When it comes to excelling at customer service, it may feel like brick-and-mortar stores have the advantage. Though selling online grants you flexibility to set your own schedule and make your own rules, it does lack the face-to-face and friendly hellos that often make a physical store stand out.
Despite the challenges, getting customer service right – even in an online setting – matters to your bottom line. Research shows that a reported 68% of buyers will stop supporting a brand if they feel that business is indifferent toward them.
Alternatively, if you can establish an emotional bond between you brand and your buyers through great service, you can successfully charge 20 to 200% more than competitors.
Figuring out a customer service strategy for your online store makes dollars and sense (pun intended). Here are a few ecommerce customer service best practices to follow:
Try not to “win” an argument with a customer.
Every now and then you’ll be faced with a difficult customer. Even when you try to resolve the issue to the best of your ability, they’ll still challenge you and argue.
Though it’s difficult, you need to always resist the urge to fight back and engage in an argument. It’s just not worth it in the long run.
Instead, take your emotions out of the situation – this person doesn’t know how much your business means to you. Let it go.
Remain calm, listen openly and try to have empathy. Many times, customers just want to vent their frustrations and feel as though someone is listening. Once the customer has aired their grievances, let them you know hear them and understand, and then deal with the issue at hand.
Respond to customer complaints fast.
Studies have shown that 33% of people will recommend a brand that gives a quick but ineffective response (ineffective as in the issue wasn’t yet resolved), while 17% of customers would recommend a brand that gives a slow but effective response.
This means that shoppers seem to prioritize a business that addresses them in a timely manner over a business that makes them wait for a response, regardless of how good the response is.
As soon as you see a customer complaint or inquiry, send a quick message letting them know you’ve read their note, and that you’re working on getting an answer to them ASAP.
If you feel confident setting time parameters for responses, like “all issues will be resolved within 24 hours,” then certainly share that. Responding to customers quickly will communicate that you genuinely care about your shoppers, and you’re working on answering their needs.
Be more available to customers.
Needing help from a business, and not being able to get in contact with anyone is probably the biggest customer complaint.
We aren’t suggesting that every business should keep customer service hours open 24/7, but make sure your customer service hours, phone number, and email are displayed in an obvious place.
If you can, implement a live chat service for your website. A recent survey showed that 31% of customers are more likely to buy from a business after chatting with them live.
Let customers know that you’re here to help – don’t make them search your site trying to find a way to connect with you.
Engage with your audience on social media.
Social media can be an excellent way to connect with buyers, as long as it’s managed properly.
Studies show that 33% of customers prefer to go on a company’s social media page rather than call by telephone. This means that, now more than ever, you should dedicate time managing and responding to interactions on your social media accounts.
Just like we mentioned earlier, it’s important to respond quickly to customer complaints.
On social media, you want to be especially cognizant of how you phrase your response. It will be public, after all. Of course, don’t let that intimidate you – instead, use it as an opportunity to show a big audience just how much your business cares about customers, and how you can deal with adversity in an honorable way.
Be more flexible when it comes to your return policy.
We understand that policies are created for a reason, and in order to protect your business it’s important to stick by them. That said, there is an exception to every rule.
If you have a return policy that excludes free returns after 30 days, but a loyal customer who has shopped from you for years would like to return an item on day 31, let it be.
Losing a long time customer is way more detrimental to your business than a broken policy (studies have shown that loyal customers spend 2 times more at a business than a new customer). It’ll take some judgement on your part, but allowing yourself to be flexible on certain rules can benefit you financially in the long run.
Wow your customers with the little things.
It’s vital to build a connection with your customers. You can do that at various points of your customer’s journey. Here are a few to try:
- Improve your website copy and other forms of communication by infusing your brand message and personality.
- Make your checkout process easy and fast.
- Add a friendly message to your order confirmation page and emails.
- Anticipate and answer any customer needs before they ask (like shipping time frames from each carrier for busy holiday shipping).
- Offer gift wrapping and creative packaging
- Include product suggestions and gift finders to make shopping on your site easy.
Out of these ideas, which resonates with you most? If you haven’t already made all of these improvements, pick one to start with and really excel at.
Let’s say you want to start with a friendly confirmation email after checkout. Push the envelope – what else can you do to make the experience of buying from you really stand out?
Here’s an example, courtesy of Shopify, of what one company did to step up its customer service. The founder of CDBaby.com decided the order confirmation emails he was sending just weren’t cutting it. He changed up the text to be clever, funny and creative in hopes of surprising his customers. Below are a couple of the revamped CD Baby confirmation emails.
Today, if you search Google for that particularly unexpected phrase “private CD baby jet,” you’ll get 60,000 results. Just scroll through the articles with titles like “How CDBaby Built 20,000 Citations With One Email” and “The Most Successful Email I Ever Wrote,” and you can see how focusing your efforts on making one aspect of your customer service exceptional can really pay off.
Takeway: It will all pay off.
55% of customers are willing to spend more for a better shopping experience, and customer service is a key component in providing an exceptional buying process. It is important to look at your business and see what can be improved. It can easily be the difference between “okay” profits and rocking sales.