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5 digital customer service skills your agents need to be successful

Customer needs are changing. Find out how to improve your digital customer service for our distributed world.

While the digital world has its own language and nuances, many of the basic principles of customer service still apply. Service agents need to show empathy, solve problems, and make customers feel appreciated.

Your team probably already has these skills, and with the right tools and training, you can shine in the digital realm too.

Here is a guide to help you get started.

What is digital customer service?

Digital customer service is the process of responding to customer questions and concerns via digital channels such as email, live chat, texting, and social media.

The importance of digital customer service

Digital channels are increasingly popular with customers, especially younger generations. In fact, 63 percent of millennials begin their customer service interactions online. This is even more important in the wake of COVID-19, as home-bound customers are relying more on messaging, including social media and live chat.

Best Practices: Discover how to use digital support to drive customer loyalty. 

What channels does digital customer service include?

  • Email — Email remains one of the most popular service channels and gives customers the freedom to discuss an issue asynchronously, when and where they please
  • Social messaging — Customers want to talk to companies on the same channels they use with their friends: Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, and WhatsApp, among others
  • SMSText messaging is efficient, personal, and easy to use, even for customers that aren’t as tech savvy
  • Live chat and chatbots — Chat and messaging are on the rise, and with help from AI-powered chatbots, it’s easier than ever to provide a fast, accurate answer
  • Self service help centers — Sometimes good customer service means helping customers help themselves with FAQ pages, help centers, and community forums

How to form a digital customer service strategy

As you develop your digital customer service strategy, consider the following questions:

What channels do my customers want to use?

Since the pandemic, we’ve seen a surge in live channel usage, as customers are looking for quicker, more immediate responses. This includes live chat and social media messaging.

But depending on your industry, your customers might have different needs. Customer surveys can help you identify which channels your customers are most likely to use, so you can prioritize accordingly.

An omnichannel approach to customer service makes it easy to add or remove channels based on customer preferences and needs.

What tools do my service reps need to be able to deliver good customer care on those channels?

If you’re going to be adding new service channels, your agents will need streamlined tools that allow them to get their jobs done without adding complexity to their workflow.

This is not only good for your agents, it’s good for your customers. In a recent study, 86 percent of CX executives said improving the agent experience was essential to increasing customer loyalty and satisfaction.

With integrated solutions, agents spend less time toggling between multiple tools and more time helping customers, leading to a better customer experience.

Another way you can help your agents is with apps that integrate with your support software. For example, Qualtrics for Zendesk Support makes it easy to survey customers about their experience, so you can continually improve your customer service.

What is my team hoping to achieve and how will we measure success?

One major advantage of digital customer service is that you can respond to customers faster.

Research shows that fast reply time is a top consideration for customers when evaluating good customer service. There are a few KPIs to consider when measuring your customer service:

  • First reply time — the amount of time it takes for a human to respond to a customer request
  • Average handle time — the amount of time it takes to resolve an issue from start to finish
  • First contact resolution — How often you are able to resolve an issue with a single agent interaction

There are also qualitative measures to consider. For example, being available on social media can make your brand feel more friendly and accessible. Meanwhile, some might appreciate the convenience of a chatbot they can talk to at any time.

Onboarding service reps to digital customer service

If your agents aren’t familiar with digital customer service channels, you should provide training and resources, so they have the tools they need to help your customers and represent your company well.

Here are a few tips for onboarding agents to digital customer service:

  • Implement a training program
    Give agents a chance to familiarize themselves with new tools and technology. If possible, consider a shadowing program where new agents can observe someone who has already been trained.
  • Teach digital media etiquette
    Digital channels, especially social media, have their own rules. Help your agents learn the nuances, such as the meaning and usage of popular emojis.
  • Provide knowledge and resources
    Provide a knowledge base where information is consolidated and readily accessible, and make sure agents know who to talk to if an issue arises.
  • Create a feedback mechanism
    Provide regular feedback from the start, taking advantage of customer feedback to provide specific examples and opportunities for improvement.

Top 5 skills to improve your digital customer service

  1. Speed
    Fast reply time is correlated with higher customer satisfaction, and depending on the channel, customers expect companies to respond in an hour or less. Digital customer service agents need to have a sense of urgency in everything they do.
  2. Attentiveness
    When juggling multiple chats or emails at the same time, you need to have good attention to detail. Agents need to read carefully, so they can fully understand the customer’s issue and identify how to help.
  3. Good written communication
    Great email support requires strong writing skills. You need to be able to summarize issues clearly and concisely without including unnecessary information that could confuse the customer.
  4. Social skills
    On digital channels, it takes more effort for your personality to shine through. Add emojis, gifs, or friendly banter to elevate your digital customer experience and make it more enjoyable for the customer.
  5. Empathy
    Agents need to actively listen to understand what’s going on with the customer. Emotions, both good and bad, can be harder to identify in written communication. Agents should always assume good intent, and show empathy for the customer.

Optimizing your digital customer service

Create accountability by making customer feedback part of your digital customer service process.

Customer satisfaction surveys can illuminate opportunities for improvement in your service workflow and help agents by giving them specific, actionable feedback. It can also show where you might need to expand your service offering by adding new channels or increasing staff so you can respond to customers faster.

Here are a few examples of survey questions you can ask to help optimize your digital customer service:

For email support, you could ask questions like:

  • Do you feel you received a prompt reply?
  • Was the explanation provided by the agent easy to understand?
  • How likely are you to email customer service for help with future questions or concerns?

For social media and live chat, you could ask questions like:

  • How friendly was your live chat support agent?
  • Was it easy to communicate with us via social media?
  • If available, would you be interested in using SMS for future customer service requests?

Digital customer service is here to stay

The next normal demands that businesses meet their customers where they are, whether that’s an email or Instagram DM. The challenge is, how can you adopt new service channels while maintaining a strong customer focus?

Asking for feedback is a good place to start. Try the Qualtrics for Zendesk integration today and start optimizing your digital customer experience.

Discover how to use digital support to drive customer loyalty