The growth of mobile and messaging apps transformed customers’ digital behaviour. Messaging apps like Messenger and WhatsApp made it easier to reach and have an on-going conversation with friends. 

It isn’t surprising that consumers transferred this expectation to businesses. They want to reach them on the same platforms they use in communicating daily. This contributed to the rise of digital customer service. In this article, you’ll learn what digital customer service is, the steps to take to digitize your support and how to improve your digital customer service if you’re already offering one. 

What is digital customer care?

When we say digital support, we’re referring to a situation where businesses help their customers resolve issues via digital channels like email, website, social media and messaging apps. The goal is to incorporate online channels as a core part of the support strategy, and not as an after-thought as it used to be. This new move makes customer service faster and more convenient for customers.

Since email isn’t necessarily a new support channel, we’ll focus on newer channels like messaging apps and web chat.

 How to digitize customer service for your SMB

As a small business, it’s very important to offer some form of support online. Providing support online increases customer satisfaction by 33% and reduces cost by 25 – 35%, both of which are very important for your survival as a small or medium-sized business. Here’s how to set up and excel in digital customer service. 

1. Set a clear goal: When planning to provide customer service online, the first step is to have a clear goal and direction to guide your efforts or activities. You have to think of where you are currently and where you want to be in a stipulated time.What do you want to achieve by focusing on delivering quality support on digital channels? 

Also, it’s not enough to merely state what you intend to achieve. You should equally state how you’re going to get there. This means that your goals should include a clear implementation plan. For instance, a goal might be to reduce wait time by unclogging the legacy support channels. The implementation guide might be to offer full-fledged support on the top two social media handles your customers are active on. You can even take it further by dedicating at least a support person to monitor each of these channels. 

As a small business, cost might be an issue when you consider dedicating a support team or person to monitor each social or digital channel. To solve this, part of your implementation plan might be to invest in 24/7 chatbots will be respond to all inquiries in each channel. Escalating to an agent only when necessary.

2. After you’ve set your goals, the next step is to choose the digital channels you want to offer support on. While it’s advisable to provide support on multiple channels, it’s not always possible for small businesses who don’t have enough support staff to monitor each channel. That being the case, how can you choose the online channels to provide support on?

3. Establish who your customers are: Knowing who your customers are makes it easier for you to decide which channels to offer support on. For instance, if your customers are mostly millennials, then it’ll be advisable to include Twitter in your support stack since Twitter demographics are mostly young and educated users between ages 20 to 40. Compare this to another business whose customers are mostly baby boomers, and wouldn’t necessarily need to offer support on Twitter.

4. Another way to decide on the channels to focus on is to look through the volume of queries and interaction you get on each social media channels. Focus your efforts on the platform that has more active followers. Since your customers are active on that platform and engage with you there, it’s best to include support as part of the benefits. 

This is not to say that you shouldn’t explore new channels. But when resources are tight, it’s best to start where the success rate is high and gradually expand to other channels as you deem fit.

5. Choose the services to offer on digital channels. While it’s great to provide online support, this doesn’t translate into abandoning legacy channels like phone and emails. To reap the full benefit of digital support, choose the issues or queries that are best resolved digitally especially if you’re incorporating bots and self-service, Then leave complex issues for the telephones.  

The decision of the services to extend to digital channels is best left to your discretion but a solid knowledge of your customers, their needs and preferences helps you arrive at the best decision faster.

Let’s say you’re a fintech and your customers are working millennials who use your services at different times during the day and they contact you at different times even after working hours. With these insights- that is, that your customers are tech savvy millennials with purchasing power, you’d know that they prefer messaging and are open to resolving issues on their own.Therefore, you’ll choose issues that can be effectively resolved via messaging and are simple enough to be fixed by them through self-service

Channels to use for digital customer service

There are different channels to provide online support on. Here’s a summary of some of them:

1. Web chat: One of the ways you can help offer digital customer service is by placing a webchat on your site. At the onset, a web chat was mostly for live chat support. But with the evolution of chatbots, web chats have evolved to include AI chatbots that provide answers to questions and help customers complete a task.

These days, web chats are part of a chat widget that includes other support channels like Messenger or WhatsApp. Here, the web chat serves as an entry point through which customers begin a conversation with you on their preferred channel.

2. Social media: You’re probably fielding complaints and enquires on social media already and also chat with your customers on these same platforms.You can power up the service on this platform by having at least one staff from your support team to monitor your social media channels for complaints or mentions. That way, you can speed up response time on these channels. On Twitter, for instance, you have the option of deploying a bot that responds to mentions and replies to customers’ queries in your DM.

3. Messaging apps: Messaging apps have thrived, its usage surpassing that of social media. WhatsApp’s user engagement grew 44% year over year, surpassing that of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. So if you aren’t providing support on messaging apps, it’s time to start. 

There’s no perfect messaging app for support. What influences your decision is your location and the apps used by your customers. In Africa, for instance, WhatsApp is widely used, positioning it as the No. 1 messaging app for businesses in that location.

4. In-app support: Your mobile app is another medium to offer help to your customers especially if they need it in the middle of a transaction. You can add a chatbot that answers questions and also provide a live chat service within the app. The advantage of this is that you increase your support channels, making it possible for customers to get help through various mediums.

Considering that customer service is the new marketing which can be amplified through digital mediums/online, it’s important to be intentional about the quality of service you offer online. Clarify what you want to be known for and define your goals. While delivering an exceptional service on digital channels is a challenge, it is an opportunity for you to stand out and differentiate yourself based on the quality of your service.

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