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How you need to handle online enquiries

Often a digital channel will be the first interaction with a potential client so it is vital that we are using it to have two-way conversations and respond to them, just like if they were standing in front of you.
Do not forget that online has the same rules as offline. I see companies spending thousands of dollars on advertising and SEO then committing the cardinal sin of not replying to their sales inquiries that come via digital channels. Crazy!!

I don’t usually do this but today I AM going to name & shame in the hope that someone in their company reads this and gets it!

Regular monitoring of your digital & social channels is the first step in digital customer services and should form part of your sales process. You need to set up systems and processes to make the customer experience one that is enjoyable and fits with your brand’s personality. Start with these steps:

1. GO ABOVE & BEYOND – When you get an email inquiry, DO NOT just answer an email with only what someone asks. Take it the next step and give them additional information. Plus don’t send a form or automated response. (automation is OK as a first email, but it needs to be clear they will you will be giving a personal response to their inquiry). Go above and beyond and really listen to what the customer is asking. Ask more questions if you need to in order to answer. And whatever you do, do not call someone Babe, Honey or Ma’am (yes has happened to me and it was totally inappropriate in the circumstances)

2. REPLY QUICKLY. I am a long term Virgin customer and will always fly with them when there is the option to do so. I recently emailed their customer service team about a credit I needed to use. I got an automated email saying someone would respond to me within 14 days. 14 DAYS!!!!!! Can you believe that?

Firstly, you are forcing me to book my flight with my competition. Secondly, you are seriously upsetting a long term client with no regard to my burning issue and now I am questioning my loyalty since you have made it obvious you don’t value my business (14 days, yeh I am still upset about that).
To make matters worse the responses to the DMs on Facebook were form responses, telling me to contact Guest Services. No one would help or listen.

Hey, Virgin how do you think I feel right now? What happened to the ‘virgin culture we bought into when you launched?

Sending an automated reply that says you’ll respond in 3-4 days is NEVER EVER acceptable and just bad service (something I recently experienced with a well-known fitness company). But 14 days is beyond bad! We want information fast because we can and should get it quickly now so taking days to respond is a sure way to lose this customer for life.

3. LISTEN!! LISTEN!! LISTEN!! I have been a customer of Origin Energy for a number of years and received an email telling me my discounted plan was ending. So, I called and the woman the phone would not listen to me. She was determined to follow her script and clearly had no idea about customer service. Even when I kept telling her to stop & listen she kept to script.

Again, their Facebook team was just as bad. I asked to be called and they kept sending me links to plans which was irrelevant to what I needed help with and just plain rude. Not the way to treat a long term customer!

They have failed repeatedly to listen to my issue, let alone solve it!

4. STAY ON CHANNEL – Don’t ask them to contact you on another channel. The reason they are contacting you on email, for example, is because 1. they are comfortable with it or 2. You haven’t responded to another channel (such as Twitter or Facebook).

5. CLIENT EXPERIENCE – Consider the overall customer journey. Put yourself in their shoes. Would the journey from query to purchase make you comfortable? What would you want? What would make you a raving fan? What is the wow? Don’t put everyone in the same basket. If someone is reaching out to you on a digital channel, apply the rules above.

6. FORM RESPONSES ARE INSULTING – Don’t send a copy & pasted form response. Unless you want to lose the customer forever. LISTEN and PERSONALISE your response. I see this constantly with large companies that think a form response is OK when it is not (hear that Telstra)

Remember that when a prospect is sending you an enquiry on digital channels l they are ready to buy. These digital enquiries should take priority and you will see a return if you think of them as customers walking through your door, not annoying emails.

Digital is 24/7 and being able to do business in a global economy is amazing if you understand that simply being responsive from Mon-Fri 9 to 5 is no longer acceptable. You need to commit to monitoring all your channels outside of hours?

Digital customer service is particularly important if you are spending money on ad campaigns or SEO to drive new leads to your business. By not responding to people you might as well be saying to your salespeople to lock the doors and hide. You are handing sales to your competitors on a platter, literally!! As a consumer, if someone doesn’t respond, I go to their competitor and buy from them within 24 hours. And not only have you lost the sale, but you have also pissed me off to the point of not wanting to do business with you in the future. I’ve had companies contact me 3 weeks (and one took 2 months) after I had sent an email enquiry and were surprised by my response. C’mon get with the program!

I see companies spending thousands of dollars on advertising then committing the cardinal sin of not replying to their sales enquiries that come via digital channels. Crazy!!

This is a no-cost tactic that will increase your sales & conversions. Do it and stop making excuses!!

If your team need help (or you want an unbiased opinion with some fresh eyes, get in touch and I will happily help sort out your online customer service issues