infinity and beyond

No matter what industry you are in, you have some form of customer service support. You provide an email address and/or telephone support (maybe even social media or live chat) for prospects and customers to get important questions answered.

Even if you have one of the most intuitive website designs and clear copy, there is a need to provide additional support and guide existing and potential customers to their end goal (buying from you!). You’ll even notice that the majority of websites with self-service support still have another support channel, so that you can actually talk to someone at the company – either online or offline.

Providing this support is the first step to providing good customer experience. Your customers and window shoppers should have the ability to get their questions answered. Website visitors need to know exactly what you are providing. Customers need to be able to reach you when something goes wrong.

Create great experiences

In 2016 though, just being there isn’t enough. You need to do more than sit back and wait for people to seek help. You need to be there for prospects and customers, you need to be doing your all to create a great customer experience for them.

Now more than ever, you need great customer experience to succeed. Consumers will only choose you if you stand out from the competition…and price and product alone won’t cut it anymore. By 2020 it’s expected that customer experience will completely overtake price and product as the key brand differentiation.

Providing a reactive support channel is the bare minimum…and if you want to succeed, the bare minimum just won’t do.

Oh great”, you might be thinking. “What do I have to do now?

Apologies if it seems like we’re dumping a load of work on you…but it has to be done and with the right management decisions and maybe a little outsourcing (outsourcing not offshoring – quality customer service interactions are still vastly important).

Crystal ball not required

If your existing customer service is just sat there, waiting to be used when customers face problems, customers are going to have negative experiences. Currently (if you do only have reactive customer service) the best that you can do is attempt to rectify these negative experiences after they’ve happened; right now, you can’t make sure that customers have a positive experience in the first place. How irritating (for you and them).

Your customers get the bitter taste and then your team tries their best (but it’s probably not enough or too late) to soothe the palate.

In 2016, support needs to be proactive. You need to offer assistance before your website visitors even realise that they need it. When a customer faces an error during checkout for example, you need to offer help and a solution before they get annoyed and abandon.

Luckily, crystal ball not required. Using tools such as proactive live chat (when you implement live chat correctly), you can interact with website visitors just as they face a problem or even before it. By analysing the way in which visitors behave on your website you can predict when customers could have a bitter experience, and you can programme live chat software to engage the website visitor. At The Chat Shop, the software we use is LiveChat (but there are plenty of other suitable software providers available – zopim and Olark are another 2 good examples).

After the automatic invite, you need to interact with real conversation. Live chat shouldn’t be used as an FAQs service, it should be used to have personal interactions that reveal customer pain points and offer tailored solutions.

Proactive live chat alone won’t do however. You need to offer the full service to your customers. That means making use of reactive chat, proactive chat, website analytics research, CRM integration and continuous improvement.

In the case of live chat (the primary support channel that we work with), we operate an ongoing loop of service and feature improvements (implement – test – update). It should be your goal to engage with those visitors that you can add value to and that can add value to your businesses. You don’t want to try and chat with everyone.

It’s a complex system, deciding what features and settings to use based on visitor behaviour and website design, but it’s a system that results in a great experience for customers.

If I’m faced with an error or something that ruins my website journey, I get pretty annoyed. I don’t know about you but I want everything to work seamlessly in the first place; friendly support right when you need it is definitely the next best alternative though. And having someone immediately reach out with personalised solutions is the cherry on top.

Customer service personalisation

The personalisation aspect is really important too, not just the fact that it is instant and proactive support. Prospects, leads and customers want their experience to be personalised. According to the Aberdeen Group 75% of consumers like it when brands personalise their messaging and offers.

2016 is set to be another big year for personalisation. Your visitors want to be greeted with personalised support – solutions, product recommendations and a tone of voice that meets their needs.

You should be integrating your customer service channels with your CRM system, so that existing customers can be greeted by name. Greet your customers by name and talk in a friendly and personable manner to deliver a great support experience.

CRM integration also allows you to pick up support conversations where they were left off. You don’t want customers explaining their product or service history each time they reach out.

This year, take advantage of a support channel that offers personalised and proactive support. Start using a dedicated team and a fantastic channel that will deliver a great customer experience for your website visitors, time and time again.

As we do, you should be analysing the flow of website visitors and their user experience. Where and when do customers face issues? Engage with them and take action. Proactively offer support to confused website visitors and use feedback to improve user experience in the long run.

In 2016 your customer service needs to go well beyond ‘sitting back and waiting for problems to come to you’. Reassess your current customer support channels now and decide how you can start offering a great customer experience (a CX that will make customers happy and increase sales). You’ll find that getting personal with customers and providing proactive support are the best ways to improve CX.

This blog post originally appeared on The Chat Shop blog.