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Digital Customer Service – The What, Why and How

What is Digital Customer Service and importance of digital customer service
So before we jump on to digital customer service, lets first decode what ‘Digital’ exactly means.

When I asked this question to my colleagues, each of them had cooked a different definition based on their perceptions and experiences. 

I won’t say they were incorrect. Instead, the definitions were both similar and different in various ways. 

For some, digital is all about technology, while for others, it is a new way of interacting with customers. Some think of it as a modern approach to carrying out business, while others feel it’s something people today can’t live without. 

The one thing that I found common in all the definitions I heard was – change in mindset. Driven by technology, digital is the new way of thinking and doing things. It is a change that has to be embraced to move forward, connect better, stay sustainable, and create value. 

Let’s now drill down to understand everything about digital customer service:

The digital wave has revolutionized the global business landscape, to the extent that companies now are increasingly inclined towards altering their business models to accommodate the changing customer demands. 

Digital customer service forms a crucial part of business models today, given the huge role it plays in staying relevant and competitive. 

Surprisingly, this change is not driven by the business ecosystem. Instead, it’s the customers changing behavior that forms the core of this shift towards digital customer service. 

Let’s look at what is digital customer service, why is it important, and how you can do justice to it:

What is Digital Customer Service?

To survive the ever-evolving, constantly-changing online business landscape, it’s crucial to embrace the new market realities that revolve around the digitally-conscious customers. 

Digital customer service is all about serving customers through digital channels. These include emails, chat, social media, self-help platforms, and the like. The reason behind the popularity of digital channels is the speed, accuracy, and relevance they deliver to customers. These three elements, therefore, form the soul of digital customer service.

At a time when the digital revolution has made in-roads into the lives of people from all walks of life, digital customer service is an opportunity for businesses to establish a strong connection with customers, indulge in meaningful interactions, and engage with them in a better way.

Why is Digital Customer Service Crucial?

Customers today choose digital platforms over everything else, to research something, buy a product, share their views, or even broadcast their frustration. This is precisely why providing top-notch services to customers is paramount to stay ahead of the curve. 

Need a stronger reason to understand why digital customer service is essential?

These key findings from a report on e-care published by McKinsey & Company will do the work for you:

  • Digital customer care or e-care has the potential to significantly lower the cost of customer service operations while increasing customer satisfaction.
  • 76% of customers in the telecommunication industry are satisfied with a fully digital journey, compared with 57% who are satisfied with interactions through traditional channels

Digital Customer Service for higher customer satisfaction

  • First-rate e-care companies treat digital customer service as a long-term, strategic transformation, not a bolted-on capability. They maintain momentum and focus throughout the process, vigilantly keeping an eye on the customer experience and potential business risks such as customer churn.

Digital customer care is clearly the Now Big Thing capable of catapulting organizations towards a positive growth trajectory. 

Digitization has changed the habits of customers, making them accustomed to getting anything they want in a jiffy. It has made them impatient, demanding bunch who enjoy the attention. They are spoilt for choice. Hence, switching brands isn’t a big deal for them.

Food for thought – In such a hyper-sensitive online environment, merely having a social media account won’t do. There has to be a systematic approach to embrace digital and embed it in business processes in order to provide a stellar digital customer experience.

How Can You Deliver Excellent Digital Customer Service?

Delivering a top-notch digital customer experience involves everything – an easy to navigate a website, a smooth purchase process, providing self-help support, addressing queries over chat, answering their questions on social media, etc. 

Talk of a physical brick and mortar setting, customers do not have much choice. They are patient and many a time, ready to compromise on a few aspects, if they get something somewhat near to what they want. 

Now consider an online setting, completely opposite from the physical one. Here, customers are impatient, because they know that all it’s going to take is a single click to find a better brand. The factors affecting the digital customer experience in the physical environment are contrary to those that impact experiences in the online sphere. For instance, it’s a representative’s behavior, lighting, and decor of the shop that sets the impression, while, in an online store, it’s the ease, speed, and relevance that take precedence. 

The key takeaway here is that the online environment does offer a significant advantage, and that’s customer data, leveraging which firms can anticipate customer actions, understand behavior, preferred communication channels, etc. to customize digital experiences for different customers. 

These simple tips will give you an understanding of how to deliver unparalleled digital services and by that extension, provide exceptional experiences:

1. Provide Services Across Multiple Channels

To meet the growing demands of customers for instant gratification, making assumptions and restricting to a single channel is a big NO. What if that one channel doesn’t work for some customers? They will not think twice before turning to your competitor. Tapping multiple channels is crucial to cater to customers of all kinds, as some might prefer self-service support, while others will want to chat or raise a ticket.

Whatever be the channel, it’s the immediacy and convenience that customers look for. In fact, over 80% of customers now prefer to get a response in one hour or less, which makes it vital for you to cater to customer requests coming from all directions.  

For this, ensure that you have a self-help knowledge base, live chat system as well as a help desk to address customer concerns. Let’s look at all of them in detail:

✔️Knowledge Base

Do It Yourself – this is the concept that forms the core of the knowledge base. It equips customers with a weapon called self-help, enabling them to resolve queries all on their own, without making an effort to reach out to your support staff. 

One example of a knowledge base is the FAQ section that most firms have on their websites. Besides FAQ, you can also build user manual, help center, online documentation, etc.with knowledge base software, and make your customers self-sufficient.

Tips for Creating a Compelling Knowledge Base:

  • Choose the right knowledge base software that is rich in features. 
  • Pick a suitable template and start putting in content. 
  • Write from scratch or upload existing files right into your document.
  • Add multimedia to your knowledge base to make it engaging for readers
  • Customize it with your brand name, logo, fonts, colors, and themes. 
  • Set workflows for articles and ensure that they are reviewed before getting published. 
  • Ensure that your knowledge base works seamlessly on multiple devices – laptops, tablets, and mobile phones so that customers can access it conveniently whenever they want. 
  • Your knowledge base should offer a powerful search functionality similar to that of Google, wherein customers get suitable content suggestions when they start typing their queries in the search bar.

Look at how Unleashed, one of the market leaders in inventory management solutions, created self-help documentation for its customers, using ProProfs:

Problem – Unleashed wanted cloud-based documentation for its customers. Its main goal was to be able to write and publish content effortlessly. It wanted a fast and easy-to-use solution that could be easily managed by one person. 

Solution – The simplicity of ProProfs Knowledge Base software helped Unleashed create and manage content easily. Its customers needed a help center with awesome search functionality, and that’s where ProProfs provided them with a delightful solution. Besides the authoring part, it also allowed Unleashed to customize its help center with the firm’s branding and styles, without the support of the development team. 

Result – The documentation Unleashed created using ProProfs Knowledge Base software was of extreme help to its customers. They could search for information quickly, save pages and articles. Also, its support agents can search for content from the same online document for fast ticket resolution.

✔️Live Chat 

Customers also prefer directly chatting with a live chat agent to get their queries resolved. It’s simple and delivers instant results. Your agents also get to monitor website visitors, understand their needs, anticipate the questions they are going to ask, and accordingly provide suitable support.

Here’s What a Full-Fledged Live Chat Software Helps You Do:

  • Instant help – Your operators can answer customer questions on the spot. 
  • Canned responses – Create canned responses for frequently asked questions, so you don’t have to type them manually again and again. 
  • Real-time visitor monitoring – Track the activities of customers in real-time, pages they are viewing, and understand what they are looking for. 
  • Post-chat surveys – Such surveys give you an idea of how satisfied customers are with the answers provided by support operators.

✔️Help Desk 

The help desk ticketing system is a great way to help customers raise tickets and get them resolved on time. It streamlines ticket management, by bringing customer queries on one single platform. 

Here’s How a Help Desk System Helps You Cater to Customers:

  • Shared Inboxes Help desk brings all your customer-facing inboxes such as support@, help@, sales@, etc., at a single location, that makes it easy for operators to manage them. 
  • Ticket Routing – Tickets once collected on a single platform can then be routed to relevant divisions for a quick resolution. 
  • Canned Responses – Create canned responses for repeated customer questions and ensure that issues are addressed as soon as possible. 
  • Smart Reports – Get an overview of your help desk performance with smart reports. They provide you actionable insights into the number of tickets generated, tickets resolved, help desk ratings, and much more.

2. Tap Social Media From FB to Snapchat And Everything in Between

90% of people use social media to interact directly with a company. In fact, social media is the top preference of customers to get their queries resolved, as per SproutSocial’s report released in 2016. This shows how invaluable social media is when it comes to providing digital customer service.

Preferred Customer care channels

Using social media platforms for branding is quite obvious, given the wide reach they have, but that’s not the only thing they should be used for.

Since customers today spend most of their time on social media, they tend to ask most of their questions on such platforms because they are:
(a) Easily accessible and
(b) Convenient.
All they expect from you is prompt and relevant responses. If you fail to deliver on that, it can backfire and cost you, your hard-earned goodwill, as words spread like fire on social media.

Another revelation by SproutSocial’s survey shows that:

People's wait time vs brand's response time

This can be consequential. Remember one thing, perceptions are formed very quickly on social media, and it won’t take a second for customers to share their experiences and frustration with your services. 

All that customers expect is that you show some care and respect by acknowledging their queries or questions and responding within a reasonable time, at least within 4 hours because after that, anything stops making sense.

Once you start channelizing your efforts in positioning yourself on social media, you will realize that it pays off well, right from increased customer satisfaction and better sales to enhanced brand visibility and customer retention.

3. Develop Service Standards for Better Experiences

Regardless of how volatile your industry is, you need to set stringent standards for service delivery and ensure that your customer-facing teams follow them. Having pre-defined rules in place will guarantee that the customer requirements are met and quality is delivered. It also maintains transparency between you and your clients, as customer expectations are set according to your service standards.

If a particular service or a facility doesn’t fall under the gamut of your service standards, customers will have clarity on the same and will mold their expectations accordingly. But, imagine a situation wherein you don’t haven’t listed down your service standards. It will keep the clients confused, leading to misunderstandings and a lot of to and fro between your brand and customers.

4. Embrace Technology-Powered Solutions

To serve the technologically-forward, on-the-go customers, you need to be on top of your game, updated with the latest technological advancements.

For improving digital customer service, one thing that can guarantee you success is how good you are at matching pace with customers, how informed and updated you are with technological developments and whether your solutions are driven by technology.

Without a shadow of a doubt, technology is at the center of digital customer service. You simply cannot ignore it. You need to embed technology in your solutions, services as well as equip your customer-focused staff with the right digital capabilities so that they are positioned better to deliver exceptional services.

Some of the technology-driven digital customer service trends include:

  • AI-powered chatbots
  • AI-driven self-service support
  • Videos, the most preferred digital content
  • Real-time messaging
  • Live video interactions
  • Blockchain

5. Keep Innovating

You cannot keep doing everything in the same way and expect different returns. Experimenting and innovating with your existing services and offerings shows that you strive for more and are willing to go the extra mile to serve customers.

Ideate what better you can do, research about new ideas, and understand how they can bring a difference in your service, take risks, experiment with the ideas, and finally evaluate the results.

“Innovation is the DNA of digital customer service.”

Stay up to date with the latest digital customer service trends and offer something unique to customers so that they keep coming back for more. 

Take, for instance, L’Oreal. It recently rolled out a virtual consultation feature for its makeup brand NYX. The feature is meant to provide customers in real-time advice from beauty professionals through video chat via the NYX app, and at the same time, they can see how they will look after using the product. 

Who would have thought of that? Well, this is what makes L’Oreal stand out in the beauty industry. It keeps innovating and customizing its services to provide the best-in-class experiences to its customers. 

6. Keep It Simple

The digital planet is already full of complexities, so try keeping your services simple and fuss-free. Customers are bombarded with surveys, questions, pop-ups every time they open a website, which hampers their overall experience of interacting with a brand. You definitely don’t want that, do you?

In the chaotic marketplace place, it becomes difficult for customers to relate to a brand. In a scenario like this, try to provide a clean, simple, and smooth experience to customers, sans too many ads, questions, surveys, etc. 

For this, ensure that you don’t overdo anything. Keep questions, surveys, pop-ups, ads, relevant, and to the minimum. Also, ensure that your services are accessible across devices – desktop, mobile phones, tablets, laptops, etc. The more convenience you provide to customers, the better will be their digital experience with your brand.

Keep the momentum rolling

 The Global digital population today stands at 5.04 Billion, which is 58% of the entire global population. The figure is staggering, and it will jump to a higher number in the years to come, given the pace at which digitalization is percolating in every nook and cranny of the world, making its presence known and felt across geographies.

Global Digital Population in October 2019What do you think is the best thing to do at this point? You got to walk along with customers, be forward-thinking with your approach, formulate customer-focused and growth-oriented digital customer service strategies that can help you stay ahead of the curve.

Tap every possible digital channel to engage with customers right from the time they visit your website and browse it till they make a purchase and post a query on a platform of their preference.

And once you get a grip on it, keep the momentum rolling for continuous success..!!

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About the author

Bryan Wills is a seasoned expert in knowledge management with over a decade of experience in the field. His expertise extends across various domains, including Security & Compliance, User Management, Knowledge Management, Software Documentation, and Customer Support. His writings not only reflect his deep understanding of these subjects but also offer practical solutions and strategies to help organizations enhance their knowledge management processes. Bryan’s work has been published in GetFeedback, CustomerThink, and Apruve.