Build Customer Relationships with Superior Online Service

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By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

- Walker “Customers 2020” Study

Whether your business has an ecommerce site or services clients through an online presence, today’s digital customer service standards favor businesses that exceed expectations. Your customers or clients aren’t just buying products and services; above all, they are buying relationships. Building relationships by investing in great customer experiences is a top priority in SMB marketing.

In fact, according to the Walker research study, Customers 2020: A Progress Report, 86 percent of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. So what are the new standards for building relationships with and serving our customers? Online relationships are built on communication tools that empower our customers to get the information they need, when they need it:

Email management and helpdesk software

An email management helpdesk solution enables you to organize emails you receive through your site, group them, and efficiently respond in batches to similar issues. Using helpdesk software enables you to manage these communications and respond quickly. It also allows you to ticket and track issues so that you can make continual improvements in resolving recurring customer concerns. If your website experiences software glitches, consumers are more likely to report these through email than any other form of support. Some helpdesk support offerings enable connections on any channel, from social media and chat, to email and phone.

Phone support

Surprised that we’re listing phone support as a feature of online customer service? Access to immediate help via the phone is something that winning businesses in every vertical promote prominently online. Feature your phone number on your site and ensure that customers never hear more than three rings before the system answers. Your customers should never spend more than a minute trying to reach a human being. These are the elements of phone support that build a sense of trust. Strong phone support also helps to minimize instances of customers posting negative reviews online when the inevitable poor customer experiences do occur.

Live chat

Live chat software is a cost-effective way of improving customer satisfaction, loyalty, and sales. It’s similar to phone support in its immediacy and convenience, with wait times that are typically shorter than with call centers. Customers like the convenience live chat offers, especially because it eliminates the frustration of having to deal with a maze of phone options. Even more important, live chat keeps the customer on the site while answers are provided. Proactive chats can be triggered when consumers go dormant for a specified time period, or if their e-commerce shopping carts contain significant order values.


Your site should have an FAQ page that addresses the most common consumer questions. Leaders in many of the verticals we serve go beyond this, placing resources like tutorials and other links where consumers typically experience uncertainty. Self-service is the most cost-effective way to resolve simple and recurring issues.

Social media

Given the popularity of social platforms like Facebook, it’s important to have a presence wherever your customers are active online. Maintain social media accounts, use them to share valuable information, and check them daily for questions. Social media enables you to provide excellent customer service on a stage for an audience to see, like, and share. These platforms also hold the potential for customers to share bad experiences, so assure customers with complaints (and everyone reading these complaints) that the issues will be promptly addressed. We recommend providing a contact for the customer to speak with privately, via chat or phone.

It’s essential for SMBs to build and maintain a consistent and unique brand experience across all of these customer service channels. Don’t just invest in tools; invest in training your people to take pride in their impact as frontline customer service representatives for your business.

Alan Margulis

About the Author

Alan Margulis is an accomplished copywriter with two decades of experience in content marketing, nurture stream, and direct response writing. He has done extensive work in a wide range of industries, from software and academia to staffing and entrepreneurial.