Nowadays, it's no secret that your business should have an online presence. Social media is free to sign up, and any company with effective marketing strategies can land its content at the top of Google's search results.

But, marketing and sales aren't the only business functions that are advancing online. For customer service, it's the next frontier that many companies are looking to explore. With more people interacting with businesses online, the demand for customer support is starting to grow significantly. In fact, 63% of millennials begin their customer service interactions through an online channel.

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As future generations continue to become more comfortable with digital interactions, they'll expect your customer service team to follow suit. However, if your online customer service falls below their expectations, this will act as a point of friction driving customer churn. After all, 56% of customers stop doing business with a brand after one poor experience.

While online customer service is still relatively new, there are best practices your team can follow to generate positive experiences. In this post, HubSpot's customer service team has compiled a list of tips your reps can use to provide excellent customer service online.

Online Customer Service

1. "If you have to give 'No' as an answer, provide the why." - Paul Williams, Senior Customer Support Specialist

When a customer is seeking answers or support, the last thing they want to hear is "no," or "I can't help you." However, sometimes there are cases where the customer needs something that's outside your bandwidth of support and you have to tell them "no."

In these cases, if you can explain why you can't help the customer -- rather than just saying "no" -- they'll at least have a better understanding of why they didn't receive the solution they're looking for. This can help your team avoid negative customer feedback and gain a better understanding of your company's internal processes and why they're set up that way. You may even spot flaws in your company's policies that are causing unnecessary friction.

2. "Align with the customer's needs first, but add some personality when possible." - Amy Kelley, Senior Customer Support Specialist

This is a great best practice to follow whenever you're working on an online customer service channel. When you're not working with a customer face-to-face, adding a bit of personality to the conversation keeps the customer engaged and reminds them that they're working with a human rep. This not only creates a personalized customer experience, but it also encourages customers to treat agents with more patience and respect. It's easy to get frustrated and angry with a chatbot, but it's harder to do so when you know there's a human working hard on the other side.

3. "Show, then tell." - Bridget Friend, Senior Customer Support Specialist

There's lots of room for misinterpretation when it comes to web or live chat tickets. Because of this, sometimes reps spend a lot of time asking questions to identify issues and goals. This back and forth can frustrate people who urgently need a solution.

Reps can speed up this process by creating a screen recording to demonstrate an idea or solution to your customer. Demonstrating and walking customers through ideas tends to result in better use of your product and overall better customer experiences. Knowledge base articles are great but, it's also important to show your customer how to successfully use your product.

4. "Every support ticket is a customer touchpoint." Chris Steidl, Principal Customer Support Specialist

At HubSpot, every support ticket is considered a customer touchpoint. Our reps think, "What if this is the only conversation that the customer will have with HubSpot for a while?"

With that in mind, they aim to make the conversation memorable, human, and empathy-filled. It doesn't matter if it's a phone call or email, they want our users to consistently have a positive memory of the brand every time they reach out to us.

5. "A screenshot is worth a thousand words." - Jimmy Berry, Senior Customer Support Specialist

Why spend 30 minutes trying to communicate an order of actions, when you can consolidate and share a screenshot in two minutes? This step saves time and confirms that you and the customer are working in the same space.

Note that a bad screenshot can be misleading, so it's important to take the time and create a design that's easy for anyone to comprehend. Here are two examples of "good" screenshots:


In this example, notice how the arrows direct the customer to exactly where to perform the suggested action. This makes it easier to tell how the change will affect the workflow.


For this next example, Jimmy uses arrows and number points to explain a series of actions performed in chronological order. Rather than just writing out the steps, this visual clearly outlines the actions the customer needs to take to achieve their goals.

6. "We're all humans first." - Maddy Clark, Escalation Product Expert

Sometimes it can be really tempting to skip the small talk and get right down to business, specifically when you’re working on chat support. But, taking the time to create a personalized and genuine interaction can make the conversation feel less transactional and turn tickets into much more impactful interactions.

7. "Know when it's time to switch channels." - Adriti Gulati, Service Hub Professor

While online customer service is convenient, it still has its limitations. Sometimes it's better for customers to use traditional service channels when they have a unique or complex issue.

The best customer service teams understand when it's time to move a conversation from email or chat to phone or in-person support. This shows the customer that you're committed to solving their issue and are willing to go the extra mile to find a solution. Bonus points if your chat rep is also the person to call the customer, instead of passing it off to your phone team. That way, the customer doesn't have to repeat their problem to an entirely new rep.

8. "You can never be too nice on chat support." - Jimmy Berry, Senior Customer Support Specialist

Jimmy is one of the most experienced chat support specialists I know, so we'll give him an extra tip on our list. Here's a quote from Psychology Today, that he felt was relevant to chat support reps.

"UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian found that 58 percent of communication is through body language, 35 percent through vocal tone, pitch, and emphasis, and a mere 7 percent through the content of the message."

On live chat, you can only communicate 7% of what you're trying to say, so it's important to be nice. Customer support involves a lot of transferring of information, and often your team needs to be direct when providing instruction. But, how you position your instructions play a crucial role in how the customer perceives the conversation. Take this message for example:

"Refresh the page."

There's nothing wrong with this statement in terms of solving the problem. But, it can sound condescending to someone who might have already tried that step, or for someone working on a new computer who might not know how to refresh that page. Instead, we can alter our language to be a bit more polite.

"Can you please try refreshing the page?"

This is a nicer way of saying the same thing, and it might solve the problem. But, either way, it's clear that you're empathetic, and are willing to provide additional assistance if this step doesn't work.

For more customer service tips, check out these customer support resources.

Customer First Templates


Originally published Apr 1, 2020 8:00:00 AM, updated April 01 2020


Customer Service