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What is digital customer service? | Benefits and strategy

Phone-dominant service solutions are no longer sufficient to meet consumers’ needs. Companies can improve the customer experience and cut operational costs by expanding their digital customer service offerings.

Av Teresa Anania, Senior Vice President, Global Customer Success

Senast uppdaterad June 10, 2024

The way consumers want to interact with businesses has changed. Modern customers don’t just call support at the first sign of trouble. They want to communicate with businesses on the digital channels they’re already using in their personal lives—email, live chat, and messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. And they expect a prompt response.

According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2022, 76 percent of shoppers expect to engage with someone immediately when contacting a company’s customer support team.

To provide the fast and convenient experiences that customers demand, businesses need to rethink their digital customer service. Instead of just focusing on how many channels they use, today’s top support teams are prioritizing consistency, efficiency, and personalization.

What is digital customer service?

Digital customer service, person at computer

Digital customer service refers to the support a company provides via online channels—like email, chatbots, and social platforms.

While many brands still offer in-person and phone support, digital customer service is quickly becoming the norm. According to an eGain survey, 80 percent of consumers increased their usage of digital customer service in 2020.

But to impress customers, this type of support must be thoughtful and personalized. Otherwise, companies risk losing buyers to a competitor. Our CX Trends Report revealed that more than 60 percent of customers are willing to walk away after just one bad customer service experience.

Why offer digital customer service?

Digital customer support isn’t only convenient for your customers—it’s also good for your business. Agents can reach more customers at once, work more efficiently, and deliver the personalized interactions consumers want.

76% of shoppers expect to engage with someone immediately when contacting a company’s customer support team.

Boost agent productivity

Boost agent productivity, thumbs up

If you offer only phone and in-person customer support, agents can only address issues one at a time. And because every resolution is verbal, these interactions take time.

With digital customer service, agents can move quickly from platform to platform to address issues. An agent can respond to multiple customer messages over email and chat in the time it takes to handle one support phone call. And if you provide self-service resources, such as a digital knowledge base or FAQ page, customers can use them to resolve simple issues on their own—saving your agents even more time.

Chatbots are another powerful way to increase your support team’s efficiency. Bots don’t need to sleep or take a break, and they can deliver instant support 24/7. In a world where the highest volume of ecommerce sales happens after standard working hours, bots can reduce the need for agents to work unusual shifts.

Provide personalized experiences

Provide personalized digital customer service experiences, magnifying glass on laptop

Today’s consumers want interactions to feel personal and authentic. And our CX Trends Report found that 90 percent are likely to spend more money with companies that can offer the personalization they’re looking for.

But with phone and in-person support, your team has only so much information about customers’ preferences. When you open up your support to digital channels—email, chat, social media, and messaging apps—you have many more opportunities to learn about what your customers want.

Track those details with CRM software, and your agents will have easy access to valuable customer data: past interactions, purchase history, geographic location, and more. Support teams can use that information to offer better, more personalized experiences. For instance, you can set up a chatbot to give product recommendations based on previous purchases.

Connect with more customers

Connect with more customers, hands touching

Even when someone has an issue with your product or service, they may not feel motivated to call your support team or visit your store in person. If they sit on the problem, their frustration is likely to grow.

Digital customer service makes it simple and convenient for buyers to reach your support team. In minutes, they can speak to an agent or a chatbot on the channels they already use every day, such as email or Facebook.

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Best practices for a digital customer service strategy

You’re probably already offering some form of digital support, but there’s always room to improve your customer service. Follow these best practices to make your customers’ and agents’ lives even easier and see better outcomes.

Digital customer service examples

Looking for inspiration? See how these companies used digital customer service to strengthen their CX and their bottom line.

Grubhub

When the pandemic changed eating habits and takeout became the only way Americans could enjoy food from restaurants, Grubhub received an influx of customer requests. But even when ticket volume increased by 100 percent, Grubhub was still able to meet its goals.

How? The company bolstered its self-service options, such as enabling diners to obtain refunds without the help of an agent. It also reduced the number of contacts per order by allowing customers to make changes to their orders via the app and website.

Grubhub’s tech teams converted some of their processes to more automatic solutions, too. This was especially handy at the height of the pandemic when a restaurant couldn’t fulfill orders due to staffing issues, which resulted in customers canceling orders and requesting refunds. Grubhub proactively created tickets so agents could step in for the diner, improving the customer experience.

Polaris

Polaris launched Polaris Adventures in 2017 to connect more closely with end-users and increase accessibility to its vehicles. The team knew prioritizing the customer experience at all touchpoints was crucial, so they adopted a customer-centric, digital-first approach. As a result, the company’s business has been doubling yearly.

To keep up with the volume of customer inquiries, the Polaris team increased productivity by using a CRM, enabling support agents to handle 30 to 40 percent more business. Most consumers can now expect a 30-minute reply time after first contacting Polaris’ customer service team.

Agents can collaborate more effectively, work together on tickets internally, and access an internal knowledge base for FAQs—empowering them to provide proactive customer support.

Strengthen your digital customer service with the right software

Elevate your digital customer support by investing in a full-service omnichannel solution. Provide agents with a unified workspace that connects conversations across channels with customer data from other sources via out-of-the-box or custom integrations. Deliver more personalized support at scale while increasing productivity and cutting costs.

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