Customer service takes on a whole new meaning — and a whole new importance — when it comes to online storefronts. Here are the must-haves for providing excellent customer service to your eCommerce customers.
1. Software to Personalize the Process
Personalization is the name of the game when it comes to providing great customer service. Your goal should be to make your customer feel like they’re the only one you’re serving at any given time. Businesses, especially those focused on eCommerce, don’t have the luxury of face-to-face interaction between a sales representative and a customer, so it’s vital to personalize the process in every other way possible.
This kind of individualized customer care is not a one-man (or one-woman) job — it’s a job for software. At Doubledot Media, we use Customer.io. This software allows us to automatically contact potential customers at key points in their interaction with our websites to help us make the sale. We can use event triggers to automate emails such as payment receipts and segment triggers to automate emails to customers who have been absent from our site for a while.
It’s important that your software go beyond just simple automation; it needs to be set up to address customers according to specific events. There’s nothing worse than advertising a product to a customer who just bought it. By carefully arranging your automation to specific triggers, you’re demonstrating that you pay close attention to your clients.
2. Immediate Chat Availability
Customers not only want their customer service interactions to be individualized, but they also want these interactions to be swift and immediately gratifying. Just as a sales representative is constantly available while someone is shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, reps should be available on the website while a customer is shopping. The easiest way to do this is chat software.
A phone number, while helpful as a last resort, shouldn’t be the first line of contact. When a customer is about to click the buy button, it’s a sin to ask them to pick up the phone to spend money or to make them wait hours for an email reply. Chat software provides customer service in real time. Make sure your chat software is properly installed on your website, and familiarize yourself with any special features to ensure you're optimizing the platform.
3. A Process for Dealing with Online Reviews
With any eCommerce business, responding to online reviews should be part of your day-to-day operations. All reviews require recognition — both the positive ones and the negative ones. There should be a systematic process for dealing with these reviews quickly and efficiently.
You should as quickly as possible, and always within 24 hours. Positive reviews can and should be used to your business’s benefit. Follow up with the customer, thank them for the review and see if you can draw out more information. It’s possible the customer has a great story about how your business truly helped them. These reviews can evolve and grow into testimonials that can be used as web content.
Negative reviews can be used as feedback to improve your business. They are also an opportunity to demonstrate your excellent customer service. Respond to the negative review with sincerity and try to take the conversation offline as quickly as possible. Small business owners and employees often feel more invested in their company, so instincts can be defensive. There is nothing to be gained from debating with an unhappy customer — in fact, there is a lot to be lost from engaging in an argument. Instead, focus on rectifying the situation. If you are able to, that negative review might turn into a positive one.
Most likely, multiple staff members will be helping to deal with online reviews. By creating a clear plan of action, your customer service will remain consistent across the board.There might be some variation of the process depending on the content of the review, but the general system should be the same for every one.
4. Scheduled Staff
While I allow almost all of my staff to set their own schedules and work remotely, I require customer service staff have specific hours. It’s ideal to have staff on hand for addressing customer service issues 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but that’s not viable for all businesses. If you can’t find a way to have round-the-clock customer service, then look at your statistics. When are most of your customers online? Schedule your customer service staff to work during those hours. While eCommerce companies do invite a certain level of flexibility for employees, excellent customer service requires specific hours of availability.
5. A System to Evaluate Customer Service
Customer service is never static. It should constantly be improving, and you can’t improve something unless you have a way to measure it. Consequently, an evaluation system for your customer service efforts is vital.
Customers appreciate being asked about their experience. This can be as simple as an automated, post-purchase survey sent via email. An evaluation should also be sent out each time a customer interacts with a customer service representative. This information will help you monitor staff progress and ensure the best performance at all times.
6. Product-Specific Customer Feedback
Not only should your customers have an opportunity to share their thoughts on your customer service efforts, but they should also have an opportunity to give feedback on your product. Users have the first-hand experience that can provide the best information for improving your product.
There are a number of ways to solicit this feedback, including the automated emails mentioned above.
At SaleHoo, we created an open forum where customers can make suggestions about how to improve our products. You might even find your customers have ideas for new products that would complement what you already provide. This type of input from your customer base will not only help you improve your products and services, but it also provides a level of recognition that will please customers.
Customer service is something we can all appreciate, and it's just as important with online stores as it is physical ones. Think about times when you received excellent customer service and what made it wonderful, then try to recreate those factors for your business. These 6 elements will take your customer service strategy from good to great and leave you with some very happy customers.
Simon Slade is CEO and co-founder of SaleHoo, an online wholesale directory of more than 8,000 prescreened suppliers; Affilorama, an affiliate marketing training portal with over 100 free video lessons; and their parent company Doubledot Media Limited, which provides seven different training and software applications to over 1 million customers worldwide. Through these companies, Simon provides the education and resources for e-commerce professionals to start their own businesses and achieve occupational independence.