Social Customer Service

How to Inspire Trust in Online Customers

At one time or another, everyone buys something on the internet. For some it’s a 2:30 am purchase of a waterproof radio that sticks to the shower wall, and for others it’s a simple pair of pants. The point is, everyone does it, and everyone remembers their first time. If you’re like me, you approached your first online purchase with a little trepidation. 

Is someone going to steal my credit card details? Will my sea monkey grow kit really arrive in the mail? What if those polka dot pants aren’t the right size?

I like stuff, but I do not love shopping. Even though I’m a millennial, I still don’t trust internet-people as much as I do standing-right-in-front-of-me people. Therefore, the direct simplicity of purchasing online comes freighted with a feeling of uneasiness. If I were a brand, I’d want to make sure my in-shop employees did everything they could to streamline the shopping experience and to cater to each customer’s needs—in other words knowing who wants attention and who wants to be left alone. At the same time, the internet version of the in-store employee, the social customer service agent, needs to work harder to establish the feeling of trust that comes with empathetic human contact.

Responsiveness inspires trust

How can brands make that happen? The simple answer is just to be there for online customers. And not only with bots. They’re a great first step to establishing an active presence in the customer’s mind. When that window pops up, the customer knows she's not dealing with a passive site. It’s the equivalent of the shop assistant asking if you need help finding something. Once that's established, the bot can send customers who need more help onto their more empathetic human colleagues.

But what’s equally important is that social customer service agents respond quickly whenever a customer has a question or a complaint. A company that has a reputation for a low first-response time (FRT) is a company that inspires trust. That’s the whole reason Facebook invented the "Very Responsive to Messages" badge.

When a customer can see that a brand responds quickly, they are more likely to make a purchase with the brand because they feel trust. When a potential customer is considering making a first purchase with a brand online, they want to know the brand will respond to them quickly and effectively if need be. Existing customer complaints inspire negative emotions in potential customers, and dissuade them from making a purchase, unless those negative emotions are mitigated by fast and responsive customer service.

FRT doesn't mean what it used to

In the age of social customer service, it is easy to get a read on how customers are feeling about a certain brand: just follow the brand's Twitter feed for a few minutes. Social media has changed the way customers get in touch with brands, and that has to change customer service. FRT does not mean what it used to because customer expectations are higher and their patience is thinner. Here is how it used to be done:

Two years ago, a three-day waiting time for a response from a brand might not have raised too many eyebrows. However, these days, when a customer is more likely to reach out immediately to a brand via social media than on their web page, through email or over the phone, maintaining low FRT is about responding within minutes, not days. 

The inherent visibility of social media exchanges means that maintaining low FRT as well as responsive, result-driven, personalized customer service is not simply a great opportunity for brands, it is necessary. First-time customers are on the cusp between buying and not buying, and how they feel about the brand is what's going to tip them over to one side or another.

Great social customer service isn't just good for the one customer involved, or even just for current customers. Both on social media, on forums and in reviews on websites, social customer service becomes the evidence that will inspire trust for prospective customers. That is why it is vital to establish and maintain active social customer service, and low FRT is one of the key indicators of how you are doing. 

Of course, no one expects brands to do this alone. The right social customer service software is a necessity.

Interested in learning which channels customer are using? Watch our webinar Digital – First Customer Service: The Future is Here Today.