It’s not exactly breaking news, but the internet has changed everything. And yet, many things have stayed the same.
Take, for instance, customer service.
On the one hand, customer service has dramatically changed with the advent of the internet. For example, your customers now have a very powerful megaphone to shout their complaints into the atmosphere.
And instead of answering an angry phone call, you may now answer angry tweets or Google reviews. (See this post for advice on handling negative reviews.)
However, much of customer service has stayed the same as it was 50 years ago.
In other words, what makes a customer happy, satisfied, and willing to shop with you again, has stayed the same–even while the methods for shopping, complaining, and resolution have changed.
In his book Ziglar On Selling, Zig Ziglar explains the current need for outstanding customer service like this:
“The days of ‘customer service’ as the standard of excellence are long gone! Today, everybody talks about the importance of ‘customer satisfaction.’ In this competitive market, the only way to get ahead (and sometimes, the only way to survive) is to go beyond customer service to customer satisfaction.”
Good customer service is now an expectation. Just as you wouldn’t compliment a hotel for providing you with a room with two queen beds if that’s what you reserved, customers won’t compliment you for filling their orders quickly and correctly.
So how can you, as an ecommerce provider, go beyond customer service, and make sure your customers are satisfied? Here are nine tips to help you get it done:
Make Sure The Customer Feels Heard
Listen to your customers–especially when they have a complaint. But this is really so much more than listening. You may feel like you listened to your customer, but does the customer feel heard?
Will they walk away from the interaction feeling valued or like they only got lip service?
One key to making sure the customer feels heard is to repeat back to the customer what you think they said. Here’s an example: “So Ms. Smith, what I’m hearing is that you are upset because your package arrived four days late. Is that correct?”
This repetition allows the customer to correct any misunderstandings and also demonstrates that you are trying to understand the problem.
Anticipate Needs And Desires
Anticipate means “to give advance thought, discussion, or treatment to” according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
If you give advanced thought or treatment to your customers, you’re thinking for them–making their lives a little easier. For instance, Virgin Airlines anticipated their overseas travelers would need to sleep on the plane, and so they added increased insulation to make a quieter travel experience.
Ecommerce stores can also anticipate the needs of their customers. One example would be providing gift packaging during the holidays. This option anticipates that customers may wish to send presents directly from your ecommerce store to the recipient.
Ask yourself if there is a way to make your ecommerce customers feel welcomed and appreciated for shopping with you. DoubleTree Hotel chain presents their guests with chocolate chip cookies upon arrival.
You obviously can’t give customers a cookie, but you can do something just as valuable. Give them a “Welcome” promotion like free shipping or a discount. And send a follow-up email letting them know you appreciate their business. Or a physical note placed in their package makes the ecommerce experience more personal. It will also help remind your customers that there is a real person involved in the business, even if they never see you face to face. Making that personal connection has been shown to help build your brand.
Find ways to exceed the expectations of your customer. To do this, you first need to know what your customers expect. Typically, this will be a list such as the following: quality product as represented, arrival within the time specified, access to returns and refunds, and friendly customer service.
These will be the basics that you must do.
Once you know what your customer expects, you can work to find ways to exceed those expectations. You don’t need to do this every time and for every customer, but it should be a part of your customer satisfaction philosophy.
My local grocery store has recently begun allowing customers to order online. The customer can then drive to the store, and his or her order is packaged and delivered to the car. This service is free of charge–which already exceeds some customers’ expectations. But the store goes even further by replacing out of stock items with ones of higher cost and quality.
Keep Existing Customers
Remember, it is easier and cheaper to keep existing customers than it is to get new ones. If you keep this in mind, you may find it easier to do what you need to do to appease an upset customer.
The reality of business is that not every customer will be happy and you will have to issue some refunds.
Is the customer REALLY always right? Of course not. But if you give them the benefit of the doubt, you’ll retain more customers. And working to keep a customer happy, will often be cheaper and easier than getting a new customer or repairing your reputation.
Whether you are dealing with a customer in person, over the phone, email, or social media, keep calm. When a customer is angry, it can feel like a personal attack–especially when you represent your own company.
But it’s your job to be the professional. You can do this by first letting the customer get out everything that he or she needs to say. Typically the customer won’t talk or yell for more than two minutes–as long as you don’t interrupt. If you do interrupt, the customer will regain momentum and feeling, and the tirade will be longer.
Next, check your body language–even if the customer can’t see you (and usually with ecommerce they won’t). Relaxed body language will put you in the right frame of mind to handle a problem. And if you are speaking with the customer by phone, anger, and defensiveness can be heard through the phone as easily as a smile and kindness. It will even seep into the written word if you are handling emails and social media.
So take a deep breath, relax, and smile. It will help everyone calm down.
Know Your Customers
Get to know your customers. Some customers like a heavy-handed approach to customer service and appreciation and others prefer that you are invisible throughout the experience.
When I was a teen, I worked as a waitress. Some tables wanted constant attention: recommendations, friendly chit-chat, refills, and table clearing. Other tables wanted me to quickly and quietly serve their food with as little interruption and fanfare as possible.
So consider your market and customers’ needs and wants. Typically big ticket items will require more hand-holding throughout the ordering process. Another example is a company that sells cell phones to seniors. This company provides a higher level of customer service to help their customers that may not be as familiar with technology.
Provide A Place For Feedback
If you don’t make it easy for your customers to get in touch with you with problems, they will take to the internet to complain about it.
So prominently provide a phone number and email address for customer’s to reach you.
You can also proactively ask your customers about their experience. A simple, “Let Us Know How We’re Doing” type of survey can let you know what’s working well for you and what’s not.
Keep in mind, that anytime a customer gives you negative feedback, he or she is doing you a favor. Firstly, this gives you an opportunity to fix the problem. And secondly, it may make you aware of an issue that you otherwise wouldn’t know about. You could lose quieter customers if vocal ones don’t speak up.
It’s actually easier for a customer to simply take their business to a competitor–especially online. Letting you know about a problem means the customer wants to continue working with you, and that’s a huge compliment.
Customer Satisfaction Should Be Part of Your Marketing Plan
Word of mouth is one of the strongest factors for good or bad in the business world. Business owners often mistakenly think about “Customer Service” and “Marketing” as two separate and distinct departments.
But in reality, good customer service is marketing. It benefits your brand and future sales. It spreads your reputation. Consider Nordstrom and Costco. Both retailers are known for their generous return policies. They routinely exceed customer expectations, and that service has become part of their brand.
You need a customer service budget that includes more than just a representative to answer the phones. Ideally, you will plan for welcome promotions, customer appreciation, and expenses due to upset customers.
I hope that you’ll find these tips helpful as you look for ways to exceed your customers’ expectations and grow your business as you do it. Please include any other strategies that have worked well for you in the comment section below. Thank you!