day. Amazon has a detailed “Customer Service Centre” that provides guidance on everything from orders to dealing with phishing emails. This helps to reduce the workload for its huge phone, email, and live chat customer service team.
Similarly, PokerStars has a comprehensive help centre that guides its customers through resolving technical issues with the company’s software and updating and securing their accounts, as well as providing information about its loyalty scheme. Some businesses force customers to search through a help centre before they can contact the customer service team, helping to reduce their workload.
For customers that can’t (or don’t want to) help themselves, a common way to handle enquiries is to provide an email address or a contact form where queries and complaints can be sent.
Typically, these will be responded to by your customer service team in the order in which they are received but they may also be triaged, sent to the correct departments, and sorted into different priorities.
There are numerous bespoke systems designed to handle this, including Zendesk, Hubspot, LiveAgent, and Front. These allow you to respond with pre-made templates, escalate tickets to managers, and keep a log of the history of an enquiry.
Depending on the demand and the number of staff you have working, responses to emails and support tickets could take anywhere from a couple of hours to several days.
Some customers prefer to speak to someone there and then as their enquiry is urgent or they’re not prepared to wait for a reply to a support ticket. The traditional way to do this would be to have a call centre where your representatives can provide support over the phone, but this is costly.
More recently, live chat has become a popular choice for many businesses, with customers being able to exchange instant messages with a customer support representative just like they would through an app like Messenger, iMessage, or WhatsApp.
This can mean customers are stuck in a queue like they would be if you were running a call centre. If the wait time is long, this could cause them to become frustrated.
Many customers prefer to use social media to get answers. Sometimes this might be through a public post or a private message.
Public posts are tricky as they’re often used to complain, so it’s important to respond to these quickly and professionally. Most companies will direct customers to a different channel.
Many support ticket applications can connect to social media profiles, though some companies choose to have separate teams handling each one individually.
Which One is Best?
Ultimately, there’s no right answer. The best option for your business may not be suitable for another. Instead, the decision will be based on factors like your type of customer, the complexity of the product(s) you offer, the nature of the enquiries you’ll be dealing with, how many staff you employ, and your budget.
It’s also likely that you won’t just use one. Instead, you’ll find a combination of options works best for your business.