In traditional brick and mortar stores, customer service typically entails a lot of face-to-face interactions comprised of a welcoming tone, a genuine smile, thoughtful responses, and helpful gestures. On the other hand, businessmen venturing into the online retailing industry are unable to deliver this kind of personalized service, considering that they operate on a virtual platform. Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean they can’t be competitive, as online merchants can still achieve business success through excellent, personalized customer service, albeit belonging in such industry.
Here are 9 beneficial tips on how online businesses can establish good relationships with their customers, without necessitating personal transactions:
1. Start with a welcoming landing page.
When you visit any coffee shop, customers are always greeted with a cheerful, “Good morning/afternoon, welcome to our shop!” Other successful retailers likewise make an effort to give an effective greeting, because it lets clients know that you appreciate their presence and that your team is there to attend to their needs. On your landing page, strive to provide the same welcoming “hello!” in order to convey a message that says, “We’re open for business, and we’re here to help!” You can opt to set up a pop-up message to greet new visitors that includes any promotions or options for reaching out to front liners.
2. Maintain an easy-to-navigate website.
Aim to provide a fool-proof customer experience. Your online platform should be designed so well that customers don’t need to ask for help when navigating your website. A well thought-out online retail shop always keeps the customer experience the top priority, which in turn will encourage visitors to explore. It will also prevent them from leaving your site or go to your competitor’s page. A well-designed online shop should ideally group merchandise in relevant categories, such as by gender, age, size, and also have a prominent, easy to find search tool in the site. Keep all information up-to date and quickly remove stale data.
3. Provide correct product descriptions.
Well written product descriptions and clear photos are essential to making sure a visitor’s expectations are met. Remember: customers can’t physically hold and touch your products, so the next best thing is to give them clear, accurate descriptions. This way, you can prevent return, disputes, reverse charges and negative reviews.
4. Use a clear and convenient return policy.
Some customers avoid buying online mostly because of ambiguous return policies. In brick and mortar stores, it’s a fairly straightforward process: bring your receipt and product to the returns section, within a stated time period. Online shops should attempt to replicate this easy to use return policy to remove any client worries. According to StellaService, a firm that studies online support feedback, online retailers with clear and easy return policies got a boost in brand image and increased customer satisfaction.
5. Include specific and thorough shipping information.
It’s important to manage expectations when it comes to shipping. Nobody likes to spend all that time carefully filling out the order page, only to be greeted with unreasonable shipping fees or wait times at checkout. To prevent unhappy customers, make sure that you clearly outline the shipping and delivery information in every product page. You should also include various shipping timelines with their corresponding price ranges, and offer free shipping for purchases reaching a certain amount. Finally, keep track of shipment and always aim for timely delivery.
6. Ensure your customer service front liners are easy to contact.
Again, clarity and transparency are key. Clearly state when customer service is available (including time zone and country) and in what languages. Live chat and inbound phone service should be highlighted on every page. Email addresses should be easy to find, and the turnaround response time included along with it. Also, in this age of social media and live chat options, consider leveraging on other customer service channels, and make sure there are dedicated staff to cover each.
7. Be responsive to customer needs.
Listening to customer needs nowadays is easier than ever, what with big data being readily available to anyone with an internet connection. Do everything possible to provide the best customer service experience you can offer, and resolve conflicts as easily and quickly as you can manage. Unhappy customers can easily broadcast their complaints through various social media channels, and sometimes even several happy customers can be trumped by a single negative review.
8. Over-deliver, under promise.
This adage is true for physical stores, but even more so for online retailers. You need to be transparent with every customer interaction. You should be comfortable in saying no, or in admitting an error. But while saying sorry for an honest mistake is a good start, it’s not enough. You should give viable alternatives if a customer request cannot be fulfilled, within reason. For example, if an answer to a question isn’t readily available, admit it, but make an effort to find out as soon as possible. If you cannot promise an overnight shipment, be transparent and say so. It might be tempting to say yes to every request, especially for a difficult client, but it’s more important to manage expectations. Over promising will only lead to frustration and anger.
9. Be a step ahead of your online customer.
Truly effective customer service doesn’t end with a purchase. You should strive to anticipate client needs during, throughout, and even after the transaction has been completed. Offer continued support and guide clients throughout their order fulfillment, shipping, and final delivery of the product. Amazon.com has done a great job in this regard by providing single-click tracking, pre-printed return labels, flexible policies and other above-and-beyond types of services that they are known for. And then continue communicating with clients by getting feedback through an online survey, and give an incentive for their time by providing a customized offer or a loyalty program.
Long term success means investing in good customer services practices from the outset. It’s the foundation on which every successful business is built, so it makes sense to always make it your organization’s top priority.