Since the start of the pandemic more and more business interaction and communication has begun taking place online and it is safe to assume that this is how business will continue to be conducted for time to come – at least until the next big thing!
With new business conversation platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and the likes it has become easier and more convenient to set up meetings, handle queries and engage with the customer online with little to no notice.
But let’s not forget the surge in social media use.
While all these online platforms have increased the opportunity for brand exposure, they have also ultimately made it easier to get in touch with the business using various online methods resulting in an increase in online queries.
Here are eight tips for handling online business queries:
- Be Available
Because if the large surge in online business interaction, customers expect all businesses to be on top of their online queries. If this expectation is not met, customers may develop a negative impression or may even take their business elsewhere.
Thus, responding to online queries is imperative.
However, we are still only human which means that not every business has someone available 24/7 to handle online queries. This is when automated responses and out-of-office messages come in handy.
The most important part of handling online queries is letting customers know that their time spent querying is valued, recognised and received.
For example, set an automated message on Facebook and Instagram thanking followers for their query and assuring them that someone will be in touch to respond to their message.
Another example can be found in website forms: once a form has been completed let a ‘thank you’ page assure the customer that their query has been received and give them a timeframe in which they can expect a response.
The most important take-away from this is that customers need to be acknowledged and by acknowledging them, you are less likely to lose a potential lead.
- Provide Multiple Contact Methods
At the same time, each business has their own preferred methods of online communication which is why it is important to provide multiple contact methods for customers to choose from.
By providing multiple points of contact, you also create alternative options for the customer to reach you on and, hereby, increasing the duration of held interest. In other words, if a customer has sent a message on Facebook but has not received a response they may consider giving you call on the phone instead if it is an urgent query.
This is a sure method of ensuring that you do not lose customer interest from one missed inquiry.
- Introduce an FAQ Section
However, not all queries are potential leads which can result in wasted time which is time that could have been spent on worthwhile leads. That is why we suggest introducing a frequently asked questions section.
FAQs are there to help customers find the answer to basic questions like: “Do you offer delivery?” or “What is your business address?”
These questions are with no doubt important, they can be easily answered without in the FAQ section and, while it will not prevent an occasional query from slipping through, it will greatly reduce these types of queries.
- Respect Customer Time
Time is an important resource which people working in business understand all too well.
However, sometimes businesspeople can become so fixated on their own busy schedules that they forget that customers are busy too. Everyone’s time is precious to them which is why it is important to get back to customers as soon as possible.
As previously mentioned, automated messages can buy you some additional patience with the customer but the online query will need to be dealt with rather sooner than later.
Allocate specific time intervals in your day to checking and responding to customer queries to avoid losing any important leads or forgetting about them altogether.
- Watch your Tone
When handling online queries it can be easy to forget that you are a person dealing with other people and, instead, often online queries are dealt with in a robotic manner.
While it is important to maintain a professional tone with your customers, it is also just as important to remember to be friendly, approachable and light-spirited. Formal tones tend to come across as intimidating so always try to be as ‘human’ as possible.
- Respond to Positive and Negative Queries
No one likes receiving negative feedback but it is probably the most important type of feedback to respond to. When dealing with negative queries be sure to be friendly and sympathetic to calm the customer down.
Never respond in an aggressive or defensive manner.
Hear what feedback the customer has and, in this way, it can be easily determined whether a misunderstanding or miscommunication took place – in most instances this is the case.
- Standardised Responses
As previously mentioned, some online queries for basic or repetitive questions are likely to leak through even if an FAQ section is in place. This is where standardised responses come into play.
Create a document containing standardised responses to popular online enquries and simply respond using a generic response. This can be easily set up on Facebook but other online queries might require a general copy + paste approach.
There is no harm in using standardised responses – just be sure to respond using the correct name!
- Know When to Engage Offline
And, most importantly, businesses need to know when it is time to move from the online environment back into the real world.
The same way that technology has made it easier for customers to engage with the business, some businesses forget the importance of physical human interaction and how this can be more effective than communicating online.
When it is safe to do so and all Covid-19 safety measures are adhered to, set up a physical meeting in the real world and discuss business in the traditional manner – over a cup of coffee.
Do not get too caught up in the efficiency of online responses; take the time to engage with customers’ offline when possible.
In conclusion, online queries are an essential part of customer-to-business communication and should be valued, recognised and acknowledged to avoid losing a potential lead in this new fast-paced business environment.
While there are numerous ways to handle online queries, the most important take-away is to remember that customers are people and business should continue to make the effort to meet with customers in the real world too.
At Online Innovations, we make responding to online queries our top priority.
For web development, web hosting, graphic design, digital marketing or copy development queries please feel free to call us on 041 365 4919, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website at www.onlineinnovations.com to find out more.