7 Tips & Tools for Real-Time Customer Service
In a fast-paced world, time is a precious commodity. With purchases now possible at the touch of a button, customers also expect businesses to deliver on speed when it comes to support.
When shopping was confined to physical stores, it was easy for customers to receive immediate assistance. If they had a problem with a product, all they had to do was take it to the store where they bought it.
An immediate resolution was almost guaranteed because of the physical proximity to the store assistant. Although e-commerce has since transformed shopping habits, customers still expect the same level of responsiveness.
With real-time customer service, you can meet this expectation by helping customers with their problems at the actual time they occur and not hours or days later.
In this post, we’ll show you how and walk you through the tools to implement for your real-time customer service strategy.
What are the benefits?
Here are some of the benefits that you’ll experience with real-time customer service:
Increased customer satisfaction. Reacting to problems in real-time increases the likelihood of a complete and faster resolution as agents can walk customers through solutions.
Lower churn. Cart abandonment is one of the biggest challenges facing online businesses. By offering real-time support, you can instantaneously clear doubts and nudge your customers to the checkout process.
Lower service costs. The real-time resolution of customers’ problems lowers service costs. With fewer recurring questions, your agents can save their energy for the questions that require more attention.
Meaningful feedback. When you solve your customers’ problems in real-time, the feedback you collect is more likely to be meaningful because interactions will be fresh in their minds. People are also more willing to leave feedback when it’s seamlessly included in the interaction.
The best options for real-time customer service
While the benefits are obvious, real-time customer service sounds stressful. Don’t you need a big team to staff the support (i.e. a big wallet) and make sure your agents are prepared to make the switch?
Not if you do it right. Here are a few hassle-free options that won’t break the bank.
This is one of the easiest ways to offer real-time customer service. When browsing your website, customers may have questions about product availability, shipping costs, etc. With live chat, you can answer them immediately - and while they’re still on your site, reducing the risk of cart abandonment.
You don’t have to wait for your customers to contact you. Because you can see which page a customer is on, you can anticipate problems and proactively reach out to them. Anticipating and addressing problems as they arise shows customers that you’ve got their back.
Worried about not being able to answer questions quickly? No problem. You can set up canned messages in live chat which allow you to respond to customers quickly and efficiently.
If offering real-time multilingual support is a concern, some live chat solutions come with an auto-translation feature, making live multilingual support possible for everyone.
Mobile technology has radically changed our lives. At any given moment, we’re on our phones whether to communicate with friends and family, to share content, or to make a purchase.
When it comes to contacting businesses, customers prefer messaging over other contact channels because it’s generally the fastest solution. They no longer have to wait days for an email response or in an endless phone queue.
Another benefit of mobile messaging is its flexibility. How often have you had to halt a conversation to ask your customer to provide additional information? Mobile messaging makes it possible for your customer to take a photo of a receipt or add an attachment without disconnecting. No drawn-out back-and-forth.
Live chat and messaging are great channels for real-time support, however, they also require you to react to requests fast. If you don’t have the crew to offer immediate responses, chatbots can boost your efforts.
Short for chat robot, a chatbot is a software application that simulates human conversation through live chat or in an app.
The key benefit of a chatbot is its ability to respond instantly and with consistent quality. They’re at their best when answering simple, repetitive questions. Simply integrate your chatbot into your existing support channel and you’re good to go. More complex requests can be forwarded to a real person. Since the chatbot will be taking over the legwork in support, your agents will have more time to respond quickly to all other requests.
Unlike humans, chatbots are also great at multitasking — they can assist multiple customers at the same time which means no customer has to wait around for a response. If your customers are active after business hours, chatbots can provide real-time support round the clock.
To get started with chatbot support, check out our post “10 Must-Try Chatbot Providers for Every Budget".
If you have a presence on social media, your customers will undoubtedly want to reach out for questions or complaints. With customers expecting a response time of no less than one hour on social media, businesses need to be quick on their feet to avoid customer churn and reputational damage.
This means responding to queries, comments and complaints as quickly as possible.
One of the challenges of providing social media customer service is knowing where to focus your efforts. Social media tools can help by monitoring incoming messages and @mentions across multiple platforms in real-time.
No matter which tools you use, every post, tweet or mention requires acknowledgment, whether in the form of a like or a thoughtful reply. Use canned messages to speed up responses and automate replies to common or recurring questions.
Real-time customer service means being available to your customers 24/7. Like chatbots, self-service offers a way to do this without additional staff.
Rather than contacting support, customers can use self-service options to troubleshoot issues themselves. Your agents also benefit because they don’t have to spend time answering repetitive questions.
The most common way to add self-service content is through a knowledge base. This is a section of your website which combines text and video tutorials to answer common product and service questions. It can also include user forums, white papers and case studies to help your customers understand your products and services.
Building a knowledge base can be a time-consuming process, so here are a few tips to get you started:
- Decide which topics to cover
- Gather all existing content into one place to see what you need and to identify inconsistencies/duplication
- Agree on the structure (categorization by topic, process, etc.)
- Establish knowledge base best practices for consistency
There are a couple of ways to make knowledge base content available to your customers. You can use a shared document solution like Google Drive or Dropbox or use dedicated knowledge base software like Help Scout or OMQ .
For the success of any real-time customer service strategy, it’s crucial to have experienced agents on board. You will need agents who can think on the spot, dig deeper into solutions and resolve a higher number of queries within a short time-frame.
Agents also need to be empowered to make decisions. If an agent knows the answer, but policies dictate that they have to escalate decisions to a supervisor, this will hurt the real-time support experience.
Before throwing them in the deep end, preparing your agents through simulated conversations can teach them how to cope with difficult questions under time constraints. Communication techniques also vary by channel, so what works well in email may not have the same success in real-time live chat support.
For more tips on getting your team ready for real-time support, take a look at our post “6 Customer Service Exercises for Daily Growth.”
Centralized customer database
To be able to offer real-time customer service, your agents need access to up-to-date data at the moment when conversations are taking place.
Real-time data provides insights into immediate problems and empowers them to take corrective action there and then. For example, if an order is delayed, agents can use data to provide customers accurate information about its location and the estimated time of delivery.
One of the ways to make real-time data available is through a customer relationship management (CRM) tool. This not only saves your agents combing through scattered reports and cluttered inboxes but also your customers the hassle of repeating information to multiple agents.
If you’re not already using CRM software, Hubspot is free and comes with automated options. Live chat solutions such as Userlike also include basic CRM features, like access to previous customer conversations and detailed customer profiles.
What if you can’t provide real-time customer service?
Being available 24/7 is key to delivering real-time customer service. The biggest brands are connected to customers round the clock whether through enabling purchases at all times or offering live support. If you’re not able to offer real-time customer service, you risk losing your customers to your competitors.
But what if you have limited resources and can’t afford it? Then it’s crucial to manage customers’ expectations and let them know when you will be available to take their questions.
If you only provide support within certain hours, make that information visible on your website and in your auto-replies. A well-stocked knowledge base and FAQs can also help customers help themselves, so they don’t have to wait around for an answer.
In our fast-paced world, customers expect immediate and responsive service. By being more available to your customers, you’ll not only boost conversions but also improve their perception of your company as accessible and trustworthy.