Providing excellent customer service is critical to running a successful business. Customers expect support to be convenient and fast and that involves being available wherever they are. Whether customers are contacting you on social media, your website, by email or by phone, it’s crucial to show them you value their business.
This doesn’t have to be a lot of extra work, though. There are plenty of tools available to help you address all customer service inquiries and requests from one user-friendly platform. Read on to learn about the best systems to streamline your customer service needs, along with expert tips on customer service best practices for a thriving business.
Customer service platforms can help with the bulk of the legwork when it comes to resolving customer questions. Below are eight tools, including help-desk services as well as live chat, social media and mobile support systems, which can help your small business connect with consumers better.
Teamwork is key to providing excellent customer service. Freshdesk is a help-desk platform that connects your customer support team so it can effectively serve customers with ease. When a help ticket is opened, all team members can see the ticket. Freshdesk displays which agent is working on the ticket, the status of the ticket and internal notes about the issue. If a help ticket is filed concerning a customer and that customer contacts a member of your team, any member of your customer support staff can look up the ticket quickly and work with the customer to resolve the issue. Freshdesk also comes with service-level agreement options for your customers, which helps you prioritize tickets and informs your clients when they can expect a response.
Freshdesk has a free plan for up to 10 customer service agents. Paid plans for additional agents start at $15 per month per agent.
Sometimes, customers need one-on-one help. At other times, they prefer to solve issues themselves. Zendesk features an easy-to-use multichannel ticketing system — organizing all email, web, social, phone and live chat communication in one location — as well as a customer self-service portal. Zendesk also provides data and insights to help companies improve their team’s performance and deliver personalized customer support.
Zendesk’s lowest-priced foundational customer service plan starts at $19 per month, per agent. More comprehensive packages start at $49 per month, per agent. [See why Zendesk also made our list of the best customer relationship management (CRM) software and learn the biggest benefits of CRMs.]
HappyFox can take help requests reported from multiple channels, such as via phone systems, chat, email, social media and web inquiries and convert them into tickets automatically in an organized, efficient help-desk program. The platform can also identify common issues and group-related cases as well as split tickets among multiple agents for more complex problems. Additionally, HappyFox integrates with top CRM platforms, including Salesforce, SugarCRM and Insightly, along with tools like SurveyMonkey and FreshBooks, to sync customer service operations with other software your business uses. [Check out our review of the Salesforce CRM and our FreshBooks accounting software review.]
HappyFox plans start at $26 per month per agent. Packages with discounted pricing for an unlimited number of agents are also available.
Do you want to provide on-demand customer support through your website? Try ClickDesk, a live chat software platform where your company’s customer support team can carry on multiple conversations — including live chat, voice and video chat — simultaneously, stay organized and answer consumer questions and complaints directly from your business’ site. ClickDesk integrates with third-party platforms like Shopify, WordPress and Google Apps.
ClickDesk starts at $14.99 per month. Its free version supports 10 users, 30 chats and audio calling.
Companies can use live chat apps for purposes other than providing customer service. For example, Olark’s program helps businesses close more sales before customers click away from your website. Agents receive and can prioritize multiple chats to prevent shopping cart abandonment. Olark also has detailed reporting capabilities, with real-time insights into your chat volume, agent activity and satisfaction ratings. Olark integrates with many third-party business platforms, including Salesforce and Magento, to streamline customer service processes, among other company operations.
Olark starts at $29 per month, per agent.
If you’re not sure a live chat solution is right for your website and don’t want to make a financial commitment, try My LiveChat, a free service. It offers many functions found in paid services, such as the ability to capture multiple tickets, chat transcripts and real-time visitor monitoring. There are also prewritten responses to save team members time. My LiveChat has customizable features, allowing you to modify your display text, prechat surveys and offline messages. The software can be accessed on the web and Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices.
Besides My LiveChat’s free plan, the company offers four paid packages, which eliminate the My LiveChat branding. The lowest-priced option, Starter, costs $15 per month for one seat.
When customers are dissatisfied with a company, many turn to social media to vent their frustration. Sometimes, they’ll sound off to their followers. At other times, they’ll tag or mention the business to get their attention. You can get a handle on social media customer service and respond to issues with Hootsuite’s Sparkcentral. This social media support platform features an engagement dashboard to help agents quickly resolve issues and improve response times, a reporting and analytics portal to track metrics and productivity and real-time collaboration tools to improve workflows.
Contact Hootsuite for Sparkcentral pricing information.
Does your business have a mobile app? Use Helpshift to provide customer support right from your app. Customers don’t have to go to your website, search for answers or call your company. Helpshift makes sending responses as easy as texting, thus giving customers a better experience. Customers can send screenshots and rich media files to show you their problems. Other features include push notifications, analytics and the ability to customize colors, fonts and other branding elements. Helpshift supports iOS, Android and frameworks, such as Unity and Cocos.
Helpshift offers a free package for up to 250 feedback submissions per month. Paid plans begin at $150 per month. You can also contact Helpshift for custom pricing plan options.
Customer service solutions, such as the programs listed above, can bridge the gap between you and your consumers by offering communication tools that create seamless interactions and improve responses to customer concerns.
Unless you have zero competitors, which is unlikely, today’s consumers have several options for where they can take their business. Good customer service can build customer loyalty, while poor customer service is a surefire way to drive customers to your competition.
Bad customer service doesn’t just affect current customers, either — it influences potential customers too. “Just a few angry customers who leave a negative review on the internet can cost you many sales in the future,” said Shane Dutka, vice president of SEO at Three Ships, a performance-based marketing platform.
Good customer service is what keeps customers around, said Jenny Massey, regional vice president at cable television company Altice.
“Even if a restaurant has the best food in the city, if the people working there are mean and unwelcoming, odds are, not as many people are going to be going to that place to eat,” Massey said.
Consumers and brands have humanlike relationships and it’s vital to nurture these relationships through customer service initiatives. This means not only providing robust support when problems arise but also positively engaging customers at all different points of the customer lifecycle.
If you want to grow your business, your customers are your greatest asset. Here are a few best practices from experts for building and maintaining a thriving customer base.
Great customer service requires more than a smile and upbeat energy. Lisa Trifone, founder and CEO of Bright Iris Film Co., suggests dedicating time to understanding your customers’ expectations and ways your business can exceed them. Investing in the resources needed to learn more about your customers will deepen your connection, which makes them more inclined to choose your brand.
“Often, great customer service is possible through small but impactful decisions that make all the difference,” Trifone said. “[Like] thoughtful packaging, clear signage, the extra touch to check in on customers.”
Social media is a powerful tool when it comes to connecting with customers. Dutka says businesses and customers alike are best served by being proactive on social sites and platforms; that way, you gauge consumer sentiment about your company continually and can address small issues before they become big problems.
“[Social media] is where angry people go to complain,” Dutka said. “Your Twitter/Facebook/etc. accounts are the only thing that stands between an angry customer and a negative review left on the internet.”
Trevor Rappleye, CEO of CorporateFilming & FranchiseFilming, suggests answering the phone on the first ring. Doing so, he said, sends a positive message to your consumers, which is an attractive quality. Having a live chat feature is also helpful because it allows you to provide quick answers to existing clients and prospective customers.
Whenever you or your team members are speaking with a dissatisfied customer, always be professional and diplomatic.
Mark Rogers, former president and owner of MD Organics, advises business owners to encourage employees to apologize for errors or misunderstandings that have led to a dispute or complaint from a customer. In addition to apologizing, Rogers recommends your agents take the following additional steps:
As the adage goes, the customer is always right. A customer-first approach can make a world of difference in growing your company’s sales and reputation. Plus, investing in better customer service doesn’t have to be a huge lift. Affordable customer service solutions, many of which go hand in hand with CRM software options, have the tools you need to stay on top of customer messages and keep everyone happy. Explore the platforms that fit your business needs and will help you go the extra mile — it’ll pay off big time with long-term customer loyalty.
Natalie Hamingson contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.