A positive customer experience used to mean a smile, a firm handshake, and a kind word — but not anymore. As customers move into the digital world, online shopping has nearly tripled over the past decade and increased more than 32% to $792 billion from 2019 to 2020. It’s up to businesses to adapt.

Luckily, the digital world can be just as social and interactive as the real world. You can still give customers a five-star experience if you know how. Here’s how you can reach customers online and leave them feeling satisfied.

Create social media accounts dedicated to customer support

Your digital customer strategy should be predicated on meeting customers where they spend time. In 2021, that means social media. Create dedicated Twitter and Facebook accounts that customers can easily find and talk to a company rep about their experience.

On Twitter, consider creating a support account that’s separate from your main business account. Simply add “support” to your business name. On Facebook, include direct links to support pages.

Be available and communicative

Monitor and promptly reply to customer messages you receive through social media channels. Consider designating one employee to handle incoming communications, and don’t be shy about asking customers on Facebook and Twitter to call or email you directly so you can address their concerns in detail.

For phone conversations, consider investing in dialer software to improve efficiency. Dialers automatically call customers and eliminate the need to manually input phone numbers. Seconds saved on each call add up to hours throughout the year, leaving customer support reps with more time to answer questions and solve problems.

Monitor social media for outreach and learning opportunities

Although direct communication from customers is a valuable way to engage with your users, it also pays to monitor chatter around your brand.

Regularly search your company name on social media platforms, as well as popular industry forums, to see what people are saying about your brand. If you find a customer who had a negative experience, publicly reply with compassion, understanding, and an invitation to discuss how you can make things right.

Leverage digital tools such as blogs, apps, and newsletters

Sending regular newsletters and maintaining a blog are great ways to connect with customers and provide value. Your newsletter should feature helpful content that’s related to your industry but doesn’t always directly sell your product. For example, if you’re in the wellness industry, you could share content about the latest stress-reduction strategies.

As more people spend time on their phones, mobile apps allow customers to engage with your business anytime, anywhere. Product-selling apps are relatively easy and inexpensive to create. Plus, you can send push notifications to consumers when you add new products or run a sale.

Personalize, personalize, personalize

Whether you’re reaching out on Twitter or sending your weekly newsletter, a personal touch can make your interaction feel warmer and more human. Address customers by their first name on social media, and avoid generic “Dear Customer” openers in emails and newsletters.

Convey safety and security

The pandemic is ongoing, retirement saving is down 3%, and household debt is surging — with more than 45% of Americans taking on more credit card debt since March 2020. It’s no wonder 41% of employees feel burnt out.

Ease feelings of general anxiety by focusing on the safety and security of your website. A clear and prominent safety policy can reassure online shoppers that their purchases are secure and their data is protected.

At the very least, use HTTPS encryption on your website. It protects communication and helps your website rank higher in searches.

Prominently display customer service contact information so customers know how to get in touch if there’s a problem.

Cultivate a relatable brand voice

Delivering security, rapid response times, and value can seem like serious business — and it is. But it shouldn’t come off as overly serious.

Use a relatable, casual voice in your content and on social media. You can adopt a more formal tone once you’ve taken communication to email or another medium.

Remember, your communication with customers should leave them feeling good. That can mean solving a problem or simply making them smile.

Reward engagement

One of the biggest advantages of social media over traditional media is the potential to go viral. With your customers’ help, your message can potentially reach millions.

If you’re chasing that viral tweet or 10 million likes, you’ll need to collaborate with your audience. One of the most effective ways to get them engaged is to offer rewards for likes, retweets, and hashtags.

Announcing contests, limited-time discount codes, or flash sales on social media —especially when they’re contingent upon engagement — can be an effective way to drive engagement and get more eyeballs on your content.

Highlight content created by users

When customers share photos of your product, they’re giving you one of the best kinds of engagement, as well as valuable organic marketing. This is called “user-generated content,” and it’s a great opportunity for building community.

Encourage the creation of user-generated content on platforms such as Twitter and Instagram by creating branded hashtags that customers can use in their posts. Just remember, when you repost user-generated content, ask for permission, and acknowledge the original user in your post.

Loyalty programs work

There’s a reason why businesses such as Chipotle and United Airlines have loyalty programs. They work.

Loyalty and rewards programs are incredibly effective at retaining customers and encouraging repeat purchases. Customers get discounts and freebies, and you get loyal, motivated customers.

From point-based rewards, financial incentives for referrals, or straightforward price discounts, there are a number of ways rewards programs help customers save.

Charity is good for everyone

In an era of increasing social consciousness, customers like to feel good about the brands they support, and charitable giving is a great way to convey a sense of social responsibility. Analyze your profitability ratios to see where your business stands financially. If you can afford it, make charitable donations part of your long-term strategy. The bottom line: You can make a profit while also making the world a better place.

Read more: