Acquiring new customers is much harder than keeping existing ones. Providing terrific customer service will encourage repeat orders, and loyalty. This article will address two key components of effective customer service for ecommerce businesses: telephone accessibility, and creating a better online experience.
Too many e-tailers are comfortable with doing business behind a computer. But with all the social media, mobile marketing, texting and other new communication trends, online retailers sometimes ignore the most useful communication tool: the telephone. You can send emails, create fan pages or tweets, but many people still prefer to talk to a human being when it comes to customer service.
Being accessible via the telephone to customers will increase your credibility. Many consumers are more comfortable dealing with online businesses that are transparent and make their phone numbers and physical addresses available. Providing a way for prospects and customers to call you has many benefits, including the following.
Benefits of Telephone-based Service
Respond to complaints. Contrary to what most owners think, customer complaints can benefit a business in a couple of ways. First, dealing with complaints gives you an opportunity to identify problem areas and correct them. A phone conversation gives customers a more personal touch, assuring them that a complaint is heard and that it will be taken seriously. It’s also an opportunity to turn a “no” into a “yes” and close the sale. As e-tailers, we don’t have the benefit of being able to win over an irate customer face-to-face, so take every opportunity to interact and win over customers by phone, in your kindest, most patient manner. In the age of social media, you don’t want a complaint going viral or showing up in Google searches.
Provide detailed answers. Your website can only cover so many details. And even with a frequently asked questions page, customers may still have lingering questions about payment, warranty, technical procedures, troubleshooting and shipping.
Sell products. Turn casual visitors into customers by giving them your phone number to call for order inquiries. Some visitors just need reassurance over the phone or do not want to enter credit card information online. Potential customers may assume that you are an expert, and seek advice on what to order. This is your chance to suggest products they may not even have thought of.
Creating a Better Online Experience
Make returns easy. Don’t waste your customers’ time. There’s nothing like an easy return policy to provide peace of mind — and encourage repeat purchases. If you require an RMA, make sure its easy for customers to get the RMA number online, or better yet, include it on a purchase confirmation, like Amazon does. Don't force customers to call in, suffer through a phone maze and be excessively questioned before a return is allowed. Make it easy. If you have a physical storefront as well an online store, ensure that your return policies are consistent. For example, I once tried to return a purchase from Target.com to my local store. The employee there just shrugged, “That's only online, we're different in the store.” Really? As a customer, I don’t care. Target is Target, online or not.
If you're a drop shipper, be sure to understand your vendors' operations. Look for ways they can help you be more customer-centered — i.e., return policies, delivery service, and delivery options — and if they can’t accommodate, look for other vendors.
Use a CRM. Customer relationship management systems keep a history of customers' purchases, which help understand their buying patterns. Anticipating future needs based on this historical information is not only an important marketing tool, it fosters customers' trust in your company. Think of the last time you had to repeat your complicated scenario for the umpteenth time after being transferred to multiple departments and reps. Wasn’t that enough to drive you mad and never want to shop online again? As a merchant, know your customer, understanding that the one who places the order and pays for it may not be the same. Know who the actual end user is and how they influence the buying process.
Offer peace of mind. Consumers look for peace of mind when shopping online. They don’t want to have to worry if their gifts will arrive on time or if they will be credited in a timely manner for a return. Make your website easy to use. That includes making it easy to find information and products. Invest in a good site search function. Understand the keywords your customer uses - not industry jargon. If you offer free shipping, make sure your shopping cart automatically tallies free shipping once the threshold is met.
Design your company’s business processes from the outside in, in ways that make sense to and for consumers.
Save customers time. Save your customer time and frustration by understanding the problem or need they are trying to fulfill, and address both early and directly. Remember, Domino's Pizza is not just in the pizza business. It's also in the delivery business, where timing is critical.
Acquiring new customers is much harder than keeping existing ones. Why do so many companies struggle with this simple concept? If you can differentiate your business with excellent service, customers will notice. After all, repeat, loyal customers are gold.