Gone are the days of one-size-fits-all customer service. The digital age and all associated technological advances have brought a major overhaul of not only customer service but business in general.
Today, there are many ways to serve your customers. You must understand them all before deciding what’s best for you.
1. Walk-in Departments
While these are fast becoming obsolete, they do still exist. Of course, this is impossible for any business that exists only online.
But, some physical stores still have a “customer service” section where you can walk up and present your issue.
- Personal connection
- Returns /exchanges handled immediately
- Travel required
- Long lines
- Not possible with a global clientele
The many downsides to this method have companies gravitating to other, more streamlined methods of service that are often much cheaper.
For many, this was the next step up from a physical customer service department. It functions much the same way, but the customer doesn’t have to go anywhere.
- Companies aren’t limited to one physical location. Their reps can work from anywhere and they can have multiple phone lines going at once.
- Call centers can be open 24/7.
- It’s still pretty easy to develop a personal and emotional connection.
- Telephones are universal.
- People don’t like being put on hold.
- Having to follow a complex set of automated directions to reach someone is frustrating and potentially confusing.
- Poor reception can prevent customers from successfully making a call.
Perhaps even cheaper and more convenient than phone calls is email support, but you have to be smart if you want it to work. If possible, you want to respond to everything within 24 hours. Any longer than that and most people start getting irritated.
While email support is a great way to handle many issues, it’s smart to also have an alternate option for those with more urgent requests.
- Customers can send an email at any time.
- The entire conversation history is saved.
- Common, simple, and repetitive queries can be answered with pre-written solutions.
- Those who don’t love talking to people can often still thrive doing email support.
- Not ideal for urgent issues.
- It may be a struggle for anyone not tech-savvy.
- Email is impersonal and doesn’t allow for much reading of emotions.
4. Live Chat
This is a relatively new form of customer service wherein the benefits of phone calls and emails are combined in addition to having some unique advantages.
All it requires is for a company to set up an instant-messaging system on their website. Customers can type their inquiry and unlike an email that is sent to a mailbox, the receiving customer service agent is notified right away.
- Fast and easy to use.
- One agent can have multiple conversations going at once.
- Chatbots can be integrated to automate common and repetitive conversations.
- Like email, it’s highly impersonal.
- It may be faster than email but it’s still not instant like a phone call.
Many customers would love to solve the issue themselves rather than contact someone at all. There are ways you can help them with this and make it possible in many situations.
Self-serve customer service content typically exists on the company’s website and falls into a few categories: FAQ, training videos, infographics, video demonstrations, step-by-step instructions, online tools, and webinars.
You can organize these and make them easily searchable, allowing the customer to find what they need. If they don’t find an answer, make it easy to contact someone.
- A piece of content is created once and it helps many.
- Accessible 24/7.
- Actual people are freed up to handle more complex/individualized issues.
- Information needs to be updated periodically as things change.
- It requires a significant time investment.
- It must be written/presented well so customers can easily understand it.
Consider Your Options
Keep in mind that not every form of customer service works for every business or industry. Consider the above options carefully and weigh all pros and cons. While you should have one form of customer service that is your main focus, it’s smart to offer one or two alternates as well.