Best Practices for Rockin’ the Online Experience
Posted by Becky Carroll on May 10, 2007
The online service and support experience is a key factor in driving customer satisfaction and loyalty. How can we create an online experience that really rocks? Today’s post concludes our three-part series in looking at the customer service and support online experience (see links to parts one and two below) as we look at customer needs and the Top Ten best practices for the online customer experience. These practices apply to almost all online experiences, not just service and support!
The online service and support experience will rock when there is alignment between the customer experience and these five key areas:
- Customer strategy (post # 2)
- Customer expectations (post # 2)
- Customer needs
- Optimized support capabilities (post # 1)
- Using top practices that ROCK!
An effective online experience facilitates consistent interactions, cultivates customer trust, creates relevant experiences, coordinates all touchpoints, but most importantly, an effective online experience is viewed from the customer perspective.
Customers are different not only in what they expect from online service and support but also in what they need to accomplish online. It is important to align the needs of your customers with the experience you are designing for them. For example, the needs of a customer who is technically savvy (let me see what the engineers see) is very different from the needs of a customer who may be more technically challenged(please help step me through this). Which needs are you trying to meet? Does your online experience assume everyone has the same needs?
Online support experiences that ROCK create different profiles, or views, for different customers. They can be acccessed either by logging in to a saved profile or by self-selecting a path. Ideally, the customer would then see a page designed “just for them”, pre-loaded with their products and the relevant materials they have requested. The experience from that point on should be consistent with the needs of the customer. I had one recent experience where I had downloaded software and was asked if I wanted to watch a video to help me figure out how to use it. As videos are often used in technical support to step-through things for customers who are not as tech-savvy, I clicked on it to see what it would show me (I am always testing out experiences!). Here is what I saw:
This message is not exactly friendly to the customer that is not a computer expert!
Once customer needs are understood, the best customer experience anticipates those needs. If we know most customers want to come to our support site to download drivers, we should place that capability in a position on the support main page (or possibly the company home page) that is easy to access. This saves the customer time and reduces misdirection.
Using Top Practices that ROCK!
There are ten top practices that help create a rockin’ online service and support experience.
Top Ten List
10. Three clicks gets you there– A customer should be able to accomplish their task very quickly online. If it isn’t easy, this channel will be abandoned.
9. Support pathing helps manage the experience – A guided path through the site will keep customers on-track. This requires planning out the experience!
8. Use profiles and personalization to keep it relevant – Best practice companies use customer information to populate pages with customer information they already have. This makes the customer experience easier and less complex to navigate.
7. Use Web 2.0 techniques that make sense to create dialogue – Turning customer service and support from a one-way information push to a 2-way dialogue helps organizations learn more about what information is helpful to customers.
6. Keep the site simple – Giving customers fewer choices, rather than every option under the sun, makes the experience less frustrating.
5. Serve customers in the way they want to be served – Ask customers which service and support channels they prefer to use, then allow them to use that channel (even if it isn’t the channel you prefer they use).
4. Align with live support as needed, easily and transparently– Best practice companies realize there are times a customer needs to interact with a live person. Help customers get there quickly, and make sure the information they have already given you online is transferred on with the inquiry.
3. Measure, monitor, and improve what matters to customers – Measuring customer success is just as, if not more important than measuring how many calls were deflected from the call center!
2. Deliver a consistent online support experience– Best practice companies use what they have learned about their customers to create consistency among all online touchpoints (email, chat, search, blogs, etc.).
And the number one top practice…
1. View the quality of the customer experience as a competitive differentiator.
Companies that embrace the customer experience as a competitive differentiator are already a step ahead of their competitors. They become the measuring rod for all other experiences. Is your organization setting the pace or still trying to measure up? Creating a rockin’ online service and support experience occurs when you have created a customer strategy, understood your customer expectations and needs, used that understanding to craft an online experience your customers will use effectively, and when you are continually improving and learning from customer interactions as well as from best practices.
The online channel is much more than a place to cut customer service and support costs. It is a place to cement your customer relationships. Rock on!