While e-commerce sites can be extremely convenient, they may come up short in certain areas. Most notable is the inability to provide the same personal customer service you would find in a brick-and-mortar store.
If you want to surpass the competition though, your business can still find ways to improve online customer service.
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The value of customer service
Whether you realize it or not, customer service plays a major role in most of the purchases you make. Think about when you're looking to buy a particular item that multiple brands sell for roughly the same price.
What sets the one you select apart from the ones you pass up? While brand equity and familiarity often play a role, it often comes down to how fast you'll get the product, what support it comes with and how comfortable you are with the brand.
Each of these aspects falls under customer service and indicates the importance of selling customer service to customers instead of just products.
E-commerce customer service
When you're selling products online, you have distinct advantages and disadvantages. While the pros typically outweigh the cons by far, your inability to interact with customers face-to-face is usually viewed as a negative.
It's important to note, however, that e-commerce sites can still offer good customer service; it just takes a little extra work. Here are a few tips to help you improve the way you interact with customers through your online storefront:
- Ask for feedback. You need to develop the habit of asking for feedback. While it might not always be positive, it is always helpful. If you truly want to offer the best customer service, knowing what your customers think about your brand, business, products, and service is of the utmost importance.
- Offer options. The fact that a customer is shopping for your products online is proof in itself that he or she enjoys options and choices. When it comes to customer service, make sure you provide the same opportunity to choose. Instead of giving the person a boring contact form, offer choices such as live chat, Skype support and toll-free numbers to call.
- Be clear. According to Magicdust, a full-service Internet marketing and web design firm, "Unhappy customers are unfortunately inevitable in any kind of business. To avoid any conflict, include as much information on orders as possible." This means providing detailed information on such matters as shipping and return policies, warranties, guarantees, and other information that could affect the customer's experience.
- Invest in quality site search. Much of your customer service relates to how you design your e-commerce site. To keep customers happy and convert shoppers, invest heavily in high-quality site search functionality. This will help to keep customers satisfied and you will avoid unnecessary interactions that waste your time and reduce the chance that a casual visitor will end up making a purchase.
- Provide valuable follow-up. We've all received those annoying emails from companies after we've purchased one thing from their site. Don't be that guy! Instead of sending lazy promotions for months after a purchase, shoot out valuable deals and offers immediately after they buy. People are more likely to convert when you are still fresh in their mind. Additionally, good deals and free offers show you care about keeping them as a customer.
- Offer free shipping. One of the best e-commerce customer service tactics is to offer free shipping. It costs you a couple of extra dollars, but goes a long way in impressing customers and persuading them to make that first purchase and maybe others down the road.
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Customer service may not be most companies' favorite activity, but it should absolutely be a major point of emphasis. When you're looking for ways to improve your e-commerce site, spend some time analyzing your customer service and look for areas where you can improve.