The Internet and Customer Service – You’re in the Spotlight!

Money at handPoor customer service negatively impacts businesses in a lot of ways, and can create irreversible results with both new and repeat clients. First, prospects that you’d like to turn into customers will likely change their minds. Secondly, existing customers will become frustrated and take their business elsewhere. And both have the potential to cause damage when they report their experiences to others. In this digital age, customers share information with the click of a button, making it even more important to head off service issues at once. 

Hearing the Complaints

When a disgruntled internet customer makes a complaint, the best thing for any business to do is to have that complaint settled quickly by the company. Normally, having customer grievances “go public” makes it harder to deal with them and harder to effect some damage control. There are however, beneficial third party services that allow mistreated customers to air their valid complaints with the intent that the offending business will listen. Management that wants to stay in business wants to listen. Since you’re not seeing the customer in person, getting a chance to hear and solve gripes this way often allows resolution in a timely manner and with little effort. It’s not hard either to imagine the good PR that comes from being perceived as a big business that listens.

Small Business Catastrophe

Poor customer service is catastrophic for small internet companies because they absolutely rely upon repeat customers to survive. Additionally, if there is ever going to be hope of growing the business, prospects must be nurtured so that they turn into loyal shoppers. Positive word of mouth is always key for growth, especially for smaller firms.

Loss of Repeat Customers

Losing a long-time customer is a danger when poor service is allowed. If consumers arrive to your site and are ignored, treated with disrespect, or left alone to wander through pages and wait for service, the clear message they’ll get is that there could be a risk in spending their money here. As a result, many of these people will leave before even considering making a purchase, no matter what types of deals might be found. In fact, customer service is so important that many people are willing to pay more for it, just to feel like their time was well spent.

Loss of Future Customers

Customers experiencing poor online service almost always tell others about it – it makes for grand conversation. Whether out of frustration or because they don’t want their friends and family to have the same bad customer issue, people will relate details of experiences that upset them. Not only does this cost immediate business, but the lost business potential will be exponential over time. Making amends to a new customer who has registered a complaint often takes more input since they don’t have a positive memory of your company to “come back to.”

Employee Turnover

Great operations attract better employees. After all, no one wants to work in a chaotic environment where they are under-trained or where inadequate staff exists. This type of environment creates an unpleasant morale and leads to high turnover which is hard on everyone. Additionally, it does not reflect well on a company to appear as though it cannot sustain its staff. Thorough training of the entire staff in good customer interaction and company loyalty procedures may be the best investment for any business owner who needs to improve service reputation.

Loss of Profits

Everything connected to poor customer service ultimately leads to bottom line losses. No firm, particularly in a challenging business climate, can afford to lose business due to poor customer service. When it comes down to it, the most important aspect of any business is its reputation. Once that is damaged, it can be very hard to recoup it without a great deal of work.

For any internet business, new or long established, the fears of sudden drops in customer satisfaction, customer purchases, and customer traffic are all too real. Every effort should be made to maintain client loyalty and business reputation at all times by offering the best customer service available. Being dependable to listen to and solve any customer gripes in timely fashion will go a long way toward cementing high satisfaction scores.

Ann Bailey owns a small business dependent on client satisfaction and compiles these situations for consumers and business owners alike. The accessible website allows consumers a place to voice any customer issue they may have had with poor service and allows the relevant business an opportunity to hear about it and take measures to correct it.

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Social Customer Service for Small Businesses

Social customer service is the process of using social media to meet the demands of customers. Traditionally, customer service success was measured through satisfaction ratings, defect rates, first-time resolution rates, average handle time, agent utilisation, and cost of servicing the customer.

Today, in the age of social media, when companies talk to customers through the same media as friends use to talk to each other, metrics have evolved. Now we look at customer sentiment, self-service usage, cross-sell, up-sell rates, conversation volume, likes, retweets, +1s, and net promoter scores.

social customer service

Image by owenwbrown

In 2010, 25% of enterprises were using social media to respond to service enquiries by customers or partners. In 2020, that number is set to rise to 90%.

One fifth of Fortune 500 companies engage with their customers on Facebook. These companies do more than marketing: they are actively listening, engaging, and responding to customer questions. But social customer service is not only the preserve of large corporations: it’s equally (perhaps even more) beneficial for small companies.

Many small companies are reluctant to start using social media as a customer service platform, believing it to lack credibility and fearing its (potentially) unwieldy nature. However, with its popularity continuing to increase, companies who ignore social media (and the customers who are active on social channels) are at risk of becoming irrelevant.

Social media channels provide opportunities that companies have not had before, which can be leveraged to significantly enhance customer service. Platforms like Twitter allow companies to monitor their customers’ opinions and complaints, even when the customers are not taking the time or making the effort to contact the firm directly. Social media also allows companies to respond faster than ever before, not only to the originator of a complaint or issue – but to all (or at least many) of those with whom he or she may have communicated about the issue.

Another specific benefit of social media is that users are willing to share extensive information publicly. That gives businesses access to people’s preferences, interests, opinions and networks, making social media an invaluable asset for many companies, and specifically small businesses, as it provides a low-cost means of finding out about their current and potential customers. Social media is a democratising force online, giving firms of all sizes access to the kind of information that was once exclusively held by the largest businesses.

Most people think of Facebook, Twitter, and perhaps LinkedIn when they hear the expression, “social media” and these are indeed the most popular platforms. But there are others, which may lend themselves particularly to communicating certain kinds of messages and advertising certain kinds of products and services. Those that are essentially visual – YouTube (video) and Pinterest (images) – can be especially powerful.

So how can a small business best exploit these media? First, be authentic. Don’t be cute: be real. Second, do one thing and do it really well – perhaps by creating a community and then sharing your particular expertise. Finally, monitor your customers and clients – the people who already use your products and services – to see what they’d like more of or less of. In other words, take time to learn from your customers, and act on their feedback. After all, they are your most valuable resource.

About the Author: Will Vicary is a digital marketing specialist whose interests include CRM solutions and online customer experience, as well as online lead generation. He is specifically interested in CRM insurance and cloud technology.