Embracing online customer service

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Jonah Nyoni

This week we celebrated the global Customer Service Week (CSW).As a nation, we are going through vicissitudes, but that does not mean customer service is not important.

BY JONAH NYONI

In this age, every company must learn and embrace online customer service.

Since it was Customer Service Week, I took time to train people for free with my co-trainer, Patience Phiri, an award-winning service captain.

One exciting group that we trained were commuter omnibus drivers and conductors.

I noted one thing: They know what they should do, but they lack practice.

Customer care is common knowledge, but it’s not a common practice.

Most companies are concerned with how they can make money and leaving out the most important ingredient; the customer.

The internet is now an inevitable part of our lives.

Business are incomplete without using the internet.

One of Amazon’s leadership principles says that their first obsession is the customer.

Amazon says: “Leaders start with the customer and work backwards.

“They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust.

“Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”

No wonder why it’s a billion-dollar company.

Customer management strategy

A great internet strategy is the first thing you should work on to have a great online customer service.

This lays out your objectives and your goals about online customer care.

For example, is your company available 24/ 7 to attend to emails?

How long do you take before you respond to an email?

What protocol do you follow in responding to emails?

As long as this is not clearly crafted and communicated, an employee can as well respond to emails after seven days.

A strategy lays out how you are going to train your staff on customer care.

Your strategy spells out how you are going to evaluate or measure the effectiveness of your online customer care.

Team strategy

Most companies employ tech savvy people to be on their internet service customer desk without empowering them with the basics of customer service.

Train your tech savvy people on customer care.

Don’t leave anything to chance.

Secondly, there are those that are good at customer service, but they are limited on tech skills, they must be trained as well on the best tools of online customer care.

CEOs must now embrace executive coaching so as to empower employees.

Complaint management system

Some years back, I remember some supermarkets had a book where customers would comment.

That was a great strategy, but we must now learn that customers don’t wait for that book for them to complain, they use the internet and social media.

As a result, every company should have an internet complaint management system.

Real power has shifted

Now the power is in the hands of the customer.

Their smartphones can cause great damage to your reputation.

Their discussions about you on social media can damage your reputation.

So every business has to understand that the power is in the hands of the customer.

Rough war has emerged

Small boys get into business every day and the internet has made it easy for them to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with established companies.

It’s a disruptive war, which does not respect your business.

It’s a David vs. Goliath war!

Be in the game, knowing that everyone has access to the internet and they can just eliminate you at the click of a button.
Realise the power of effective communication

The internet does not eliminate the power of effective communication.

There are some who mistakenly think the internet is informal.

John Tschouhl (2001: 111-112) in the book E-service says: “As technology has evolved, we have become more dependent on equipment and don’t teach employees people-to-people skills.

“Whether you are dealing with customers in person or via the internet, you must know how to communicate effectively.

“Communication is a skill that can be taught but, just as people don’t learn to use a computer in just two hours, they won’t learn how to communicate effectively in two hours.

“Repetition and continuous training is critical.”

Relate humanly

Because there is a machine to transmit our messages or signals, at times we lose the human touch in our communication online.

Besides relating humanly, you must relate in a great way.

Don’t think that because someone is far away, it won’t matter.

Let your website be user-friendly.

When you look at Samsung and Apple phones they are so simple you don’t even need a manual to use them.

Respond fast

Make it a policy that every email or post social media is responded to.

Most companies lack that strategy.

If you respond fast, you develop a good reputation.

For example, a negative message about your company left unresponded to for a long time, particularly when your customers continue to pass negative comments, can be damaging.

Recognise everyone who is online

Internet tools have made our lives easy.

Now you can tell how my people visit your website.

Employ such statistics to your advantage.

Add a web chat module on your website, so that you can do a live chat with your customers.

Reassure security

Assure the customer about their security on your website.

This is what Ali Express has taught us over years.

You can buy using your MasterCard online from as far as China, and you are assured that your purchase will hit your doorstep in any part of the world.

When you are reliable on the internet, it’s easy for people to send money to your company.