Moving In-Store Customer Service Online

Customer service agent in apartment using business SMS to connect with customers
COVID-19 changed how most businesses run. Many are shifting their processes, bringing their customer service communications—if not their entire operations—online. Instead of providing in-store representatives, they are offering online customer service instead.

But for many businesses, the shift from in-person to online customer service can seem like a challenge. Where can businesses start the transition? What’s the best process? What tools are best for online business chats?

Let’s dive in.

Choose Your Channels

Customers like options. Enable a variety of communication channels, empowering them to reach you easily through a channel they particularly like or that makes sense at a specific moment in time.

You’ll want to consider offering three key options:

  • Web chat. Web chats allow customers to click on widgets throughout your website and immediately connect with a customer service agent. Web chat conversations are in real-time, but synchronous. That is, both parties need to be online to chat. Web chat information is not saved unless your customer provides their name and email address.
  • Messaging. Today’s customers love messaging. It is asynchronous, which means customers can send and answer questions whenever they want. Customers like a variety of messaging channels, too. The average consumer has 3 messaging apps on their smartphone’s main screen. Many messaging apps work between mobile and desktop devices, too, so both customers and employees can text from wherever they are.
  • Email. Though it’s not very fast, email is a tried-and-true customer service channel. Nearly every customer feels comfortable using it, and your business probably has an email account already. It’s easy to add additional email addresses if you don’t have one for customer service. This channel is ideal for long-form communications or attachments.
  • Phone calls. Some customers still want to resolve certain queries through the phone. While phone calls are slower than messaging and web chats, they are perfect for more in-depth customer conversations.

When offering all of these channels, be sure to create a streamlined, omnichannel experience. Integrate your systems where possible, share data between them, and keep your branding uniform.

Publicize Your New Offerings

If you’re taking your customer service online, you need to let your customers know so they can actually use it. Publicize your online customer service offerings through your:

  • Website
  • Social media webpages
  • Email newsletters
  • Online marketing campaigns
  • Print (posters or flyers, etc.)

Letting customers know you have a new way of managing customer service is a great way to encourage them to use it.

Select Focus Channels For Certain Use Cases

Certain channels are best used for certain situations. Phone calls, for example, are slow. They’re very useful for in-depth conversations that require a great deal of expressed empathy, like conflict resolutions. But spending time calling every single customer for feedback is not an efficient use of your team’s time.

Use call deflection to direct customers to faster channels for simple communications. For example, you may want to emphasize your business SMS number or Facebook Messenger icon on your Contact Us page, including your call-only number at the bottom of the page and in smaller print.

Engage Loyal Customers

Part of in-store customer service is proactively creating a good customer experience. With online customer service, you can also help cultivate that experience for your customers. Once customers have opted into receiving emails or messages from you, you can text them regularly. (This is, of course, as long as they agreed to receiving your messages.)

Text customers on your SMS list with product tips, operations updates, and other important information. This will keep them engaged with your brand—and ensure they know that you’re open to communications.

Centralize Internal Response Systems Where Possible

Your customer service team needs to centralize where possible. For example, if you offer multiple messaging channels, you need to direct all incoming messages into a single repository, where team members can see and respond to them.

Business SMS platforms make it easier to centralize incoming messages. They accept and send messages from both native texting apps and over-the-top apps like Facebook Messenger and Apple Business Chat. Team members receive all incoming messages in one shared inbox. When they reply, customers receive responses through the same channel their original questions were sent through.

Communicate Internally

If your team is going fully remote, it can be challenging to communicate at first. Luckily, most online customer service platforms offer internal communication tools.

For example, business SMS platforms offer private comments. Private comments empower team members to invite one another into chats for help. Agents can review and talk about a customer conversation without the customer knowing. Then, the original agent can send a response to the customer.

Use Measurements And Feedback To Improve

It can be hard to tell how exactly a customer service team is performing, especially when everyone is working remotely. Most online customer service tools automatically measure team performance, collecting data about response times and resolution numbers. These reports are a great way to ensure all of your team members are adjusting to online customer service.

It’s also a good idea to send feedback requests to your customers. Be honest, explaining your recent switch to online customer service and your desire to succeed. Authenticity will make more people respond. Consider using business SMS for feedback requests. Texting has a high open and response rate, increasing the chances that your customers will respond.


Want more information about adjusting your business in the face of a change? Check out our blog.

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