Quick Guide to Holiday Online Customer Service

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hands of business manager typing online customer serviceIt only takes one bad online interaction to put a damper on the next holiday sale. On the flip side, it takes one fantastic social media message or comment to make the holiday season merrier for the customer and the company. According to a list of holiday shopping statistics posted by Constant Contact, the numbers of online purchases and online searches leading to in-store visits are increasing. The stakes are higher than ever for creating an exceptional overall online experience for customers—including customer service.

Reaching the goal of 100% customer satisfaction during the holiday season can seam surreal. It’s the busiest time of the year for many companies. Staff members are stretched thin, both in terms of time and budget.

With all that being said, it’s not unrealistic to provide excellent customer service that boosts sales and brand loyalty. Use these tips to effectively deliver the online customer service that makes the holidays more festive for everyone.

Monitor social media messages.

The biggest mistakes companies make is a lack of awareness about the messages themselves and the importance of responses. On Facebook, one of the most popular social media sites, companies can get badges for quick response times. Beyond social media sites, customers value—even expect—-a quick response.

To meet those expectations, monitor social media messages closely (or contact a marketing firm that can assist with monitoring). Use an e-mail (that is attached to the social media account) or social media monitoring program to promptly and efficiently monitor messages. Whenever possible, add accurate location hours so customers know when to expect a response. If it is not possible to get the information at the time of the message, let the customer know when to expect an answer to their question.

Choose the customer service provider wisely.

Online customer service is not a task that should be assigned to just any staff member. An error in judgment can cost any company sales, both on individual transactions and in negative reviews. Negative reviews can play a significant role in customers’ purchasing decisions. According to Search Engine Land, research has shown that 88% factor online reviews into their purchasing decision.

As such, responding to e-mails and social media messages should not be delegated to any staff member or intern. The responsible party should be available to answer customer inquiries and knowledgeable in customer service. If there is a lack of available staff, consider outsourcing social media marketing to the experts.

Respond promptly.

Online customer service should not be a task that should be tackled once a day or irregularly. Customers expect a prompt response. On social media, statistics say most customers expect companies to respond within 24 hours on social media in general (and faster on some social media sites). For that reason, online messages and comments should be monitored closely. If the answer to the inquiry is not immediately available, let the customer know that their message has been received and the timeline for a resolution.

Ditch the canned responses.

Nothing can kill the holiday spirit like a canned customer service response. If a customer comments on a social media post, answer like a real human and don’t hesitate to ask them to communicate privately. Canned responses to every comment, such as a repeated “thank you for your comment, blah, blah, blah…” can backfire, especially when the initial customer comment is negative. This approach can anger the customer, making the customer experience a negative one.

Offer an easy solution.

The holidays are a busy season. Make the customer’s experience positive by making the resolution easy and expedient. Unless the resolution requires an in-depth conversation, avoid making the customer call; try as much as possible to communicate with the customer through their preferred method of communication (i.e. social media, e-mail, text message, etc.) A positive customer experience over the holidays can leave a favorable impression that lasts long after the festivities are over.

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