James, Rich and Chelsea discuss the importance of online customer services and how it can make or break a customer journey.
Online customer services
Podcast Online customer services
In this episode, we’re going to be talking about online customer services.
Hello, and welcome to this episode of so what’s up today I’m with James and rich, and we’re going to be chatting about him online customer services and how you can improve yours.
So where do we start as an avid online consumer, mostly online, in fact, even before COVID, pretty much 99% online. I’m a good one to speak about customer service, I expect service that we give our clients from everybody, and it doesn’t really happen. We’ve had quite a few clients, mainly retail who have gone online quite quickly, furloughed, all the staff, the online stores gone really well. But the online customer service has just dropped off a cliff. And that’s something that I think everybody should focus on. And there’s some great players out there in the market, Amazon, it’s hard to compare against them, because they really are a big, big online retailer, as everyone knows. But there’s quite a few small companies who have gone online and increase the stuff in level since they’ve gone online, just to accommodate the sheer volume of customer inquiries really, is a pre sale tool. I think that there should be advisors online 24 hours a day. And if not 24 hours a day, at least you’re in business hours in real time if need be. But it seems that majority of companies now just seem to allocate that to a bot that doesn’t need employing, and they think it’s intelligent enough to answer the questions you’ve got for a product. And that isn’t always the case. What do you find?
Yeah, I guess, customer services and online customer services especially, is a topic that is quite close to my heart, because I started out my career on the product excellence team at Alton Towers, which is essentially, it’s basically like a kind of hybrid brand protection slash customer services role. And I kind of had it drilled into me that the customer should come first. And there are certain standards that you should uphold. So whenever I see other companies not doing it the best for clients, or whenever I used to do Alton Towers, and it didn’t meet expectations. It was always a sad day. But yeah, I’ve got a lot of thoughts on this one,
very much an offline thing though. Alton Towers,
no, it was all online. So they had two different teams. And they had the kind of online on the day team. And they had the team that I used to head up and lead. And that was the kind of product excellence team. And so a lot of the work that I did was through social media, through answering emails, making sure that the phone calls were answered them. So yeah, basically, using Twitter, Facebook, and all the like to get back to people and make sure they were happy.
I think the big problem there now and Rich said it earlier is Amazon. Amazon sets an expectation on every online business that everyone else can’t meet. You know, you see it on everything from delivery times. I see it when we sort of helping our own ecommerce clients to deal with issues that they’re having you I can see customers that potentially are sort of saying where my goods, but they are really holding small retailers to the same level, they would be holding Amazon with all that logistics experience. And I think sometimes it’s unfair. But I think sometimes the small retailers do need to up their game in terms of what they can offer in terms of this, because people are just expecting it now. And that expectation is not going to go away. So they are expecting next day, at the very minimum delivery. Same day. In some instances, they’re expecting people to get back to their emails promptly. They’re expecting an element of live chat support for pre and post sales and all this. It’s just the way the world has moved on. Now. I think you know, anyone that does any amount of online shopping frequently will understand that, you know, the better websites are the ones that really tick these boxes and get it right. Whereas the ones that ignore customer emails, don’t respond to social media comments, when people are getting agitated waiting for something. They’re the ones who don’t get the repeat business and are really going to struggle.
Yeah, that’s one of my biggest bugbears when you go onto social media and like you can see like the marketing team have probably scheduled a post or something to go out and then underneath you see all of these comments like so you can put posts out on social media and not get back to my question or like this is the problem that I’m having like you’ve not shipped it yet or I’ve not received my order and it’s been three weeks it almost kind of like as a consumer. It makes you look at that marketing collateral that the people have put out and then think well, if these many people are commenting on here because they don’t feel like they’ve been heard or been tended to, then I almost don’t want to buy from this company. I think some
businesses are scared of replying and from honest me people I’ve spoken to in the past ignore Negative reviews and social media posts and in reality, what we should be doing is engaging with them. Because at least it shows to people when they’re reading that, that the company cares and is interested about the feedback from their own clients. I mean, one of the things that we do every year as we go through the process with the drum, where we ask our clients to give us reviews on on how we do, and obviously we look at those and we look at the comments that come out the back of it and go actually, does this raise any issues that we can flag up as improvement for our own team. And I think anybody that’s doing any kind of volume online will probably have a social media presence with, you know, a significant number of customers in the comments, and they can pick up issues from that. But they really shouldn’t ignore the replying to people because like you say, if you if you’re getting frustrated about something you’re seeing, then all these scheduled automatic marketing posts that you may not understand that it’s all scheduled. But it just looks to me like someone’s doing this work, and they’re not getting back to the question. It’s just a negative experience with that consumer.
I think personally, if you’re running an online business, and you’ve got limited resources for customer services, then at least allocate the majority of them resources to pre sales. For example, if someone’s looking to buy a product, you don’t want to, you want to answer that question instantly, or as quick as physically possible. I’ve had one recently as quite a large purchase a piece of furniture, drop them a message, got no reply to the live chat, live chat not available online. Okay, no problem drop the customer SEE IT service email, we aim to get back to you because of COVID in three to five working days, that’s three to five working days before I can make that purchase. Just for one simple question. looked elsewhere for the answer on Google everywhere else? No answer. So I had to wait three to five days or just not buy. And that to me, is a fundamental mistake and trying to convert that sale post sales for example, if you’ve already purchased and you’re chasing up a tracking number, or you’ve got a question I understand that’s going to take a little bit longer and I think a lot of people will be okay with that is the pre sale side of things, you just you just stop in the sales instantly allocate resource to it.
Yeah, and I think flipping that on its head then so I recently bought quite quite an expensive purchase probably thanks to James for influencing me on this one. But um, I recently bought a peloton bike, I wanted the peloton treadmill at first. So I got in touch with him on the live chat to ask if I could have the treadmill upstairs. They said they didn’t recommend it. But you could have the bike upstairs. So I was kind of like oming and iring about it. But then they had me on a video call with like a person the next day, it was on a Sunday as well. She showed me everything like basically went through it all with me. And then by the time that I’ve got off the call had basically gone through and arranged to pay for it the next day. And that service level was probably the reason why I actually went through with the purchase because it was just so streamlined, so smooth. And then once I did the purchase, the woman who initially did like the video call with me, then sent me an email congratulating me and like it was really nice and personable.
And you’d kind of expect that for something like a peloton is a high value purchase, you’re committed not only to that individual purchase, but they’ve now got you as a subscribe customer, it makes sense to invest time and resource to that Apple have the same I’m sure we’ve all use Apple support, I assumed it wasn’t real time at first, when I first use it, not just the live chat, but even them calling you back and going through any technical issues. It’s an expensive product, you’d expect decent customer service, I believe their staff are even paid on performance as well. So based on the review that a customer gives on the service, they get paid better. So that makes perfect
sense. I think it applies as well to b2b businesses, I mean, everything even down as simple as inquiries to it to a company. You know, I know for a fact that we’ve won a lot of business in the past where we’ve responded to client inquiries within minutes versus other people that may be sit on it for a couple of days. And unfortunately, people Yeah, we’ve gone through the trouble to inquire or want to buy or you know, want a conversation. They don’t want to wait three days for reply back. They’re kind of in the mood to talk there. And then, and that’s where it doesn’t matter if it’s a product or a b2b service or anything. It’s the same theory applies across the board that people need to just be prompt to get back to people. Or if you haven’t got a resource, find a way to communicate that, you know, within this particular time window, we’ll we’ll get back to you. So there’s some expectations being set.
When I used to work Alton Towers, we had this thing called like brand sentiment tracking and it wasn’t called that back then. So it was about five years ago. But what we did was we track kind of like the sentiment of all of the communications that were coming into us. And it was quite bad because it was around the time the smiler incident had happened. And then what we did off the back of some of that was we started to put in place service level agreements. So anyone who can who contacted us through Twitter or Facebook online, we’d have to get back to them within 30 minutes. And then anyone who emailed into as a time when it was like super busy, we’d have to get back to them within like three working days. And like, kind of really try and sort their problem out with the first one that we got back to them with. And after putting in place these like service level agreements, and then incentivizing the team to like really try and meet those brand sentiment went up. And we didn’t have as many problems because we were making it a better process for the customers.
Instead of our backlog, you’re dealing with it in real time, pretty much. So keeping on top of things, there’s so many ways as well to, to offer customer service, I think Skye do it quite well at times. And I focus on Skype, because they were one of the first people to to use messenger as an ongoing chat. So you could ask the question, get get a reply, and it would stay within your messenger. So if you ever had another question, you dropped it on there, the full history is on there as well. It may be one incident that goes over like a month, for example, but it’s still on the same thread. And you feel like you’ve got, you’ve got a communication channel open, if that makes sense. It’s the same with like live chat, you’re going to a live chat, you fill in your details, you click the button available online, and you’ve clicked the sales. The sales tab has also things like that.
Yeah, I guess we’ve online customer services. So it’s, it’s one of those clients are at different stages as well, in their lifetime journey. Like some of them, they still put a lot of effort into those phone calls and emails and stuff. They don’t really utilise social media. But I think, especially with the E commerce clients, where they’ve actually got quite a big social media presence, and they are doing a lot of marketing through there, and they’ve spent the time to build up those communities, and then not to service people on the platforms that they naturally associate with that brand. They’re missing a trick.
Yep, definitely. Because good customer service travels far. And then you’ll notice like one poor piece of customer service and 10 people talk about it online, and you’re losing customers left, right and centre, I understand the current situation with COVID. That’s been the excuse at the top of every single email reply you got to do to COVID there’s a delay of seven to 10 days on replying to emails, not sure why because the majority is the customer service teams that we work with. I’m sure you worked with quite a few over the last few months. And they’ve all been rather than furloughed, they’re all working remotely on the same job they were doing in an office. So really, I shouldn’t see that being a problem. But I do understand, especially some of the smaller retail shops that have gone online quite quickly. And they fill out their staff. There’s just basically the director at home, replying to emails, shipping orders and trying to try and do their best. And I understand that sort of as a learning curve. But it’s something that I don’t think will go away, their ecommerce store will always stay, I think people are still going to buy from them online when they open their shops again. And they’ll need to learn how to keep that customer service level their online, as well as their their shops.
Yeah. And I think I think I just want to finish this podcast, not really with just giving people a few top tips on how to improve their customer service. If it’s something that they’re a little bit hesitant about replying to those people that are maybe commenting on the social media, or they’re not quite sure on how to get back to people. So do you have any tips rich, to help people,
it’s all it’s all related to resource. Let’s be honest, if you’ve got the staff, if you’ve got admin members of the team, put live chat on their computer, put the emails at the front of of the their jobs to do KPI and maybe give incentives for them to reply to customers. Take the rough with the smooth, you’re going to get negative feedback. Like you mentioned previously on social media on social media, everybody can see on an email, nobody can see it. So keep that conversation short and sweet and deal with it. And if you if you always reply in a positive manner, even on social media, it just works. Everybody sees that you’re trying to be nice, and you’re trying to be helpful. We understand some larger companies, especially their social media team is outsourced and might not be dealt with in house. So the outsourcing company tend to just do the canned response of apologies for this, please email customer services at dot dot dot. And that sometimes is a bit of an issue. It’s always good to have at least a member of the team looking over your social media and to keep an eye on things.
Yeah, I would say with that, though. So we used to use that canned response to Alton Towers. And we did it all in house and internally there. So one thing that I would say is never ever have your customer services team, commit to a resolution on social media make it public, because then you’re upholding that standard to every single one of your customers clients and it might not always warrant that same level of resolution. So I’d always take it on a case by case basis. And try and get them to engage with you privately take it away from that public platform. But just make it super positive like thank you for your feedback. We’d love to hear more about this. Get in touch at did it So yeah, that’s kind of my advice. But yeah, never get your get your customer services team to commit to a resolution publicly because it could backfire massively.
Cool. Yeah. So I think yeah, there’s lots of different ideas there. And I think you know, our customers that we will tend to work with ecommerce and b2b clients, when they approach us with various business challenges that we can help them with tips and advice from 20 years of experience of dealing with this and yeah, what’s good and what’s bad and what’s worked for other clients. So if anyone has got any questions or to explore this further, what’s the sciatica integrate better customer services into their existing web platforms? Then drop us a line at Hello at so marketing.com