Episode 085 : Navigating the Online Customer Experience with Yanique Grant

Welcome to Navigating the Customer Experience Podcast, in today’s episode I will share some great thoughts that I have been having.

It’s so unfortunate that all across the globe, we are all having to deal with this pandemic but what is interesting is I have been doing a lot of reading and doing a lot of research and I have really been seeing a lot of organizations pivoting their business in the whole thrust of trying to survive and thrive during this pandemic.

I would like to share some thoughts I have put together regarding how it is that you can navigate your online customer experience.

With the advent of COVID-19, the online customer experience is fast becoming the new benchmark for which customers measure the level of service a company offers.

In a practical way, the online customer experience may in some instances replace the face to face customer interaction especially for those business places that officially had to be closed.

Companies, entrepreneurs or solopreneurs must revisit their avenues of customer interactions including their website, social media pages and other platforms and ensure the user experience isone which creates a favourable response for their customers.

The customer online engagement has skyrocketed in every part of the world as we continue to experience quarantine and restrictions in our movement. This means ensuring that every channel available for customer engagement must be functional.

Now is a great time for businesses to do an audit of all of their service channels including online solutions and make sure everything is working well. The audit process may reveal functional or integration issues on your website. Websites along with social media platforms that are not optimized will require the necessary adjustments to be made.

Your customers want to receive fast, reliable, efficient service even though they are under quarantine. I have seen a few local companies here in Jamaica adding WhatsApp as a channel for placing orders, however, the most important step to apply is to ensure the channel is monitored.

I sent a WhatsApp a few weeks ago for a prescription to be filled at around 10:35 am for a close friend of mine and the message was received and read, however, no one responded to the message to confirm receipt or even to advise if we’ll be able to pick up until 2:30 pm!

Ensuring that you assign a dedicated person to monitor these channels if they are to be included as part of the online sales channel and customer experience is critical. The best category of WhatsApp that you should be using as a business is WhatsApp for Business and there are some features that this particular platform facilitates:

  • It allows you to broadcast messages for up to 256 contacts
  • It’s automated communications allows you to provide greeting messages, away messages or even quick repliesfor example: If the customer sends you a message, they could get an automated response that says, “We’ll get back in touch with you within 24 hours” or “We’re closed and will open back at x time” | Quick Replies allows you to respond with a pre-written message to the customer
  • WhatsApp Business App can also act as a CRM (Customer Relationship Management). Basically, WhatsApp can provide that as a tool for your business. The ‘labels’ feature in WhatsApp for Business allows you to tag contacts just like in a CRM application. You can add ‘labels’ to the customers that are frequently contacted or add the labelduring the messaging process. Once you tag the customer with a label, you will be able to create groups and create broadcasts based on labels you have assigned.

WhatsApp for Business is a great tool to employ in your business if that’s something you’re not currently using but most importantly, you must have a designated person who is going to monitor that channel.

Another big thing that you should think about is, Is your website customer friendly and easy to use? If not, now is the time to revisit and review the content being shown.

Think about your website as your physical store. The customer must have the ability to not only window shop, but should also be able to make a purchase through your website.

The information and content provided must be clear about what you offer and how they can access it.

A customer will visit your site and see many things happening all at once. Your website page layouts, font choice, images, the content, and the purchase power (where applicable) influences whether customers will decide to make a purchase.

Recently, I had to insure my motor vehicle because the insurance expired and I visited the website of my insurance company. It seemed that they allowed third party bank transfers, however, the participating banks were only three (3). Their option for credit card payment was only available via a third party payment agency which would mean that I would have to sign up for an account with them.

After exhausting all research online for my options for payment, I decided to visit the location in person. After completing the payment, I asked the Customer Service Representative why their company wasn’t listed on the platform for all banks and of course she was unable to answer. You need to be aware of how accessible your services are to your customers especially during this time when we all have to reduce our face to face interactions with each other.

Another not so great example I had was with my bank. I visited their website to see what options they had available for credit card payments during this time. I wanted to get immediate feedback and so I opted to click on their button for Live Chat. However, after sending my question and being assigned a representative and their name was even provided, no one responded after thirteen (13) minutes of waiting.

So, I’ve signed on onto this Live Chat, I’ve seen that Colleen is the representative that’s assigned to the conversation, sitting, waiting, waiting, waiting, 13 minutes elapsed and I’m just like this is clearly not working. Businesses must ensure that features including Live Chat are being actively managed by someone to respond quickly to any customers’ query or concern.

An automated estimated response time should also be given to customers who are using your Live Chat communication. This ensures that expectation in terms of wait time is provided up front. Additionally, functionality in the form of clickable buttons on your website should be tested to ensure that they are actually working.

Another great area for improvement that you should look to improve is doing an audit of your Social Media brand.

Review the platforms that you are present on – Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest. According to Statista there are 2.4 Billion active users on Facebook as at December 2019, YouTube has 2 Billion active users, Instagram has 1 Billion active users, Twitter has 330 Million active users, LinkedIn has 303 Million active users.

Your customers are hanging out now more than ever on these platforms either for recreation, entertainment, browsing or for their own businesses. If your opening hours have been adjusted or you now offer delivery or curbside pickup or you have a Sales Offer, this type of information needs to be updated on your social media platforms because this is where the customers are spending most of their time.

Recently, I noticed that it is easier to visit a business’ Instagram page to confirm whether their restaurant or business is open and their adjusted opening hours.

Google shows their opening hours as normal as if there were no changes to the opening hours which is rather misleading. Let’s say for example the business is normally open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm but because of COVID-19, their business hours have been adjusted to 8:30 am to 1:00 pm, because they haven’t updated their Google business account then Google is still demonstrating their regular opening hours as if business is still operating as usual.

So basically you need to visit your Google Business account and ensure that whatever adjustments you’ve made base on information that you’ve put out to the public it is consistent across all platforms. So if I type in your name in Google and it comes up, your adjusted opening hours should be there clear and visible. There are applications that can also provide a seamless integration to make the update a one time process.

Since this pandemic, I have seen customers really being more expressive on social media platforms about their shortcomings, issues and challenges with various companies.

I urge you to ensure that when your customer makes a negative post on any of your social profiles, please do not delete it.Deleting the comment does not remove their experience, it does not help the situation.

Every device has the brilliant capability of taking a screenshot and yes you have deleted it but it does not mean it is gone. Please prepare acommunication response plan that you can use to respond to these comments, you must show some form of empathy in the form of an apology, kind words and of course some action as to what are the next steps the customers can actually take.

You should also try to migrate the conversation off of the public platform and re-direct the customer to a direct message (DM) or telephone call them to have the issue resolved or explained. You can say something like “We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this delay may have caused, we will be sending you a direct message to see how best we can resolve the matter.”“What does this show?”It shows your customers who view the comments that you are human and you are willing to fix an issue rather than just delete it.

Another grave mistake many companies make is remaining silent when negative comments are being hurled all over their page/profile. Please note that remaining silent does not help either because it sends a message that you don’t care. If the customer was standing directly in front of you, would you ignore them, would you remain silent while they’re complaining? So why would you choose that approach online? Be compassionate and show your customers that you value them and their business. When this pandemic is over, the companies that will thrive are the ones who showed compassion, empathy and care when their customers needed it the most.

Take Aways from this conversation:

  • Audit all your online platforms and ensure they are functioning at full capacity
  • Be responsive on all platforms. This can be done by yourself or having a dedicated set of persons who have direct responsibility for responding. Remember when you are online the general expectation from a customer is an instant response
  • Create a communication response plan for when things go wrong with the service experience because they will go wrong at some point. Life isn’t perfect and things will go wrong. You must know what you are going to say and do and so should the members of your team
  • Ensure your online experience is effortless and your customer is not confused by how to navigate your website in order to get the delivery or the request processed
  • Focus more on your social media engagement and build your community – engaging on social media is a fantastic way to keep your brand top of mind all while delivering value to your customers
  • Reassure and Inform Your Customers – the most important part of navigating the online customer experience is keeping your customers informed of adjusted opening hours, updates to any delivery policies or a new way to reach Customer Service. It is important that your customer feels connected and they know exactly what is going on

Do you want to pivot your online customer experience and build loyalty – get a copy of “The ABC’s of a Fantastic Customer Experience.”

The ABC’s of a Fantastic Customer Experience provides 26 easy to follow tips and techniques that will help your business achieve success and build brand loyalty.

This guide to limitless happy and loyal customers will help you strengthen your service delivery, enhance your knowledge and improve your communication skills when handling different situations.

This guide will magnify your appreciation of the customer experience and provide tips and practical strategies that you can start implementing immediately!

This book will develop your customer service skills and sharpen your attention to detail when serving others. We have been intentional in the design and included some introspection questions for you to answer in each chapter.

Your customers will only want to work with your business and it will be your brand differentiator. It will lead to recruiters seeking you out by providing practical examples on how to deliver a winning customer service experience built on real human connection!

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Please share any steps, practices or ways that you have pivoted and enhanced your customer experience since COVID-19

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