CUSTOMER SERVICE

5 Tips for Nailing Online Customer Service

Yes, it's possible to earn a near-perfect approval rating without ever talking to customers. Here's how.
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Apple occupies the throne in the tech world, but if you have a problem with your iPhone or MacBook, you either need to go to a retail store or wade around in online forums. And good luck trying to get an employee on the phone--even calling a store can mean maneuvering number prompts.

For customers, online customer support stinks, right? Reno, Nevada-based ShortStack doesn't think so. The self-service platform that helps companies garner signups to contests, newsletters, and social campaigns has a 98 percent approval rating from customers who've interacted with its support agents. And it pulled off this feat without ever speaking to one of them by phone.

CEO Jim Belosic admits a lack of money propelled his bootstrapped company's online-only approach. But things have changed since it launched three years ago. Not only did ShortStack boast 180 percent revenue growth last year, it's masterered web-only customer support. To do it right, though, Belosic says you need to be intentional about the following five things: 

Respond quickly

To serve the company's international base, some of ShortStack's 16 employees work at most times of the day. Typically they respond to service requests within a few minutes of receiving it, however, during peak periods that can switch to an hour or two. Remember, if you wait longer than 24 hours to respond, your customer may switch to your competitor.

Respond faster on social media

This is imperative, especially on Twitter where people go first to complain. Because ShortStack doesn't want anyone sharing personal information in public, employees always acknowledge the issue, then provide links to steer them back to the company's secure ecosystem.

Be authentic

Belosic says authenticity can turn disgruntled users into fans. "When someone interacts with us, we respond as if they're talking to our face and each one of us has a different personality," he says. "If someone says 'Hey, I'm really pissed off and this is broken' and they drop in some cuss words or something, I'll respond back and say 'You know what, I agree this is total b*llsh*t."

Create a wealth of web content

ShortStack now has more than 120 instructional YouTube videos it can easily share. "Maybe a customer asks a question where we think, 'Oh, this person may be a good candidate for this particular type of product.' So we'll answer their question and send them a link to maybe a more advanced document," Belosic says. "That's a pretty powerful tool because they're excited that they got their question answered quickly and easily and we even went beyond that and gave them something that they can read."

Try a third-party platform

It's cheaper than creating your own system and the market abounds with solutions. Belosic says ShortStack has used Zendesk and Help Scout, both solid customer service software platforms. 

Still not convinced email is better than speaking by phone? Belosic says that's fine for some companies. Cable or satellite TV customers, for example, want resolutions immediately and it's easy to tell them how to reset a router or what buttons to push to get Game of Thrones going again.

For platforms like ShortStack that provide more complex software solutions, it's easier (and quicker) for a support agent to login into a customer's account and examine the issue. It also keeps employees from being abused by angry customers. "Our support agents [are] our family," Belosic says. "I really wouldn't want to put my agents through anything negative."

How to Deal With Customer Complaints Online

Social media can amplify customer complaints, but your response can be an effective marketing tool. Here are two simple rules you can adopt to turn the negative into a positive.

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: May 29, 2014




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