Just because you cannot see your customers, it doesn’t mean they have lowered expectations when it comes to customer service.
So how do you encourage customer loyalty without sacrificing profitability? It means not only meeting your customers’ service expectations, but exceeding them.
Better customer service should equate to long-term loyal customers which is being hailed as part of the future for e-commerce. Research shows it costs one-sixth less to keep a current customer than it does to attract a new one.
There are many options for making sure you are meeting customer needs and expectations. One of the most popular and simplest methods is just asking your customers. There is no point trying to guess what they want.
Don’t think that because you ask your customers they will assume you are incompetent. What they will think is that you are interested in them and will go that extra step to listen, and therefore, act on their requests and suggestions.
What you can do:
Establish ongoing dialogue with your customers. Communicate with them. Give them the opportunity to ask questions and give them speedy answers.
Come up with efficient marketing tools. Consider accuracy and quality of information being provided on your site and its relevance to your customer.
Try to anticipate what your customers want. Offer them new services and information even before they know they need them.
Customer satisfaction surveys
By asking customers for feedback or to fill in customer satisfaction surveys, you will receive invaluable information which can help boost sales. Be aware though, not to ask questions you are not prepared to have answered. Make sure your questions have a positive spin and don’t ask questions which may have the consumer querying your products or service. For instance, “How can we improve our site?” suggests you know it needs improvements, etc.
It is also very “open-ended” and leaves too much to the customer’s interpretation. Instead, you should ask whether there are any additional features the customer would like added. This provides focus for the customer as well as providing valuable feedback for you.
Remember to keep online customer satisfaction surveys short. There may also be scope for surveys with some sort of “reward” for those customers who fill them in. Rewards can include:
Free gift wrapping
Free freight and delivery
A subscription to your newsletter
Entry into a contest
A small gift.
If you are going to offer rewards it is in your best interest to use the information customers are supplying. And, if there are any problems, come up with a solution. This could well be crucial to your business’ survival. You should design your online survey with a yes/no click function and a “submit” button so it is easy to send. Offer customers an avenue to expand their answers.
Possible survey questions, which offer simple Yes/No answers, include:
Are you confident of our site’s security measures when buying online?
Does this site provide you with enough product information?
Were you pleased with your online shopping experience?
Will you consider shopping with us again?
Were you able to find what you were looking for quickly and easily?
A site worth looking at is Yahoo’s Shopping Guide. Admittedly, Yahoo! is a large organisation but it takes customer satisfaction extremely seriously. It has a User Research Program where participants are compensated US$40 an hour for their time and feedback. The User Research Program includes telephone surveys, online customer surveys and focus groups.
Let customers know who you are
As you have lost that face-to-face customer contact with your online store, it is still important to make customers feel as if they know you and your business. Having an “About Us” page is always a good start and alleviates concerns that your business may just be an online scam.
You need to let the customer know a little bit about your business. You should include information such as:
What you do
Where your “bricks and mortar” store is
A company profile, if necessary, detailing your beginnings and future aims
Your address, facsimile number, e-mail address and telephone number and the times your offline premises are open
A toll-free number for interstate customers
Photo of your offline premises and who your staff are.
Frequently asked questions
FAQs provide an easy way to answer questions about your business and are becoming increasingly popular on business Web sites. You can always update your FAQs if you receive a good question from a customer. You should also ask your staff for any issues, which can be addressed through your FAQs.
FAQs can also streamline calls to your offline premises. If customers can get the information they need online, then they won’t need to call your store and tie up a staff member. Your FAQs don’t have to just pertain to you and your business facts; it can address where to find information on the site, security, accepted credit cards, etc.
Some useful FAQs are:
How long have you been in business?
How can I contact you?
What is your return/exchange policy?
What methods do you use to accept orders?
How can I track the status of my merchandise?
Can I set up an account?
Are goods insured while they are in transit?
What if I am unsatisfied with my order?
What is the average response time when waiting for ordered goods?
What freight and delivery company do you use?
How can I find out about specials?
Where can I find out more information about your products/services?
However, while it is good to provide an avenue for customer queries, questions and feedback, it is also important you provide quick and efficient responses to your customers. You should always customise your replies. Let your customers know they are important and deserve an individualised response to their request.
Customer service e-mails are another great source of information. You should already have an e-mail account set-up through your Web site host.
Key areas when it comes to customer e-mails are:
Quality responses. Respond with customised answers to complaints/ questions where possible
Be courteous when answering the e-mails. “Thank You” will go a long way
Have a maintenance/update info page on your Web site so customers can update their e-mail information.
One of the most important aspects of customer service is an efficient response. How long would you leave a customer waiting to be served in your “bricks and mortar” premises?
In most cases, as soon as a customer entered your business, you or a salesperson would make an approach.Just as your offline customers expect fast and efficient service, so do your online customers.
So, responding to e-mails as soon as possible should be a priority in the quest for superior customer service. Most people allow for a 24-hour response time.
Things to look out for:
Respond to customer cancellation e-mails. Do not let your customers assume you received the cancellation.
Acknowledge receipt of requests.
Not all e-mails will be orders. They may be general enquires. Treat these with the same importance as if they were orders. You never know, if you answer the customer’s e-mail correctly and promptly, it could be another sale.
Make sure your e-mail program is set up to save copies of all outgoing mail. That way if there is a problem you have the saved copy as a back-up.
An e-mail list is an excellent way to update customers and inform them of new products or services, sales, special offers or new pricing lists. By asking for customer’s e-mail addresses you can easily set up a bulk mailing list.
Allocate time to the housekeeping of your mailing lists. E-mail addresses can change very quickly, especially if customers change ISPs or cancel accounts. If general housekeeping is not done, important information may not be reaching your customers.
Give the customers in your database a way to notify you if their e-mail addresses have changed. By having a maintenance page on your Web site users should be able to change their e-mail address, update personal information and other general housekeeping tasks to help keep your database up-to-date.
Letting go of customers
It is likely that at some stage a customer will no longer want to do business with you. This can be for various reasons. They may no longer need your product or have cut back their spending. They may even have switched to a competitor.
If this is the case, then they will no longer want information from you. You should:
Make sure your Web site comes with the ability for a customer to “unsubscribe” from your newsletters, e-mails, etc.
Make sure your “unsubscribe” instructions are both at the beginning and at the end of your e-mail messages. Don’t make it difficult for users to use.
Keep on top of your e-mail list by putting unsubscribe requests separate from general e-mails.
Make it a priority to take customers off your mailing list when they inform you they are no longer interested.
This last point is extremely important. In fact, in America, it is an offence for a business to ignore a customer’s request to be taken off a subscription list or business database.