Snapchat, Twitter, chat bots, self-service models — consumers now have more channels than ever through which to communicate with businesses.

And when it comes to communication channels, the more the better: 67% of online shoppers have made purchases involving multiple channels in the past six months.

Of course, the most direct line of communication between customer and merchant is customer support.

Now, while good old phone support isn’t going away anytime soon, many companies are going above and beyond simply proving a phone number for customers in need of help.

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Expanding your support channels beyond the phone can help you keep up with your customers’ increasing expectations.

So, how does your small business continue providing the support your customers need, without draining resources? We’ve detailed five communication channels that, when layered onto your phone support, will ensure you’re there for whatever your customers need.

For Direct, Fast Responses: Twitter

As entrepreneur and author Gary Vaynerchuk says, “You have to be no less than a customer concierge, doing everything you can to make every one of your customers feel acknowledged, appreciated, and heard. Social media gives businesses the tools to do that in a scalable way.”

More than anything, customers want to be treated with respect. Simply acknowledging their issues goes a long way, and doing it through Twitter helps you easily and quickly do so.

Even just answering “we’re looking into this” or “we’ll follow up shortly” on Twitter makes customers feel heard. These quick responses show that you’re taking a customer’s issue seriously, and that you’re listening — they also lower your churn rate. Companies that ignore support requests on social see an average churn rate that’s 15% higher than companies who don’t.

To Nurture Relationships: In-Person Meetings

Consider offering opportunities for face-to-face support or training with your high priority customers. By going the extra mile for select customers, you’ll show you’re invested in customers’ success and happiness, paving the way for increased retention and upselling.

Customer appreciation events, training sessions, feedback sessions, beta testing sessions…options abound on what to cover during these in-person meetings. Whatever you choose, aim to get feedback that customers wouldn’t otherwise share over the phone or email in your in-person meetings.

These meetings will help you form stronger relationships with customers, increasing their brand loyalty and lowering churn rates. They’ll also arm you with candid information which you can leverage to improve your product.

For Customer Convenience: Live Chat

Offering a live chat feature through a platform like Olark or Zoho is an increasingly popular support channel. Sixty-three percent of consumers are more likely to return to a website that offers live chat, in fact.

Why? Because live chat is convenient; it generally offers customers immediate solutions on their first contact with your site. And convenience is key for customers. Reducing customer effort builds customer loyalty more than any other factor, according to this Harvard Business Review study.

Not sure your small business can support this feature? Consider implementing live chat during business hours, or during your peak site traffic times.

For a detailed comparison of the top 10 live chat softwares, check out this article

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To Educate: Slack

Slack, a wildly popular messaging platform for workplaces, is also gaining popularity as a support channel. Rather than the 1-on-1 conversations that live chat offers, Slack gives you the chance to message larger groups of customers without relying on the formality of email blasts.

Communicating en masse with customers isn’t an effective way to resolve issues, but it does give your team the opportunity to easily and casually keep your customers informed. Your customer support team can use Slack to send reminders, make announcements, publicize upcoming features, conduct live Q&As…the list goes on. Essentially, Slack provides your company a public communication forum.

To Scale Support Smartly: Help Center

Creating a Help Center is an upfront investment which pays out over the long term, both for you and your customers. If done correctly, your Help Center can answer frequently asked questions and provide instruction for common actions customers take. The best part? Once you’ve created the content, customers can answer questions on their own.

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And publishing Help Center content lets your customer support team scale effectively. They’ll be free to resolve complex, urgent, or new issues, rather than answering commonplace questions all day long.

If you’re not sure where to start, ask your customer support team for the ten questions they receive most often and the ten tutorials they most often provide. Look to build content around those topics first, for the most impact.

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