The Definitive Guide to Inbound Customer Service

Today’s consumers engage with brands in more ways than ever before. Through social media, content marketing, and advertisements, most prospects and customers interact with branded content without having direct communication with the company. But once a customer contacts your business, your inbound customer service team steps up to represent your brand.

Inbound customer service is about much more than just selling products. If you’re ready to learn how you can improve your strategy with inbound customer service, let’s get started!

Key Takeaways:

  • Inbound customer service occurs when a customer contacts your business for information or assistance. Outbound service happens when your representatives reach out to customers.
  • Providing a great inbound customer service experience is essential for a business’s success. One bad experience can drive a customer away for good.
  • Companies can improve their inbound customer service strategies by providing omnichannel contact options, focusing on training, minimizing customer wait time, setting clear goals, and recognizing employees that deliver exceptional service. 

What is Inbound Customer Service?

Inbound customer service is the process of responding to customers and resolving problems, answering questions, making sales, or otherwise seeking to attract, engage, and satisfy customers to foster long-term loyalty. When a person makes direct contact with your company, the responding employee is your inbound customer service agent.

Providing excellent customer service:

  • Increases customer retention
  • Generates word-of-mouth referrals
  • Reinforces your company’s values
  • Proactively addresses customer complaints
  • Identifies problems in the customer’s journey
  • Increases customer lifetime value (CLV)
  • Creates a positive work environment with employees that are proud to advocate your brand

Inbound Customer Service vs. Outbound Customer Service

The lines between inbound and outbound services are sometimes blurred because, for some companies, their representatives handle a mix of responsibilities. Both service types are capable of handling sales, marketing, and customer care. 

Inbound Customer Service

Examples of inbound customer service include answering calls and messages to:

  • Help a customer place an order or process a return
  • Provide information about the company, products, or services
  • Make product recommendations
  • Track a package
  • Update or cancel an order
  • Troubleshoot an issue
  • Replace or refund a defective order
  • Listen to feedback

Outbound Customer Service

Outbound customer service is when the representative contacts the customer. In most cases, outbound service focuses on making sales or generating new leads. Some examples of outbound customer service include:

  • Cold calling
  • Following up after a purchase to see if the customer has any questions or problems
  • Reaching out to inform customers about new products, services, or promotions
  • Sending outbound email marketing campaigns

While some companies keep their inbound and outbound teams separate, others use a hybridized option with representatives who are responsible for both initiating contact and responding to messages.

Inbound customer service vs. outbound customer service

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5 Tips to Provide Top-Notch Inbound Customer Service

Your customer service reps are the voice of your company. As you develop your inbound customer care strategy, consider these tips to deliver the best service possible:

1. Provide Multiple Contact Options 

We live in an omnichannel world. Customers expect businesses to adopt a consumer-centric approach that provides a consistent, seamless experience across every channel. With this in mind, today’s consumers also expect companies to be accessible through various means of communication, including:

  • Phone
  • Email
  • Social media
  • Live chat
  • SMS
  • Website contact forms

Your business should be widely accessible so consumers can reach you at their convenience on the channels they’re most comfortable using. If you’re one of the 67% of ecommerce leaders who believe that an omnichannel strategy is important, you should also invest in an omnichannel inbound customer service. 

2. Prioritize Thorough, Empathetic Training 

Bad service can take a critical toll on your business. A startling 91% of consumers who have a poor inbound customer service experience will ditch your brand without warning.

Statistics for consumer reactions to bad inbound customer service

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The best way to prevent bad customer service is to invest in your training and onboarding. Make sure your agents have thorough knowledge about your company, products, and services so they can resolve issues without needing to escalate or transfer.

Empathy should be a key part of your training. In many cases, customers aren’t fully satisfied with a resolution if the representative wasn’t empathetic to the situation. Customers want brands to demonstrate that they actually care.

3. Minimize Wait Time 

One of the fastest ways to make your customers dissatisfied is to make them wait forever on hold before they can reach a representative. How can you minimize wait time so your customers are less irritable and your agents don’t have as much stress? A few ways to address this issue include:

  • Offer a callback option so the customer doesn’t have to wait in the queue.
  • Use telephone prompts that guide customers to other resources for simple issues or help them navigate to the right department so they aren’t transferred later.
  • Use a chatbot that can answer basic questions, access order information, track packages, and perform other tasks that a live person doesn’t need to handle.
  • Create a comprehensive online resource hub where customers can access tutorials, help articles, and other information on their own.

4. Clearly Communicate Goals and Expectations to Your Team

The success or failure of your inbound customer service strategy largely depends on your team. Make sure to clearly communicate all goals so agents understand what they need to do and can best serve your customers. 

Track key performance indicators (KPIs) and share progress with your team so they know where they currently stand, what they’re doing well, and how they can improve. When your employees have clear targets, they’re in a better position to unlock their potential and meet or exceed expectations.

5. Recognize Employees That Provide Excellent Inbound Service

Create a healthy, positive work environment that rewards good behavior and hard work. If you want your representatives to treat your customers well, start by treating them well. Nurture an atmosphere that encourages teamwork, personal goal setting, and growth. 

When employees receive recognition, they’re more likely to feel motivated. They also feel more comfortable asking for help and engaging in mentorship programs to lift each other up.

Great inbound customer service comes down to preparedness, professionalism, positivity, patience, and proactiveness. To learn more about the “five Ps,” check out this video.

Make Exceptional Inbound Service Part of Your Customer Care Strategy

Customer care is becoming the new customer service. When consumers make direct contact with your company, you have only one chance to make a good first impression.

We understand how important customer care is for your business’s reputation. That’s why we help our clients create a seamlessly positive omnichannel experience that exceeds customer expectations at every single stage, even before they call.

Interested in learning more? Request a consultation to learn how we help your inbound customer service, and explore our library of resources for more general business tips.

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