As more consumers, especially millennials, shop online, whether from a laptop computer or a mobile device, ecommerce retailers and service businesses have had to adjust their customer service strategy. Instead of adhering to the traditional reactive customer service model \u2013 waiting for customers to contact them \u2013 online retailers have taken a more proactive approach, engaging customers on a variety of channels.\n[ Related: How ecommerce businesses can beat the competition in 2015 ]\nWhat specifically have businesses done to improve the online customer service experience? Following are the five key trends.\n1. Online self-service. \u201cDIY succinctly describes the rise of the millennial mentality: they want to be empowered to get things done at their convenience,\u201d says Jeff Platon, CMO, Interactive Intelligence, a provider of customer engagement, communications and collaboration software. \u201cRecently, we\u2019ve seen the DIY culture move into customer service. Today\u2019s customers are busy and often mobile and need to be able to solve a problem quickly and preferably independently. Customers\u2019 demand for better self-service experiences, as well as expanded channels for self-service (Web, SMS, mobile), is driving higher investments in this technology,\u201d he says. \u201cFor example, today you can change your address with a company by simply going to the website, without interacting with a service representative. Similarly, you can pay a bill [via your] mobile phone.\u201d\n\u201cOnline companies are integrating predictive self-service technologies, allowing customers to instantly find answers to anything they see on a webpage with just one click of the mouse,\u201d says Bill Colleran, CEO, AnswerDash, which provides contextual help for sales and support. So now \u201cthey don\u2019t have to leave a webpage to visit a separate FAQ section or knowledgebase, or start a[n] online chat session. Providing answers to commonly asked questions in the right place, at the right time,\u00a0[also] reduces the number of inbound support inquiries, reducing overhead costs to these organizations.\u201d\n[ Related: 12 ways to improve the customer experience for online shoppers ] \n2. Email and text (SMS) push notifications. Following Amazon\u2019s lead, many companies now automatically send customers an email or text notification when their order has shipped, if something is backordered, or when something pre-ordered or backordered is available. Similarly, many service businesses, instead of calling a home phone to confirm an appointment now send a text to the customer\u2019s mobile phone, along with the ability to confirm, cancel or change the appointment.\n3. Social customer service. \u201cForget phone, email and live chat: Facebook, Twitter and other [social] networks are the new front lines for customer service questions,\u201d says Andrew Caravella, vice president of Marketing at Sprout Social, which provides social media management software. \u201cIn fact, the number of messages requiring a response that people sent to brands via social jumped 17 percent from Q4 2014 to Q4 2015.\u201d\n[ Related: 7 ways social media can improve customer satisfaction ]\n\u201cSocial [media e.g., Twitter and Facebook] presents an amazing opportunity for companies: make customers happy while their friends are watching,\u201d says Jim Rudden, CMO, Spredfast, a provider of social software. \u201cAs a result, most companies are building out their strategy and processes for social customer service.\u201d (Airlines, such as Delta, even have separate Twitter accounts just for handling customer service and support issues.) Just remember, be cautions, \u201cconsumers on social expect an answer within an hour.\u201d\n\n\t\n\nBut just having a presence on Facebook and Twitter is not enough. \u201cFor the greatest success,\u201d says Caravella, companies should \u201cdevelop and manage reactive (solving an issue), proactive (educating at scale) and preemptive (addressing potential issues before they arise) social customer care programs.\u201d And they should ensure that the people who manage their social channels are properly trained and that the company tracks \u201cimportant metrics like response rate and time.\u201d\n4. Messaging apps. \u201cMessaging apps are ripe for customer engagement,\u201d says Scott Horn, CMO,7, a provider of customer engagement, voice and chat solutions. \u201cThey\u2019re widely used, convenient and have an ease and informality that customers love. Expect to see more companies test the waters with messaging platforms, such as Facebook Messenger, as a customer service channel,\u201d he predicts.\n5. Live chat.\u201cThe standards for customer service in the ecommerce business are higher now,\u201d says Simon Slade, cofounder and CEO, Doubledot Media. \u201cPeople expect immediate help, and it\u2019s our job to give it to them. We do that by using chat software that allows the customer to immediately connect with a customer service representative.\u201d \u201c[It\u2019s] instant, personalized, online communication.\u201d\n\u201cFor the 2015 tax year, Intuit introduced SmartLook, a one-way agent video that provides customers the ability to request and receive help within the product at the point of need,\u201d says Alex Balazs, vice president and fellow architect, Intuit. \u201cFor customer care agents, being able to see the customers\u2019 screens and where they are in the tax filing process is critical for resolving problems faster. They answer questions in real time for free and highlight key fields and next steps so customers can complete their return with confidence.\u201d\n[ Related: 11 Tips for Improving Your Company\u2019s Customer Support ]\nToday\u2019s online customer service is all about the customer\nWhen it comes to online customer service, \u201cit\u2019s becoming more imperative than ever for brands to\u00a0be where their customers are\u00a0and to find new ways to reduce effort and friction,\u201d says Horn. \u201cFrom proactive shipping updates to post-purchase support, brands can [and should] leverage [a variety of] channels to offer service and sales capabilities to their customers in the channels they enjoy using.\u201d\nThe result is happier customers, fewer returns and a reduction in churn and attrition.