The Age of the Customer is upon us. Customers hold much more power now than they did 20, or even 10, years ago. And they know it. Nowadays the average customer demands excellent online customer service as a matter of course. If you don’t provide it, they can easily switch over to your competitor with a few clicks of a mouse or taps on their smartphone.
According to a survey conducted by market research company Forrester, 95% of leading companies said that providing a good customer experience is their highest strategic priority. However, only 37% had budgeted for improving that experience. Businesses seem to know what they ought to do, but while the spirit is willing, the wallet is weak.
In order to remain competitive, everyone must step up their game and meet the expectations of increasingly demanding customers.
What do customers want from your online customer service? Here are the five bedrock customer expectations for the year 2018.
Fast easy transactions
Customers expect their interactions with companies to be effortless. According to the Harvard Business Review, the more effort a customer has to put into dealing with your company, the less loyal they will be. Your online customer service should be geared towards making your customer’s experience as smooth, simple, and uncomplicated as possible.
Empower frontline staff
Customers don’t want to wait to talk to a supervisor or be transferred to another department. They want to solve the problem as quickly as possible, and this means that the first person they talk to should be able to do it. Customer service reps should have the training and authority to cater to the customers’ needs. They represent your company and should be able to deliver the service the customer wants.
In the world of online customer service, customers expect companies to know who they are. What they want. What they need. They’ve accepted that their data and browsing history is gathered and analyzed. In return, they expect an online experience that is tailored to them, with potential options served up on a platter.
The concept of actually searching for something online is almost out-of-date.
When customers go to your website they expect it to know what they did the last time they visited. They expect easy access to your self-service menu, which will have easy-to-read answers to their Frequently Asked Questions, as well as videos demonstrating how to use your products and fix common problems.
Multiple channels of access
Self-service is an increasingly popular channel for online customer service. A complete, well-put-together online knowledge base will save you time and money. It will also keep your customers happy.
Businesses have access to many customer service channels: email, live chat, telephone calls, SMS, push notifications, and last – but by no means least – social media. Promptly addressing a social media complaint can increase customer advocacy by as much as 25%. According to Twitter, they’re also willing to pay more for your services if you reply quickly enough.
Consistency and continuity across channels
Omnichannel service is demanded as a given. Customers tend to see your brand as a single ‘person’. When they contact your online customer service, they expect the agent who answers to know about the email they wrote two weeks ago and the problem they tweeted about yesterday.
Almost everyone today hops from home PC to work laptop to smartphone depending on where they are and what they’re doing. It’s normal for us now and customers expect it to be normal for your business too. It shouldn’t matter what channel a customer uses to contact you. Service should be consistent across all channels all the time.
Customers have the ability to contact your brand at any time of the day or night and will expect a reply from you. If they download your mobile app they’ll count on being able to use it whenever the mood strikes.
Keep in touch
As long as it’s not overdone, customers enjoy hearing from the companies they do business with. Whether you’re telling them about new products they might like, sending them a birthday present, or asking for feedback, customers like to see the evidence that you remember them.
It shows that you care about them and value their input.
When you take customer feedback on board and make changes based on their suggestions, it shows how responsive you are to customer needs. Online customer service isn’t just about quick replies to customer queries. It should be about eliminating the need for the customer to contact you at all. The problem that’s easiest to solve is the one that never happened in the first place.
Going beyond expectations of online customer service
Fulfill these five customer expectations and you’ll have a rock-solid base for good customer service. You can build on this foundation and use it to deliver that extra something that differentiates you from the competition.
Customers want to do business with companies that share their values
According to a recent study, 71% of those surveyed said, “I make it a point to buy brands from companies whose values are similar to my own.” Millennials especially are more like to be concerned about the environment and look for companies that reflect that.
The general trend is moving away from conspicuous consumption and towards purchases with ‘attached meaning’. Customers expect companies to adhere to ethical standards.
They’re willing to seek these businesses out and pay a premium for their services.
There are a number of ways you can work with this trend. Do you have solar power cells on the roof of your office? Ensure all your suppliers are fair-trade and cruelty-free? Give a portion of your profits to charitable causes? Nowadays, these kinds of actions aren’t just good karma, they’re good business.
Customers today are more empowered and more demanding than ever before. The increasing spread of social media means that each customer has an audience willing to listen to complaints.
Are you taking the right steps to provide to the online customer service your clients are looking for?