Customers are the center of all marketing efforts. The effectiveness of customer service plays a pivotal role in any business. When it comes to e-commerce, convenience and customer service beats every other aspect by a clear margin.
Why customer service is a game changer for an e-commerce business
Great customer service has a direct impact on revenue – As per this report by Adobe 40% of e-commerce revenue comes from returning or repeat purchasers, who represent only 8% of all overall visitors. Customers who purchased multiple times from an online store generate 3 to 7 times more revenue per visit as compared to a one time buyer.
It lowers cost of acquisition – Getting existing customers to your online store costs between ⅓ and ⅛ as much of acquiring a new user. This can impact your unit margins significantly.
Higher referral rate – Customers who buy repeatedly from you have the higher likely hood of recommending your brand to their friends. As per this report from Bain, a customer who has bought apparel is 10 or more times likely to bring in 2X more people to your online store as compared to a one time buyer.
Higher Customer Lifetime Value – Customer lifetime value is a defining metric for an e-commerce business. It is determined by how much a customer spends per order and how many orders he makes over a period of time. Great customer service can build trust and influence him to buy from you more frequently.
As per RJMetrics CLV of top 1% of your customers is 30X more than that of an average customer.
As per RJMetrics study after the initial purchase, the likelihood of a customer making a second purchase is close to 30%. After they make their second purchase, the likelihood of a third purchase is over 50%. In other words higher the number of order placed higher the likelihood of repeat purchases in the future.
Customer service can be broadly defined as –
Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase.
Customer Service Before Purchase
Once a visitor lands on your page with a vague idea of what he or she wants its all persuasion and conversion from then on. The way the website feels, the ease of navigation, product discoverability, sense of security, phone and email support are few key elements which determine how good your customer service is before the purchase.
Write Useful Product Descriptions
It is important for a customer to realize what you sell the moment he lands on your site. A lot depends on how effectively you educate your prospects on how the product or service you are offering fulfills his or her need. Mention the benefits of your product rather than slapping your prospect with a huge list of features. Attention to detail(product dimensions, size, texture, colors) in product descriptions are a great way to build authenticity. Start with benefits close with details. Made.com uses its product page to explain benefits and mention detailed specifications about the product.
Have an about page for your company
Assuming that you are not Amazon and eBay your small online retail store does need an on page for two reasons. One, it builds credibility and secondly, it decreases apprehension for a first-time buyer. A good about page should
- Tell your story – What wakes you up in the morning, why you exist and how you came to be.
- Show the people behind the business – Your team
- Portray values the company stands by
- Ways to reach out for support
Communicate your policies upfront
Your policies are a foreword to customers. Policies lay the foundation for trust, setting right expectations and accountability. You have to be clear about your policies regarding shipping, fulfillment, returns, refunds, privacy and store security. The same has to communicate to the user while he is browsing through the website on product pages and as links within the footer. Brainstorm with the below questions to get started –
- On which scenarios can you offer free shipping to your customers?
- On what conditions can you agree on a product return?
- Will the user have to return the product himself or will your third part provider do the job for you?
- Will the refund be credited as cash back or reward points?
- How many days will it take to ship an item on an average?
- How do you deal with international shipping?
- Do you plan to have an exchange policy?
- How do you deal with returns for perishable goods?
- How to create returns and refund policy
- 9 Tips on creating an e-commerce return policy
Write Comprehensive Buyer’s Guides
Not everyone who lands on a page has a clear idea of which product is best for him. Buying guides help people know the things to remember before making a purchase. Buying guides also position you as an expert making people look up to you for advice in the future.
Bluenile.com has a buyer’s section to educate users on the 4C’s of a high-quality diamond – cut, color, clarity, and carat weight.
Letting users compare the features of 2 or more products helps them make a rational choice. It will make users realize which product is the best deal and also the best fit for their needs. Comparison shopping is particularly useful for products which need lot of specs and feature level comparisons like electronics, furniture, and home appliances.
Traditional manuals are boring and require lot of time and effort to dig through and implement. A video or a clear-cut product walkthrough is what prospects will wish to see. Repairclinic.com helps users troubleshoot their lawn mower problems. It lists all possible causes and has a video tutorial to help users fix it themselves.
Answer Customer FAQs
You must have a section within your site to answer Frequently asked questions by your customers. The advantage of an FAQ section is that the customer can access it anytime without the need of a customer service representative. Questions could be related to product quality, shipping, returns, payment or anything related. An FAQ section should address these concerns in a succinct manner.
Free or Low Shipping Prices
9 out of 10 consumers say free shipping is the number one incentive an online store can provide. This makes free shipping is a big factor for e-commerce customer satisfaction. Since providing free shipping on all products could come at a business cost retailers can give users offer free shipping over a $XX amount to keep their margins healthy and average order value high.
Fight Customer Apprehension with free returns
Offering free returns is one way of instilling confidence in the user. You can give users a chance to return the product within a definite time span of 30 days or 1 week. Free and easy returns let customers know that they have nothing to lose in the transaction. If you are selling apparel chances are that the user is not sure about the color or size of the dress. The fear of “What you see is NOT what you get” is high when you are selling online. This fear can be fought by offering free returns to your customers.
Zappos offers free 365 day returns on all its orders and explains on its policy page on how users can return products.
Sensible and easy to use interface answers a lot of customer questions. Imagine you own a supermart and your customers have to go through a maze to discover basic grocery items. As an owner, you will have to deal with customer’s wrath and frustration. Even worse most of the times many customers don’t turn up the next time. The same holds true for your online store. Every online store should have an
- Easy Navigation – Sensible navigation prevents frustration and makes it more likely for the visitor to reach the product she is looking for.
- Speedy – According to a study done by Brand Perfect about 67% of the customers abandon their purchase just because they found a website slow. Building a fast and high-performance website is the most basic service you can give to your customers.
- Self Explanatory – In the book Don’t make me think Steve Krug talks about making websites which communicates the message to an audience with ease. Decisions drive actions. Decisions are fed with the clarity of thought and information. Making users consume information about the product easily is what every online store should provide.
- Discoverability – Users should be able to find the products they are looking for easily. Features like site search, price sort, and faceted search help users discover products they are looking for faster.
Other Great Reads
Customer Service During Purchase
Once a prospect has reached your product page and is ready to make a purchase the checkout process is a real test. of usability and conversion rate. Not all customers are equal and however self-explanatory your checkout process may be your customer may find it daunting. Timely customer support can help reduce cart abandonment and will help you close sales better.
Cart abandonment emails
Trigger email marketing need not be all about bombarding incentives for fear of losing a customer. Cart abandonment emails could be the most important tool in an email marketers inventory. A proper customer service oriented cart abandonment email should include the following elements
- Reminder of unfinished transaction
- Request a call back for technical support
- Link to where the cart has been abandoned
- Discount coupon (Optional)
- Offer free live chat support
Sisu guard keeps things simple in its cart abandonment email. It offers to answer your questions by leaving a phone number, gives a discount coupon with a link to the card page. The email is straightforward without any distractions.
Other Reading: Cart Abandonment Emails issues and Resources
Fight the 7 fears of checkout
Online shopping is not always safe. People feel insecure for a variety of reasons. The below infographic by SiteJabber lists the 7 reasons people don’t buy online.
- 27 ways to reduce e-commerce fears
- What do you mean when your customers are too afraid to shop online?
Touchpoints during the purchase
Most of the cart abandonment decisions are made during the purchase of a product. According to brand perfect the top 3 reasons which make people abandon their purchase are too many steps when trying to make a purchase, compulsory registration and lack of customer support. Having a proper touch point like a phone or chat support during a purchase helps customers reach out in case they feel stuck.
HomeDepot gives an option for customers to call if they feel stuck on their payment page to remove last-minute friction points.
Customer Service after purchase
The real anxious moments for a customer starts when he has made the purchase and he hasn’t received the order. This is the time when he looks to rant his fears and frustrations through various social media channels. This is the time when customer service agents or social media listeners of the company have to stop your brand from getting a bad reputation. Having a strategic plan is important to face customer frustration and queries.
Use Social Media Listening Tools
Customers rave or rant about products they love or hate on social media. Your brand is influenced by your customers more than your advertising budget. Your approach to social media should be to listen to these messages and respond in an empathetic manner.
- Listening helps you take feedback on your products and service.
- It lets your customers know you care.
- It uncovers potential unexplored niche opportunities.
Leverage Customer Loyalty Programs
Loyalty programs are when a retailer rewards a customer for shopping with them. Loyalty programs have been used by retailers for decades to convert one time purchasers into long-term repeated buyers. The most profitable e-commerce companies are the ones who have highest % of repeat customers.
A typical loyalty program
Step 1: Gives registered user a set of points every time he shops with the vendor. These points are usually a % of the order value.
Step 2: As the customer shops these reward points increase.
Step 3: Reward points can later be redeemed through in the form of discount coupons or bank deposits.
Gilt Insider is a loyalty program which pays the user 5 points for every dollar spent and 25 points for every referred friend who shops with Gilt. The best part of this program is instead of giving away money as cash backs it gives extra privileges for loyal customers with incentives like Birthday Gift, VIP customer service and Early access to the sale.
Measure your customer service program
That which gets measured gets done. Net Promoter Score(NPS) is a metric which most companies use to see how likely a customer is to refer your brand to their friends. The survey can be sent as an email to a customer who has shopped with you at least once. You can take information from the customer on gender, age, income for profiling and follow it up with critical questions like the likelihood of recommending your brand to his friends and any feedback for you to improve your service. You can use a service like SurveyMonkey for this purpose.
Image Source: Boast.io
Provide Multi-Channel Support
By giving support to the customer via multiple channels makes it convenient for the user. You can provide direct support via email, social media, live chat, help desk tickets or phone.
- Email – By having a contact form on your site or simply having a dedicated email address for support enquires you give users a simple way to get in touch.
- Live Chat – Live chat helps users reach out for instant help. If a user wants to purchase an item immediately and is stuck providing instant support can give him the necessary push to finish his purchase.
- HelpDesk – HelpDesk lets users create tickets for their issues and it can speed up the case resolution. Unlike email helpdesk lets you rank customer issues based on priority and topic leading to higher issue exposure and faster resolution.
- Call Support – Call support is the most convenient option for the user but it will take a lot of effort from your end. You might need an IVR and a dedicated team taking calls to handle issues. Also call support could be difficult to provide out of office hours.
- Social Media – In spite of multiple channels of support few customers take to social media. You have to create tickets and solve this issues. You have to reach out to the customer on social media with your support email ID or ask him to create a ticket for faster resolution.
Use a customer service software
Using simple tools like Google doc and email work only when you handled customer orders of the size of double digits. As you scale your business organizing customer complains and feedback is important for quick resolution. Customer service software like Freshdesk and Zendesk help you streamline workflow to help you address customer concerns faster. Customer service software helps you with metrics and reports which gauge how well and fast you are attending to customer requests.
Have a plan for the holiday season
Holiday seasons are high on orders. Customers expect their orders in time for their holiday party. The holiday season is a high opportunity high-risk time for a retailer. If you are not ready for this wave chances are you may end up losing long-standing customers.
- Inventory Stock – Stocking up your best selling products and frequently bought gifts can help you give better customer service. During the holiday season, the supplier might run out of stock of the best selling items in your shop. This can backfire with customer resentment. When you stock up inventory you can deliver goods faster and provide better customer support.
- Technology Upgrade – Holidays season sees a surge of traffic on most online stores. Your technology stack should be able to take this extra load without any hit on performance. Does your current shopping cart plan suffice or do you need to upgrade? Do you need to do speed tests on your site?
- Shipping & Fulfillment – Your fulfillment partner has to be informed of the number of orders you expect per day during the holiday season. If needed you might have to talk to an additional vendor to ensure things run smoothly.
Give a DAMN!!!
I thought of penning down my thoughts on giving a damn but I felt no one can talk better about customer service than Gary Vaynerchuck himself. Listen, entertain and be enlightened.