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A Well-Designed Website Helps Your Customer Service. No, Really.

A Well-Designed Website Helps Your Customer Service. No, Really.

Learn how to connect the dots between your website and a customer service experience that brings out the best in your team.

If you were to treat the term “customer service” as a verb, the best way to visualize what happens probably involves an active conversation of some kind.

You might imagine two people talking over a phone call, for instance, or maybe even someone coming into a physical store with a product they can’t seem to work properly. Even an image of a social media feed would work, where a customer and a brand have a real-time dialogue to resolve an issue.

Now think about your website — a decidedly more static kind of environment, where it tends to be more of a one-way conversation about what a company does and why customers should want it.

Service teams might have once been coached to use almost everything but their company’s website to manage questions, complaints or other issues. Instead, they would be given manuals and scripts to use in the background while offering how-to guides, tip sheets or even video explainers they could push out to customers.

In fact, the phrase “just ignore what’s on the website” is not unheard of in customer service situations, because sometimes websites aren’t updated with the most recent information about products, services or other company details. This creates a disconnect with customers, of course, who get frustrated after having their expectations set up by what they saw on that first visit to your home page.

Some of this stems from the thinking behind a lot of website development. A good website is usually considered one that effectively gets across the company’s brand promise, for example, making it easier to develop marketing programs.

Sales teams also want websites to serve as a driver of opportunities by having well-designed product pages and links to special discounts, promotions or bundles.

There probably aren’t too many firms that start off a website build thinking, “How can this site improve the way we offer customer service?”

It’s time to change that because service is just as essential a part of the customer journey as sales and marketing. A company website may actually be one of the first things customers point to if they choose to complain about their experience on social media.

Depending on what’s on its pages, the website becomes “proof” (along with a troublesome product or service) that a company isn’t living up to its word, or that it makes it difficult to find information.

This is how you connect the dots between your website and a customer service experience that brings out the best in your team:

1. Make sure help is never more than a click away (or less)

Yes, you want customers to spend most of their time on your site looking at marketing materials that might capture them as leads for the sales team, or browsing products they can buy either by talking to a rep or through e-commerce.

On the other hand, you don’t want them playing detective if they need to talk to your customer service team by navigating through sections or scrolling endlessly down your site’s mobile version.

Do this exercise on your next site redesign, or as a periodic way of assessing your site’s strengths and weaknesses: go randomly across various areas of your site and ask yourself how quickly you could find and reach out to a service agent.

Ideally there’s at least a phone number, email or other touchpoint embedded on your home page. Failing that, try to ensure these details aren’t buried under a “Contact Us” page but linked consistently across the site.

2. Let your website put service reps and customers on the same page(s)

When urgent challenges come up — and most of what comes to a customer service team is urgent — customers often need to be talked through what to do, because they’re located far from the company’s physical location.

Reps can struggle with this sometimes because they can’t see what the customer is doing, but a website that was designed with service experiences in mind should give them plenty of ways to teach customers virtually.

Map out some of the most common troubleshooting scenarios your reps have to do. Plot out where they could easily guide customers through some of the steps to making a fix using various site sections.

You could have support materials or self-help videos they could access, for instance, or even an area where they could upload pictures or videos of what they’re dealing with for the service team to review.

This won’t just work for service issues that come into a contact centre by phone call. It’s also where you can direct customers who reach out via social, email or other channels. It could almost be considered a customer service “home base.” Which leads us to . . .

3. Get ahead of service issues by creating customer success zones

Usually once someone buys a product or service, the company doesn’t spend a lot of time encouraging them to visit their website, unless it’s to do some upselling or cross-selling.

A full customer journey, however, would offer those who buy from you a place where they can get the best possible start with their investment. Many large organizations have entire teams devoted to “customer success” and onboarding them into using a product or customizing it to their needs.

Think about how you could enable self-service with dedicated customer success areas on your site with FAQ lists, tip sheets and other materials. Maybe a chatbot could provide an automated way to deal with common issues customers go through. You could also establish an online customer community where people can get help and ideas directly from their peers.

Websites aren’t really static environments when you design them appropriately. They are repositories of your best resources, with connections to the people who represent the face of your organization.

Besides implementing some or all of the advice we’ve outlined here, make sure there are plenty of ways to capture ongoing feedback about the service capabilities of your website. This could include online forms, surveys and live conversations with customers as you wrap up a service issue.

Remember that your website is your calling card — and that includes a calling card for your customer service team, too.

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