4 New Customer Service Tools You Might Have Missed

To succeed in a world with so many open lines of communication to consumers, it's important to be responsive. That means understanding those existing channels and embracing new customer service tools that emerge -- or at least having an open mind as to how your business can use them.

With responsiveness providing a key differentiator in almost every business sector, delivering fast and exceptional customer service should always be a priority.

The way you respond to customers will almost always influence their purchasing decisions, for better or for worse. Today, there are hundreds - potentially thousands - of customer service tools to help you stay in touch with sales prospects and on top of buyer issues around the clock.

This article looks at four underutilized customer service tools that you might have missed.

new customer service tools (1)Why Use Customer Service Tools At All?

In a NewVoiceMedia customer survey commissioned earlier this year, more than two-thirds of respondents reported leaving a business due to inadequate customer service. Conversely, opening multiple channels of communications - including phone support, email, instant messaging, and social networking - was the most commonly cited factor in customers feeling emotionally connected to a brand.

Utilizing the best tools across different formats aids in customer retention and builds a firm foundation for developing loyal fans for your brand. Without the proper tools in place, responding to customers and monitoring interactions is a much taller task.

Some of the benefits of effective customer service tool integration include:

  • Find and flag customer questions that you otherwise might have overlooked, potentially turning top-of-funnel prospects into qualified sales leads.
  • Track and resolve issues more quickly, using your service team's time more efficiently.
  • Sync with other tools, such as marketing platforms, e-mail tools, and customer relationship management (CRM) systems.
  • Find (and prioritize) the most appropriate service channel for any given customer.
  • Inform customers and prospects about new products and services in targeted online conversations.

Unsurprisingly, established channels dominate customer service. We know that customers want to call in many cases - 48% in the aforementioned NewVoiceMedia, twice the number that preferred e-mail at 24% - and newer digital channels like social messaging are still relatively new.

Nonetheless, being present on multiple platforms and staying on top of emerging customer service channels is vital to cover all your bases as a conscientious brand.

digital marketing and call conversationsNew Customer Service Channels You Might Have Missed

Below you'll find a selection of customer service tools that your small business might have overlooked this year. Happily, there are still several months left to learn the ropes and decide whether they could be useful for your business in the years to come!

Consider how you could use these tools to communicate with your clients and respond to their requests in a professional, accurate, and timely manner.

1. Google Questions

Small business owners and marketers can be forgiven for missing the Google Questions feature since it was launched last year. As with many Google features, it was quietly slipped into the functionality of the company's Maps app and business listings, leaving customers and companies alike to kick the tires as they stumbled across it.

That said, if you run a small business you should be paying attention to this tool.

Questions is a simple text box added to your business listing by Google. As you can see from the image following this section, it allows anyone who views your profile to click a button and ask a question about your business, which anyone can then answer (so make sure it's you!)

Not only does this provide another way to demonstrate your expertise and keep potential customers informed about your business, it will also help you understand their needs and consider new products or services that people ask for.

It is advisable to monitor media and respond to all questions you receive across business listings. This is in addition to tracking online reviews and making sure your business is present on key directories in your field.

Some of the benefits of using this new Google feature include:

• Highlight helpful responses from your customer community.

• Record and add frequently asked questions from your listings to your site FAQ.

• Other potential customers will view your answers and associate your brand with responsiveness.

• Early warning and removal requests for queries or responses that violate Google's terms & conditions.

To manage your listing and monitor this feature on Google is free. Simply log into (or sign up for) your Google Business account and answer as your business entity.

While it is possible to answer under a personal account, you want to make the most of this opportunity to put your brand behind the response!

Google Questions RingBoost2. Facebook Live Chat

Facebook is one of the best social media channels to reach a wide audience, drive brand awareness, and communicate with potential customers. Responding to your customers instantly and intelligently is an important part of your presence on the platform, which makes Facebook Live Chat a crucial part of your service toolkit.

Much like traditional IM (instant messenger) platforms, the Live Chat feature enables you to send and receive real-time messages from your customers. You should respond to each customer promptly, even if it's just an auto-responder that sets expectations for how and when you'll be available to solve their problem or answer a question in greater depth.

The other benefits of using this relatively new customer service tool for your small business include:

  • Be present, even when you're not: Auto-responders buy you some time between initial contact and issue resolution.
  • Faster issue resolution: Understand your customer's pain points in real-time and, in some cases, solve their problems instantly.
  • Improved loyalty: Resulting from being present on a channel that hundreds of millions use but where consumers, for the most part, aren't yet expecting exceptional service.

HubSpot FB Live Chat3. Chatbots

Chatbots have been in the marketing news a lot lately, but they're still new enough for small business owners to be holding off experimenting with them. Nonetheless, more and more companies of varying sizes are investigating this tool to offer instant responses to their customers and prospects.

These automated response agents are designed to mimic human conversations and learn how to respond to common queries. Chatbots integrate well with many popular chat message interfaces, such as Slack and Facebook Messenger.

If you run a company with limited service resources, chatbots could help you serve your customers better by providing instant replies at very little cost to your business.

They can also be used to direct people to your online resources or preferred mode of communication, such as a phone call or another online chat tool. That does mean that a human advisor will be required for more complex queries or to avoid misleading people, but the chatbot can do some of the early grunt work and help filter out questions that don't require an employee.

Other advantages of using chatbots to improve customer service include:

  • They are fast and efficient. Chatbots can handle multiple conversations simultaneously.
  • 24/7 support and prompt responses - even those that are automated, pending a human intervention - can significantly enhance customer engagement.
  • Chatbots are predictive, meaning they recall previous conversations. This helps them know when to ask predefined questions to zero in on the actual issue and minimize call time for a human service agent, if they're required.

customer-service-support4. Dedicated Customer Service Software

While they're not new customer service tools in the strictest sense, there's a good chance that many small business owners have overlooked tools like Zendesk and HappyFox. These platforms are complete online service solutions that are worthy of consideration for any SMB looking to build a better customer experience.

Customer service software makes it easier for your customers and prospects to engage with your business. It allows customers to reach you in multiple ways, including through your website, phone calls, mobile applications, social networks, and email messaging. There is also call center software for voice communication.

If you need a more complete solution for customer communication, service software is likely to be a valuable tool for your business. Integrating every element of customer support under one platform typically improves productivity and gives even the smallest teams a larger service presence.

If you haven't yet tried this type of tool but think it might be a good fit for your business, most helpdesk tools in this category offer some form of starter plan or a free trial so that you can kick the tires.

Serving customers well and improving satisfaction levels is a top priority for businesses of all sizes, but not everyone can afford a huge service team. With the tools covered above, your business will be better positioned to communicate with customers seamlessly across multiple platforms and promptly answer most of the questions that come your way.

Consistently addressing pain points encourages customers to become brand advocates, which in turn raises brand awareness and brings repeat business.

However, even with new customer service tools emerging and the wide range of communication channels available to small businesses online, it's vital to remember that no service tool can fully replicate a real person helping face-to-face or over the phone.

Most customers still want to call, so experiment with these new tools but don't forget to connect with customers on a personal level whenever you can!

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