“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.” These wise words, said by famous business author Michael LeBoeuf, sum up the importance of customer service for the success of any venture. This mantra should be followed by every kind of business, offline or online, as it is the end user who decides whether a product or service is worth their hard-earned money.
How does an online business go about satisfying ‘a face in the crowd’? Physical interaction is not high among the priorities when it comes to dealing with online shoppers and their requirements. In 2011, Amazon topped the Forbes Top 10 Customer’s Choice Awards with a rating of 57.3%, beating many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, and the eCommerce company was also featured in J.D. Power’s list of 2014 Customer Champions. Amazon is known to be the driving force for bringing about a complete makeover in the customer care segment.
Online businesses already have the trump card over traditional retailers due to features such as 24/7 shopping, easy returns and refunds, unlimited choice of products, and more. However, even amongst online retailers, only a handful have earned a loyal customer base and a higher recall value. What is it that some online businesses are missing? How does an Amazon or an eBay, or any other successful eCommerce venture become great in customer service?
10 Best Practices for Existing eCommerce Businesses and Upcoming Online Start-ups:
Table of Contents
- 1 10 Best Practices for Existing eCommerce Businesses and Upcoming Online Start-ups:
- 1.1 1. Learn About Your Customer
- 1.2 2. Leverage Social Media
- 1.3 3. Informative Product Catalogue
- 1.4 4. Time is of the Essence
- 1.5 5. Build a Seamless User Interface
- 1.6 6. Easy Shipping, Return and Payments
- 1.7 7. Interactive Customer Service
- 1.8 8. Collect valuable feedback
- 1.9 9. Create a Knowledge Base
- 1.10 10. Provide assistance at every step of the way
1. Learn About Your Customer
When a customer logs on to your store, he or she has a certain set of expectations looking to be met. It is the business’ job to find out what those expectations are, and then help achieve them. This information can be garnered by tracking customer activity on social networks, through their past purchases and feedback.
2. Leverage Social Media
Social media can be a powerful tool to attract prospective customers and offer purchases on the basis of their likes and interests. Also, remembering birthdays and anniversaries, and sending free gifts or special discounts as a special gesture are sure to go a long way in building customer loyalty.
3. Informative Product Catalogue
The process of ordering a product and service can become a lot faster and smoother for the customer if all the information about it is provided at one place. These include key features of the product along with the maximum number of photographs, and even videos, if possible. Also, include shipping details and a link to your refund/ return policies as well. This will reduce customer calls for seeking information about the product and save time for sales representatives for other pressing issues.
4. Time is of the Essence
An online shopper is essentially seeking two things – convenience and speed. Any online business would need to amalgamate these two facets and provide the ultimate shopping experience. This means providing a convenient range of customer-suited products, an interactive shopping cart and faster payment and checkout. In addition, if the customer seeks support, their query should be resolved within 24-48 hours. Any longer, and the chances of losing the customer will become higher.
5. Build a Seamless User Interface
Always be a step ahead of your customer, and create a ‘something new’ element, each time a shopper logs on to your page, to tweak their interest. Recommend products based on their taste, questions or past purchases, complementary choices even as they add to their shopping cart. Highlight important features of the product, as well as the coupons and banners that may be applied on a particular purchase.
6. Easy Shipping, Return and Payments
Free shipping is something that entices every customer, and so an online business should try and offer zero shipping costs as much as possible. Creating a dedicated shipping page also helps, which allows the customer to track their order at their convenience. It should also clearly state how to initiate returns, how long it will take, and how will they be getting a refund – through cash, store credit or any other mode.
As for payments, the more options the better – Credit/Debit Card, Cash on Delivery, EMI, Discount Coupons, etc. are all tools to make it faster and simpler for a customer to make a purchase and close the sale.
7. Interactive Customer Service
An evolved online business would leave no stone unturned to provide ultimate customer satisfaction. Owing to the adage ‘Customer Is King’, the three tools of Live Chat, Email and a Telephone Helpline have become a necessity, rather than just a nice-to-have option, and will help a business to satisfy the end user.
- Email: The Contacts tab should be the most visible and accessible tool on your website. Custom email addresses can be obtained via several free or paid services that include Google Apps for Business, Zohomail, Rackspace Email, Fastmail.fm and Pobox. Make sure you organize the emails in a conducive manner, and also close the queries that have been resolved.
- Phone Support: Customer service representatives need to undergo strict training and should be updated about all aspects of the sale. Also, while outsourcing your customer support function to call centers, ensure that the choice is made wisely for a high level of responsiveness and quality. A call-back service can also be created where the customer receives a call back from customer support, if their call goes unanswered or if they abandoned their shopping cart for some reason.
- Live Chat: While the customer should be able to reach the help desk via phone or email, the Live Chat feature is also an added benefit, wherein the queries of the customer can be solved almost immediately, and at their convenience. In-house or outsourced reps should be online during business hours, and for best impact, 24/7. Some examples of Live Chat tools include Bold Chat, Tidio Chat, Live Chat and Olark.
8. Collect valuable feedback
Amazon, eBay and other big online retailers rely extensively on customer feedback. This could be about a recent purchase, initiating a return, receiving a refund or about the experience of dealing with a customer care executive. Adding reviews of purchased products by previous customers paves the way for more potential shoppers and helps close a sale faster.
9. Create a Knowledge Base
An easily accessible FAQ section and knowledge base can help take the business that extra mile. At times, customers do not want to go through the hassle of calling up a customer care executive and be put on hold, if they can find the solutions to their queries on your website itself. Information on areas such as shipping policies, international shipping, return policies etc. should be readily available for the customer. In addition, a blog about upcoming and existing products and services will also prove to be beneficial. Through IVR or self-service on customer support, customers can get basic enquiries answered such as order status and so on.
10. Provide assistance at every step of the way
Every online business should make it their goal to give a pleasant experience to anyone and everyone who shops at their store. Personal attention is key, whether it is in the form of a personal shopping assistant, live chat, prompt settlement of payment queries, or something as simple as remembering to pamper your customer on their special day. A follow-up email or reminder phone call or text message regarding an abandoned cart or an update on order status and shipping details will go a long way in keeping the customer interested and content.
In conclusion, though there are many benefits a customer can derive from shopping online, there is always an element of ‘risk’, since the product cannot really be seen or touched before buying. Therefore, it becomes even more necessary to gain and keep a customer’s trust, while giving them an unparalleled experience. This is where building a solid customer support system comes into play, and it can surely be a game-changer when it comes to creating a successful online business.
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