Whether you’re a sole proprietor or a large corporation, it shouldn’t be difficult for customers to contact you. Making it easy is paramount to maintaining customer satisfaction and building loyalty. If you’re difficult to contact, you risk alienating your customers and/or losing them to a competitor.
Here are three tools you can use to minimize customer effort while giving stellar service:
Customer Support Channel #1: Live Chat
Live chat software has been available since 2002, so it’s a familiar place for your customers to meet you. In a survey conducted by Forrester, 62% of customers were more likely to make a purchase online with the availability of live customer support, and 63% of customers would more likely return to a website offering the service.
Live chat is also easy to use: To start a chat, your customer can click an icon via your site. While larger businesses may require a developer to build the tool, your small business can easily provide this service using an app like Olark or Drift.
Live Chat for a Small Business
- Customization: Using visitor data, you can automate the tool to initiate chats with your most potentially profitable customers
- Insight: You can obtain valuable data from your customers to help make decisions and maximize your business’ profitability
- Availability: It’s easy to remove or alter the chat icon when outside of office hours or if you’re unavailable
- Confusion: With such a variety of apps on the market, the initial choice can be difficult
- Difficulty: Developer resources may be required for customization
- Cost: Subscription costs can add up, especially if you have multiple agents
Live Chat for Your Customer
- Personalization: If you add profile photos of your support team, your customers can see who they’re interacting with
- Fun: Your customer support specialists can add a playful touch by allowing your customers to chat with stickers, gifs and emojis
- Value: There’s no extra cost to the customer
- Time-outs: The experience becomes negative if the chat session closes before your customer responds
- Unfamiliarity: Less tech-savvy customers may find it frustrating to use
- Browser-based: Live chat is not mobile-friendly
A pro for the both of you: Some apps can even translate chats back and forth for easy multi-lingual conversation.
Customer Support Channel #2: Facebook Messenger
When Facebook became a marketing tool, customer service via Facebook Messenger followed naturally. Communicating via Facebook Messenger requires little effort, and, with 1.23 billion users, your customers are likely to call Facebook home.
Facebook Messenger for a Small Business
- Cost: Super affordable to start
- Access: As with personal Facebook, you can receive alerts for both private messages and public comments on your page
- Personality: Stickers, emojis, ‘online now’ notifications and read receipts add a human touch
- Unpredictability: Facebook is a huge company, meaning they can drop or change the product without warning
- Support: If the service is down, receiving support from Facebook may be difficult
Facebook Messenger for Your Customer
- Familiarity: Facebook allows you to meet your customers where the already are
- Effort: Customers already know how to use the tool
- No extra cost to the customer
- Security: Customers may not feel comfortable sharing sensitive information over Facebook messenger
- Retention: Having your customer communicate with you outside of your website or app poses a risk of losing them to distraction
A pro for the both of you: Use a range of features already available through Facebook Messenger like file exchange or sending/receiving money.
Customer Support Channel #3: SMS
SMS is a very familiar form of communication to your customers. They spend 23 hours a week texting everyone but you.
A 2014 Harris Poll by OneReach found that 77% of 18–34-year-old SMS users were likely to have a positive perception of a company that offered the service. New and existing helpdesk companies like Zendesk and Mosio are introducing apps to help you streamline text-based support for your small business.
SMS for a Small Business
- Personality: You can use gifs and media available through SMS messaging to add a personal flair
- Closeness: SMS encourages customers to save your number, sowing the seeds for ongoing relationships
- Quickness: SMS is meant to be concise. Offer great support in fewer words
- Functionality: SMS does not support certain features like sending/receiving money or in-app purchases
- Expectation: You won’t be able to set yourself as ‘unavailable’ outside of your office hours
SMS for Your Customer
- Security: SMS is viewed as private, safe and secure
- Access: Mobile and on-the-go friendly
- Availability: Customers can send messages anytime
- Cost: SMS can be costly for customers depending on their phone plan
- Hardware: Restricted to mobile, making it difficult for some customers to type detailed messages
A pro for the both of you: Both you and your customer can easily access conversation history.
A loyal customer is worth up to ten times their first purchase. Retain your customers by using a service channel that requires little effort from them. This will encourage ongoing, valuable relationships. It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one. Live chat, SMS and Facebook messenger are tools that will make it easy for you to maintain stellar customer service and lay the groundwork for a loyal following.
Pick the Best Customer Support Channel for You
With these three strong options, you may be stumped with which to chose. Having years of experience providing customer service at FreshBooks, I don’t think there’s a wrong choice here. Indeed, you’ll succeed or fail on how you use the tool more than the tool itself. So it’s key to pick the option that you can most readily adopt.
If I were choosing for my own small business, I would probably opt for a live chat application directly on my website. This keeps customers on my site — where they can see. A live chat application is customizable and keeps the customer within your space at no cost to them.
As your business grows, you can’t go wrong offering additional support via Facebook Messenger and/or SMS; by answering incoming messages and offering continued contact after your customer’s initial purchase. This will allow for communication without requiring them to come back to your site.
But most importantly: Be “human” and helpful. The real difference-maker will be how you’re engaging your customers through any of the above channels.
About the Author: Colin is a Senior Support Lead at FreshBooks. He brings a unique perspective to the FreshBooks blog with his extensive background in people management and customer service. Fun fact: He is also a ‘serial hobbyist’ with collections ranging from taxidermy to vintage sunglasses.