Though proactive online customer service may sound like science fiction, the fact is the bar for online customer service (and offline customer service) just keeps rising.

Quality online customer service is increasingly the best tactic in the marketing playbook.

Quality online customer service is increasingly the best tactic in the marketing playbook.

Customer service organizations are increasingly the most relevant competitive differentiator within companies—and the competition is getting steep. “Satisfactory” service is not enough, in some cases even “Excellent” is no longer enough (read more about that in the above link).

There are many innovative strategies being put forward as solutions to the online customer service problem, such as proactive customer service and omni-channel customer service – but these are unfeasible for many organizations. Live chat, self-service/automated service, and feedback surveys can be as effective as (and are certainly easier than) these new strategies at acquiring and retaining customers.

“Customer Experience” and Online Customer Service

As a result of the fierce competition in the customer service arena, many organizations are transitioning into a “customer experience” model, which shifts the strategic focus from the activities they as an organization undertake (inputs and outputs) to what the customer actually experiences and how the customer perceives that experience.

This is where proactive customer service comes into play, as well as omni-channel customer service. Briefly: omni-channel customer service operates from the premise that customers want every interaction they have with your business to be accessible to customer service agents in their present interaction (that means if they emailed you before but are calling you now, they want your call center agent to be able to access that previous email, or live chat, or tweet, etc).

In both instances, the goal is to improve the customer experience by reducing the amount of effort required on the customer end.

But both proactive customer service and omni-channel customer service are difficult to conceptualize, let alone implement effectively. Fortunately, there are more accessible, affordable means of using online customer service to competitively differentiate your business. For now, I’ll focus on live chat, but self-service/automation options and feedback surveys are also excellent ways to convey to your customers that 1) you appreciate their business and 2) they are best served by continuing to do business with you rather than a competitor.

How Live Chat Transforms Online Customer Service

Live chat allows you to provide online customer service agents with premade messages (which can be A/B tested), with the ability to engage up to four customers simultaneously, and with pre-chat surveys and advanced routing that both direct the customer appropriately and prepare your chat agent for the inquiry they’re about to assist with.

From a customer service perspective, this allows you to provide a faster response and a response more likely to result in a first contact resolution. From a customer experience perspective, this makes the process of engaging your customer service organization effortless and impactful, pushing your customers over the bar from satisfied to evangelizing.