Many people seem unable to recognise that the number one factor in securing the success of any business is customer service. Forget extravagant and expensive ad campaigns, or having the best range of products; without excellent customer service your business will ultimately fail. Customer service is hard to get right when it’s face to face, so imagine the potential pitfalls when you are unable to see body language, hear a tone of voice, or pick up on any of the other unspoken ways we communicate as humans. This is the challenge that many e-commerce companies face today.
How customer service differs in E-commerce:
Despite the challenges outlined above, great customer service is actually easy to provide (usually at a low cost) in any business; it shouldn’t be any harder to achieve excellent customer service with online businesses than it is for face-to-face companies. Your approach just needs some fine-tuning and tweaking to suit the virtual world. For example, the warm smile of a shop assistant can’t be replicated in online business, but it is possible to make your website warm and inviting to potential customers. This can be done by making your site easy to navigate, including high-quality and informative content, and ensuring that it appeals to your target audience. On that note, you may want to hire an expert to make absolutely sure that your website fits the bill.
Providing excellent customer service starts with ensuring that customers can contact you quickly and easily with a question or complaint. Many companies these days offer customers multi-channel support, which basically means that customers can contact them via a number of methods (such as emails, contact forms or online chat). Just as important (if not more so) as having multi-channel support is your response, which needs to be prompt and empathetic. There is nothing worse than waiting days for a reply to your email, only to feel that your concerns have gone unheard or that the business you contacted simply doesn’t care.
The use of social media:
It is impossible to deny the influence social media has on our everyday lives and it is no different for e-commerce. Many consumers these days expect to see a company’s presence on Twitter or Facebook and more than that, they expect to see a response to the questions or queries they have posted. A response (especially a prompt one) instills confidence and trust in a business, and can help build strong customer relationships. This article even claims that 42% of customers expect a response on social media within an hour, so you can see that strong social media is an extremely important aspect of e-commerce. It is important to recognise the power of social media sites these days and that the success of your business can often balance in the hands of these very sites.
Protecting your customers:
Part and parcel of excellent customer service is your duty to protect the interests of your customers, whether it is sharing information with third parties or accepting online payments in a secure and simple way. Working in line with the Data Protection Act ensures that customer details and information is stored and used appropriately, while compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) will help protect your customers against fraud and theft. There are many regulations to be aware of when setting up your own E-commerce company and it is in your customers (and your own) best interests to ensure that guidelines are adhered to.
Dealing with customer complaints is often very tricky and hard to get right; many business owners fail to recognise the importance of dealing with complaints in a timely, respectful and empathetic manner, and often pay the price for their lack of understanding. Although the old adage of “the customer is always right” sounds clichéd, it is usually true. You need to take every one of your customer’s concerns on an individual basis, respecting their opinion and allowing them their say. Then you need to consider ways in which you can overturn their dissatisfaction; altering their experience from negative to positive.
Sometimes business owners are unable to see the significance of dealing with a complaint appropriately, but disgruntled customers can cause serious damage to a business. These days, we all read product reviews before purchasing (especially if the item is expensive) and we also know how off-putting it is when we come across a negative review; people are much more likely to talk about a negative experience than they are a positive one. It is far better to try to reach an amicable solution to a problem than ignore it, remembering that it costs less to retain an existing customer than it does to find a new one!