There are some customer service tools that every business is using. Think about email. Could you imagine a company that is not using email in 2016? That would definitely be a hard find!

At the same time, there are certain customer service tools that go wildly unused despite the benefits they can bring in. The reason for this is the misconceptions associated with those tools:

  • “I wouldn’t know how to set it up.”
  • “We can’t spare the people to make use of this.”
  • “How is this better than what we have now?”

In this article, I’d like to show you a few tools you might have heard about but never decided to give them a try. I will show you how the tools can help your business and maybe why you should reconsider your initial decision.

Customer service via marketing automation

Wait a second – what is marketing automation doing on a list of customer service tools? That was what I initially thought too but I quickly changed my mind once I saw what it can be done with a little bit of automation.

Marketing automation can be successfully used in customer service when set up correctly. However, it often goes unused because businesses owners think that it’s way too much hassle to configure and then manage.

At LiveChat, we danced around the idea of using automation for both sales and support for well over a year until we got something going. Finally, we decided to give it a try. After some initial configuration, it turned out that the setup and management of marketing automation is really easy and intuitive.

To give you an idea how easy it is: at some point, we had almost every department in our company – from sales, through development to support – using our marketing automation tool in some way.

When it comes to using automation for customer service, we had a couple of journeys (marketing automation campaigns) set up to introduce LiveChat to new users.

For example, we have an introductory email where we asked to put a piece of LiveChat code on a customer’s website. Without this, our product wouldn’t work for the customer. It doesn’t make sense to show them any additional materials if they didn’t complete this first step. Marketing automation allows us to remind the customers to install the code and, once they do, send them a bunch of beginner materials.

You could very well do that with an automated email but it would be very hit and miss solution to send the same emails to every new user. Instead, marketing automation allows you to customize the messages and send different sets of emails to different users, depending on their needs.

The service we used – Autopilot – makes the whole process of setting up a journey really easy. It’s based around blocks you can use to build different parts of the journey.

Each block will result in different action taken by the system. Creating a journey like this takes only a couple of minutes. It’s really intuitive and anyone should be able to do it, even if they have very little past experience in marketing automation.

If you need or want to send customized customer service emails to your users, marketing automation can definitely help you out and it’s not as hard as you may think. Here’s a couple of customer service scenarios in which it can be used:

  • Onboarding of new users: You can make sure that new users complete some preliminary steps that are crucial to using your product or service.
  • Sending additional materials: You can send some helpful materials like ebooks or guide based on some previous communication you had with them. For example, whenever we chat with a customer about CSS customization of the chat window, we tag the chat and automatically send them more resources on customization via an automated email.
  • Regular customer health checks: You can gather a lot of additional feedback by setting up a recurring email that will ask the customer how they are doing and if there is something they need help with regarding your service. This will allow you to spot any problems early, which in turn will boost your customer retention.

Knowledge base with customer service articles

Another useful tool that often goes unused is a knowledge base.

A knowledge base is a collection of articles and other materials that offer self-service. Customers can use them to find a solutions on their own, without having to ask one of your customer service agents for help.

Knowledge base is the king of efficiency when it comes to customer service tools. It’s one of the few tools that work really well at a bigger scale too. Once you create a helpful article, it will keep offering help to thousands of readers. The only caveat being that the article needs to be updated to stay helpful.

Why aren’t all companies using it then? Preparing a knowledge base usually takes some time. You need to prepare a website for it and fill the website with useful content. However, once it goes live, you will be able to quickly get a big return on your time investment.

First off, customers who need help will often find a solution on their own if the knowledge base is easy to find on your website and easy to navigate.

Secondly, the customers that were not able to find help on their own can still use the same resources. You only need to point them in the right direction. Showing someone a link to a knowledge base article takes way less time than typing the same thing over and over to different customers.

Even if an article would take a couple of hours to prepare (and it usually won’t) think of how many hours you will save if you’d have a material like that at hand.

Here’s a couple of tips that will help you start your own knowledge base:

  • Start small: Don’t try to create an answer for all potential customer questions. Start with the ones that are asked the most and work your way down the list.
  • Keep track of popular questions: When you find a popular question, make sure to note it down. Generally, if you need to write an answer to a particular question a couple of times a day, it may be a good idea to write an article about it. Noting it down will serve a s good source of knowledge base topics later on.
  • Update the knowledge base regularly: A knowledge base is only useful when it’s up to date. It’s a bit of extra work you need to do, but it’s still way faster than explaining the same problem over and over to customers.
  • Ask agents to write knowledge base articles: You don’t have to be a professional writer to create knowledge base content. It’s much easier to do for people who have a very good understanding of the customer problems so agents are a perfect fit for this role.

Social media customer service

Social media profiles, in a similar way to email, have become something that every company has. Sometimes businesses set up a Facebook page or a Twitter account even before they create a website.

Despite this eager adoption, not all businesses are sold on the idea of doing customer service over social media. You can often stumble upon company profiles with unanswered customer service questions. And that’s really bad because customers simply expect help over social media, or at least 67% of them does. In their eyes, this is the easiest way to contact a business:

  1. It’s immediately available via their smart device.
  2. They already know how it works and where to look.

Ryanair is an example of a company that handles their social customer service really well. Check their Twitter profile for some more examples.

Businesses that set up a social media profile, should be ready to answer that demand. Here’s a couple of tips on how to do that:

  • Marketing-Support cooperation: The person that’s handling your social media should stay in close touch with the support department in your company. Both to let them know of any new cases and to ask how they should respond when a question comes up.
  • Agents should check social media: Agents don’t need to wait for the social media manager to tell them to fix something. Then can make a habit of checking the company’s social media profiles for any unanswered customer questions.
  • Watch out for sensitive information: Any solution that requires some kind of personal information of a customer should be handled over a private channel. Whenever a customer needs to provide their email or address, make sure to switch to direct messages or to a different channel (email, live chat).

Live chat for real-time customer service

Using live chat software on your website is often associated with high manpower needs.

Businesses often see it as a call center type of a deal where you need loads of representatives to answer all customer service enquiries.

That would be the case if agents could answer only one chat at a time. However, live chat allows you to handle your support much more efficiently.

How it works? Customers come to your website and can start a real-time chat with a support agent. The chat ‘follows’ the user around the website so they can always ask questions and get answers.

You could do the same thing on the phone, but there’s a huge difference. When talking on the phone, you can only contact one customer at a time. When talking on live chat, one agent can easily handle 3-4 simultaneous conversations.

This already makes chat 3-4 times more efficient than phone. And when more experienced agents come into play, the number of simultaneous conversations goes up to 6 or sometimes even more.

The meet-and-greet part of the conversation is also a lot faster. When starting a chat, a visitor already provides some basic information, which is automatically available for the agent.

What’s best about live chat is that it doesn’t really tie the agent too much. They can still work on other things and answer chats from time to time (if you have less contacts during the day). When the number of questions goes up, you can get a full-time agent that would focus only on chats.

Here’s a couple of tips on how you can start with chat:

  • Available on every site: Make sure your chat is accessible on every page of your website. This is usually done by placing a bit of code in the website’s code. If you don’t add it everywhere, you risk ‘losing’ the customer when the go to a page where chat is not available. This works best for low-volume websites that want to get a lot more chats.
  • Focusing on specific pages: An alternative to the above would be placing chat on a limited number of pages. You may want to do this if you get a ton of enquiries and you can’t answer them all. In such situation, it would be best to help customers who are further down the funnel, e.g. those who entered checkout and need some help or customers who already added something to their cart.

Ready to give them a try?

All these solutions may seem like a lot of work or hard to implement but the initial cost is quickly outweighed by the benefits you get in return.

What are your experiences with these tools? Were you reluctant when implementing them? What was impact on your customer service when you did? Please share your implementation stories in the comments section!

Photo courtesy of Sunghwan Yoon via Creative Commons.