Finding the best way to connect with your customers isn’t easy — especially since the main reason consumers reach out to customer service is when there are problems, and they’re already frustrated. As a result, your company needs a way to provide answers as quickly as possible before things escalate to the point of customer churn.
Let’s dive into the various types of customer service and how to decide which ones are right for you.
Types of Customer Service
There is a wide range of types of customer service. The optimal solution is to have every option available to your customers, but not every industry or business necessarily needs all of those options. Your target audience likely has one or two types of customer service that they prefer and if your business can at least hit those types, your customers will be happy.
There are plenty of ways to let customers find their own answers to their burning questions. By providing tutorial videos and FAQ pages, your customers can save time and energy by finding answers online instead of waiting around to receive a response from your customer service representatives.
When your website has a comprehensive search bar to enter queries with a natural language processor, your customers can feel free to enter inquiries in their own words and find the answers they’re searching for. When you put rich content right at the fingertips of your customers, they’re much more likely to convert. Search bars can also record what your customers are asking so that you can identify where you might be missing opportunities.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
When you call a company and are greeted by a robotic voice asking you to press 1, 2, or 3 for different options, you’re talking to an interactive voice response or IVR. IVR is technically a form of self-service since customers can complete tasks without ever involving one of your agents, but many times people are calling because they have more complicated questions and will still need to connect with a human.
Many primarily online businesses opt for email customer service because it is so cheap and easy to set up a business email and have someone monitor it. As your business grows, you’ll likely need a team instead of just one person, but emails are quick, can be sorted, and don’t come with the expectation of being answered immediately.
You can further enhance the email experience by having a contact form on your website that automatically routes to your email and allows customers to select predetermined subject lines that can help you categorize the emails based on priority or department.
Live chats are what they sound like: the customer types in their question, and it’s automatically routed to a customer service representative who can ask for more information or provide a solution. They are great for quick answers or getting a quote for a more expensive or customized product or service.
A compromise between live chat and self-service comes in the form of chatbots. Typically, they function similarly to the IVR except through online chatting instead of a voice over the phone. When people enter keywords or phrases, the chatbot will automatically respond with further prompts for information. You can use the chatbot as an interactive FAQ so that people can get answers without needing to search or navigate around your website at all.
The old-fashioned type of customer support may never go out of style. Despite younger generations’ preferences for avoiding phone calls, there are plenty of older people out there who would still rather talk to someone than simply message them about an issue. It’s hard to say if phone support will still be relevant in the next few decades, but for now, it is still a vital part of customer service.
More people are turning towards social media to ask companies questions. It’s a big time-saver for consumers since they’re already on social media, and it takes less time to send a tweet than to head over to your website and look up the information. In fact, the majority of questions on social media could be answered if the customers took the time to click over to your website, but they aren’t willing to put in the effort.
Another reason why people like to ask questions on social media is that it puts the spotlight on the company. Not everyone is an influencer, but most people, especially in the younger generations, have tens or hundreds of people following them. When they ask a question and tag your company, everyone’s eyes are on you to see how you provide a resolution.
Most people expect an answer within minutes of posting, so your agents will need to be on the ball about responding. Also, they’ll need to be mindful of the fact that their answers are completely public, so they should choose their words wisely. If someone posts a negative review of your company, you’ll need someone to respond and ask if they can provide a solution or offer something to soothe the insult.
Choosing the Right Customer Service
As mentioned in each of the specific sections above, the customer service solutions all work for slightly different target audiences. This is not to say that certain audiences won’t overlap or that you should only choose one method of customer service, just that you’ll need to know more about your consumers to hone in on their preferred methods of contacting your business.
When To Choose Self-Service
Self-service works best for people who are very busy and don’t have time to wait for an answer, who need to see a physical representation of something (aka visual learners), introverts, or people who ask questions outside of normal business hours.
Self-service is a great way to supplement other forms of customer service since you’re saving your company time and money by letting customers do the work themselves without involving any agents on your end.
When To Use Interactive Voice Response
These are great for large companies who receive many phone calls every day and need to buy time for their customer service agents to finish with their previous calls before moving on. Simple tasks can usually be completed through IVR, like leaving a voicemail for a doctor’s office so that they can get back to you when they have some time.
When To Use Email
Email works best for companies that might not have the resources to implement some of the fancier customer service technologies. It can also be useful for small companies that can only allocate one or two people to customer service, especially if your audience is in the process of growing.
When To Use Live Chat
Live chat works best for people who need a quick answer now for relatively simple questions. In general, customers can speak faster than they can type, so live chats are not ideal for long, protracted questions that need a lot of explaining to formulate. Instead, they work well for people who need quick answers and don’t want to bother with picking up the phone.
When To Use A Call Center
Calling works best for older generations, Gen X and above, as well as for people who are auditory learners and need to connect with someone about the issue they’re having. For the most part, people have phones and cell phone services. There are many parts of the US alone that don’t have reliable internet connections or where people don’t have laptops or tablets, but phones are widespread, which means that everyone should be able to call in.
When To Use Social Media
Social media is primarily used for inquiries by millennials and younger generations. This will come into play more and more as time goes on, but for now, companies that aren’t targeting people under the age of 35 may not have to worry as much about offering customer service via social media.
However, it isn’t something to discount entirely, no matter how old your audience is, since people can leave scathing reviews on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the whole world to see. In the same way that evangelical customers can bring in plenty of new customers for you via social media, they can also irreparably damage your brand’s reputation.
Instead of being overwhelmed by the number of ways that customers can connect with your company, set out to do some research about the best ways according to your target audience. Try one or two out and see what type of response you get. You can even send out surveys to see what your customers might like to see in the future when they need your help.
Contact us for more information about how to provide the best customer service to wow your audience.