Celebrating the people behind British small businesses

Why Human Interaction is Crucial for your Customers

By Richard LeCount, USB Makers

If you weren’t already aware of the impact that great customer service can have on your business, then you’re about to face the facts. A recent study has found that 87% of people are more likely to stay loyal and increase business with companies who have greater human interaction (that’s a real person, not a bot) when they need it. 84% of respondents said that they are more loyal when companies provide a range of ways that they can get in touch with someone.

This is compared to 81% who take their business elsewhere if that need isn’t met, and queries are left unresolved or unanswered. 69% also stated they would go elsewhere if they couldn’t speak to a real person to discuss their query.

In the digital age, consumers have come to expect an immediate response from businesses when they get in contact with them, alongside a range of channels in which to do so. No longer is a customer service number which is only manned Monday to Friday acceptable. Technology and the age of ‘on’ has meant that the customer-business relationship has changed, and it’s now more important than ever that you take the time to get it right.

So, with customer service and human interaction in particular, proving to be one of the most crucial aspects to a business’s success, what tools and tips can business’s implement to ensure they aren’t letting their customers down?

Don’t ditch the phone

Okay, I know we just discussed that a customer service number isn’t enough anymore, but it still needs to be part of your overall customer service strategy. Despite almost everything being online, as these statistics prove – the need for interaction with a real person is a priority for many.

Providing phone support is tricky to execute effectively. Firstly, you need to ensure that you have enough customer service representatives to manage the phones – hard to get right, especially when you are just starting out. After all, no one wants to sit listening to the dreaded call centre style music for hours on end, as it just fuels customer anger. And even if you do manage to get the number of representatives right, you need to ensure that they aren’t rushing to get off the phone so that they can talk to the next customer.

While asking customers to press a number to reach a certain department can help to deliver a greater experience the other end, if the process is too long then customers are going to be put off. Similarly, asking customers to talk to an automated voice and provide personal details such as account numbers etc., can be frustrating if voice recognition software isn’t working.

Provide Email Support

When dealing with a large number of requests, managing an email inbox can become unmanageable if emails are left to pile up. However, providing this service means customers don’t have to wait in-line to talk to you – they can simply get in contact when it suits them.

Email is often one of the first ways a customer will choose to get in contact with you. Not only does it allow them to contact you on their terms, but it ensures that the conversation is well-documented when compared to a phone conversation.

To help manage your inbox use email support tools which allow you to tag emails according to the issue (even better use a contact form option on your website which allows the problem or department the query relates to). Ensure you have a prioritisation system in place and that you state a time-frame to which customers can expect a response from you.

Embrace live-chat

Not everyone has the time to pick up the phone or take the time to write an email, but a quick live-chat conversation enables a customer to chat to you quickly – and provides an almost immediate response.

44% of consumers have stated that having questions answered by a live person in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer. Whether customers are unsure of how a product works, want to cancel their phone contract, can’t get a discount code to work or want to find out more about the service you offer – for conversational queries, live-chat is a tool not to be ignored.

In terms of business impact, it allows you to address customer issues at the time of purchase or convert leads. For businesses, cost is kept low as representatives can chat to a number of customers at any one time. While live-chat has still not been adopted by all businesses, those who are choosing to communicate with customers this way are given the competitive edge.

Be quick on social media

Even if you don’t have a dedicated customer support channel set up on social media, you can expect to receive feedback regardless. However, if you believe you are likely to receive a number of customer interactions per day, or simply want to create a profile which deals with such conversations separately, then setting up a dedicated customer service profile is best.

Customers expect help over social media, and it’s likely to be the first place they will go if they are choosing to complain – firstly, it’s immediately available via their smartphones, and secondly, it’s expected that every business has some form of social media offering. Therefore, your business cannot afford to ignore these conversations – at least being part of these conversations enables you as a business to control the narrative somewhat.

Build a knowledge base

As the data at the beginning proves, customers don’t always need human interaction to feel satisfied with their customer service experience. In fact, some prefer altogether to avoid talking to someone in the process. Building an accessible knowledge base of common queries that you receive can allow customers to self-serve.

Build a collection of articles and materials which customers can use to find solutions on their own; you just need to ensure that you are able to keep it updated regularly and add new queries when required.

A knowledge base can also be particularly useful when directing customers on live-chat and social media where responses are often shorter. This reduces the time spent interacting with customers and can keep customer services costs low, but remain effective.