How to improve online customer service (with steps)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 15 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

High-quality customer service is an important priority for customer-facing businesses. With more customers using social media, e-commerce and online resources to make purchases, online customer service is as vital as face-to-face interactions. Understanding the methods of online customer service and how to improve them for greater customer satisfaction can be a valuable way for businesses to enhance their reputation and gain positive reviews. In this article, we discuss what online customer service is, steps on how to improve online customer service and tips for providing a positive customer experience.

What is online customer service?

Online customer service is the practices and policies used to keep customers happy when shopping online or interacting directly with a brand. For example, if a customer gets in touch with a customer support team on an online chat service, a business would achieve good online customer service by offering a swift resolution and a positive interaction.

Online customer service is vital in improving a company's reputation, developing word of mouth marketing and encouraging repeat purchases from existing customers. Online customer service has the same goals as the customer service practices used over the phone or in a physical store. Good customer service aims to provide a positive and easy experience to customers, offering a positive association with the business. Online customer service covers different points in the customer journey, such as answering questions for potential customers or arranging refunds for a customer who wants to return a defective item.

Related: Q&A: What is customer service and why is it important?

How to improve online customer service

How to improve online customer service is a question many businesses may ask and might be a priority. For example, a customer with a positive online experience may recommend a product or service to a friend, providing word of mouth marketing. Some of the steps you can take to improve online customer service include:

1. Consider which services benefit customers

Customer service is most successful when it's tailored to the specific needs of a customer base. For example, a brand that sells beauty products to the public may benefit from providing FAQs and guides surrounding the use and contents of their products, as customers would value this information. Highly technical or complex products or services can benefit from technical support and knowledge and answer common questions.

Related: 29 website features to impress your audience

2. Think about the methods that allow for the fastest service

One of the critical factors that customers consider when rating customer service is how long it takes to reach a resolution. The speed of resolution and the amount of input required are essential components in providing high-quality customer service. For example, it may be convenient for customers to use a well-programmed chatbot to access answers to questions quickly and easily, with the minimum amount of information provided.

3. Ask for feedback from existing customers

After customer service interactions, asking existing customers for feedback can be valuable for improving services based on research and insight. If you are selling a product to a particular demographic, gaining their opinion on how good your customer service is can help you target that audience more effectively. Feedback can include anything from a simple rating system to a suggestion box where customers can offer their opinion on how to improve your customer service.

4. Implement live chat for all customers

Live chat is a standard feature many modern businesses use to support customers. As live chat offers a fast or instant response, this online customer service tool can help companies appear more efficient. For example, companies that provide support 24/7 may offer live chat through several different sources to provide continual customer care at any time of the day. Live chat is also helpful in providing an accessible service to customers who may not be able to use the phone.

5. Use social media channels to provide fast service

Social media support channels are a popular choice for larger online businesses. These social media platforms allow customers to interact directly with a brand and ask questions for a fast response. For example, a social media account with a team of support specialists can provide a way to answer simple questions quickly. By effectively separating basic questions from more complex support issues, support teams can simultaneously reduce wasted time and help multiple customers.

6. Introduce automation features into customer service

Automation features are valuable in providing good online customer service without talking with a support team. Examples of automation include using a chatbot, allowing customers to ask simple questions and receive dispatch information, tracking and returns without human intervention. Automation can also help to reduce time spent providing information, such as accessing a customer's data through their account to prevent repetition.

7. Track complaints and queries to track patterns

Keeping track of incoming questions, complaints and technical problems is valuable in improving long-term online customer service. Using a database or spreadsheet to list all issues can make it easier for customer service professionals to spot patterns. For example, if a company releases software and receives similar complaints about a particular function not working, this may suggest requirements for a quick patch to fix the issue for all customers.

8. Focus on authentic, positive interactions

Authentic, positive interactions help build a positive customer experience for people speaking to a support team. Building a customer service persona that focuses on branded communication and authenticity is valuable in providing customers with that positive experience. For example, a conversational tone when supporting customers in resolving simple issues can help fix their problems while also creating a good association with the quality of service offered.

Related: 10 ways to consistently offer good customer service

Types of online customer service

Existing customers and potential customers use customer services in different ways to suit their specific needs. For example, an existing customer may contact customer support about a technical issue with a product they've purchased, while a potential customer may speak to a support specialist to ask questions before making a purchase. Some of the types of online customer service businesses use include:

Self-serve and automated customer service

Self-serve and automated services provide customers with advice and information without speaking to a customer service advisor. For example, online FAQs and help sections are examples of self-serve customer service, providing a convenient location to answer questions. More advanced automated services include using chatbots that provide information for different questions, including shipping, technical advice and common pre-purchase questions.

Front line support

Front line support delivers typical customer service, similar to the support received in a retail store or over the phone. Customer service staff who provide front line support can answer common questions and quickly solve simple problems. This customer service often operates through online chat, emails or different social media channels.

Related: Customer service jobs online (Tasks and responsibilities)

Problem-solving support

Problem-solving support offers advanced customer service to resolve problems and manage complex issues with customers. For example, a customer may email front line support about an issue with parts missing from a parcel for referral to problem-solving support to order the missing items for re-delivery. Problem-solving support specialists typically provide services to existing customers who require additional expertise for a fast resolution.

Related: How to write customer service emails (with examples)

Technical support

Technical support customer service is the most complex tier of customer service, where trained professionals help customers with specific issues and problems. For example, a customer who has purchased software and is experiencing errors may contact technical support to provide detailed information about their system specification and error code. Online technical support services may provide expert services that connect to systems or remotely access information about customer problems.

Tips for good online customer service

Effective online customer service tailors to the specific needs of your customers. For example, the customer service expectations for a low-cost product may differ from the standards expected from a luxury car brand. Some tips for improving online customer service include:

Focus on the demographics of a product

Looking at the audience of a particular product is a solid place to start for tailoring your customer service. For example, the support language for a demographic of teenage boys is different to the most effective wording for highly skilled scientific professionals. Tailoring your customer service and speaking to specific audiences can help build rapport and provide expected service standards.

Consider separating your support tiers

Customer support is most efficient when divided into different priorities and types. For example, highly technical support services may operate through a specialised team over the phone, while simple return questions are most suitable for live chat. Separating the support team by each platform can also help improve customer services, such as having one team working on social media responses and another answering email enquiries.

Make shorter support times a priority

Speed is a crucial indicator of good customer service. Shorter waiting times and prompt responses to queries can help to improve customer perception and satisfaction, delivering the information they want when they want it. For example, focusing on answering social media tags and live chat messages quickly can provide a priority service, while emails may take 24 hours to receive a reply.

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