Don’t Let Customer Service Torpedo Your PR

All the public relations efforts in the world won’t help you if your online customer service fails to deliver.

When news stories or other positive news about your company hit the media, people naturally go to your website, Facebook page, or other social media outlet. And they’re going to contact you. What you do once that happens determines your success … or your failure.

A new study looked at how 1,000 companies deal with online contacts by customers or would-be customers by sending emails to them and measuring the results. Those results weren’t pretty.

More than three out of five companies provided no substantive response to a customer inquiry, and nine out of 10 didn’t even provide an initial acknowledgement that they had received the email.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has ever bothered to use the “contact us” feature on most company websites. Getting any response is surprising, and getting a real response from a real human being seems about as rare as a total solar eclipse.

The study also found that of those companies that did at least respond, only one out of five were able to answer the specific question on the first reply. As far as following up with the customer to see if they were satisfied with that response, only three percent of companies bothered.

The average response time for a customer inquiry was more than 12 hours. Remember, we’re dealing with a culture in which you push a button and something happens immediately. People aren’t inclined to wait. Twelve hours today is like six months back in the days when people had some degree of patience and sent actual letters to companies with their questions.

A few tips on how to stand out in online customer response and service:

  • Reply ASAP, even if it’s an automated response. But the more specific and less generic that response is, the better it is. Include a promise to follow through.
  • Deliver on the follow-through promise. Get the right department or individual to respond in a positive and attentive way and provide an answer to every one of the customer’s questions.
  • Follow up. Perhaps within a day or two of sending the thorough response, send another note to ask if their questions were fully answered or if they need more information.
  • Make it easy to contact you initially and for follow-ups. Make your contact address or tool prominent on your website to let customers know you welcome their outreach.

Far too many companies delude themselves into thinking they provide top-flight online customer response. Their customers are likely thinking otherwise.