Once your online store is running and orders are starting to come through, so do questions from your customers. This could be concerns, complaints or general information about your product.

How much is it? Is it on sale? Can I exchange?

As business owners and managers, we need to stay on top of these questions, whether it be from Facebook, Twitter, email or phone calls.

All legitimate questions – and all questions that have legitimate answers. In this day and age, a business that does not have a digital presence is one that is automatically behind the 8-ball. No one wants to be there. The digital world creates a way for people to communicate quickly on many new platforms, social, email etc. and customers want to be addressed quickly- whether it is a complaint, question, or just a simple comment. Just like if you walked into a store, you would want your questions and concerns addressed right away. Many people are overwhelmed by customer service questions as a small business – sometimes being managed by one or two person teams. Having the right tools and systems in place will help make life easier.

At it’s core, social and digital media is customer service. It’s a new wave – and a new age – of providing potential customers and existing clients with a level of customer service, brand/product information and communication for your business.

So how can you make digital and social media work for you? How can you automate customer service online – and ultimately become productive and strategic with the use of your time? We’ve compiled three steps and recommendations to make social media work for your business, brand or community manager. Read below.

1. Social Media

How can you use Social Media for customer service?

The must-have for any business, large or small. A well-branded social media presence, though potentially overwhelming at first, has the potential to drive sales and set your small business apart from the competition.

But how can you use social media for customer service? There are many tools that will help you automate customer service and ensure that your potential clients feel appreciated. If working on a team (IE: if yourself and your business partner are sharing responsibilities for your social media presence) you can work together and minimize both time and effort. A great tool to use is HootSuite, which allows you to work on teams, communicate with one another and assign tasks (see image to right).

If you don’t work on a team, any social media tool (HootSuite, TweetDeck, BufferApp) allows you to schedule messages in advance. That means – if you have a great idea for a tweet or post and have the time to post now, but want it sent tomorrow – you can do just that. Using scheduling tools allows your brand of small business to appear interactive and engaging at all hours of the day, even if you might only have the time to hop onto your accounts for 10 or 15 minutes every day.

2. ZenDesk 

What is it…and how can I use it?

My personal favourite. ZenDesk, (the product that offers a 30-day trial, FYI), provides a unified process for your customer service needs. ZenDesk is an all-in-one customer service tool – “Zendesk takes customer communication from anywhere—your website, email, phone, Twitter, Facebook, and chat—and turns it into a ticket. Your support team sees everything in one place; your customer uses the channel they prefer.”

Easy, right? Zendesk also offers a personalized phone inbox. Customers or clients call your number, leave a message (after hearing a customized message from you or a friendly voice of your choice) and their call gets placed as a ticket. Example – you run an online store. Your client has a question about the status of their shipped item. They can reach you in a number of ways – phone, email, social, chat – whatever they prefer. Their communication is then turned into a ticket that enters one unified database for you to easily head into and use.

I encourage you to run a trial of the program. Monthly starter packages begin at just $1.00 (you read that right).

Check out this article for even more great tools, like ZenDesk, to help automate your customer service.

3. Email Marketing

How can I use email to help my business?

In addition to using tools and programs to help automate your customer service, email marketing is so very important. Gathering email addresses is not only great for direct-to-consumer communication, it also provides you with a great opportunity to connect with your potential clients. Email marketing is catered for customer service. Using an email marketing service provider (MailChimp is a great, free option for databases under 2,000 emails), customize 1-2 emails per month with product information, content, etc. Have a dedicated customer service address for responses to be sent to. Check this email address once every 24-48 hours or so (easy 15 minutes out of your day) and voila. You’re communicating with your customers and providing them with an opportunity to contact you – the very best of both worlds, and a must-have for any business.

There you have it. Three avenues of communication to provide outstanding customer service for your customers – three avenues that can be set-up, coordinated and executed in little-to-no time. These tools will not only help your level of customer service increase positively, but will also help your brand and business excel to the next level.

Will you implement one (or three) of these tools? What will you start with – Social Media, a customer service automation tool or email? Remember – Customers just want to be addressed, and the quicker the better reputation your business/brand will have with them. Have the proper tools and documents in place will make this a lot easier for you.

Nicole van Zanten
Nicole van Zanten is a content creator for MadeFreshly. She is a digital media professional based in Vancouver, Canada. Managing social media and digital presence for both small and large corporate brands for over 6 years, Nicole is focused on brand management, digital media strategy, best practices in the online space and digital revenue generation.