Writing for Business Advice, Dan Burnham, head of customer success at ecommerce platform Volo Commerce, reveals how online retail owners can achieve business success through great customer service.
With the new year arriving, how has your business performed over the past 12 months? Have sales increased year-on-year?
Perhaps a better question to ask is how customers feel you have performed. They are the lifeblood of your business. With competition as fierce as it’s ever been in the world of ecommerce, analysing the state of your brand is a crucial exercise.
After all, loyal customers are worth up to ten times their original purchase and the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 per cent while new prospects barely reach above 20 per cent.
These startling statistics should drive any retail owner to improve their customer experience, especially on marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay where competitiveness is high and the consumer’s decision-making often revolves around price.
However, many retailers look outwardly and presume customers are happy. The reality is often different. Part of the underlying issue is that unhappy customers regularly stay quiet.
One study found that just four per cent of dissatisfied customers shared their feedback. The rest stayed quiet with 91 per cent saying they wouldn’t buy again from the brand.
Customers: Stop, look, listen
There are two strategies to address this problem:
- Create an accommodating customer service department that’s easily accessible
- Ensure an extremely strong customer experience to prevent complaints from occurring
Number two is the ideal, although very few brands have the capability to prevent complaints completely. When shipping and couriers are involved, delays can occur. Shoppers’ personal tastes mean people can always change their mind once they have received the item. Merchandise breaks and needs fixing or replacing.
When complications occur, people want their issues rectified quickly and professionally. Are you able to answer the following questions competently?
- Do customers have a choice in how they contact you? Phone, email, web-chat, even post?
- Are your representatives polite, responsive and approachable?
- What are your response times like? How long do queries take to answer?
- Is your return policy clear and fair? Are there costs for the buyers returning items?
- Do customers who complain return to you in the future or are they lost forever?
If you feel that some of these areas aren’t as strong as you would like them to be, it’s high time to address the issues before your competitors attract your loyal customers with better services.
There are other important elements to a strong customer service policy and department, but the above examples cover the fundamentals that every business should get right.
If your brand already offers a great customer experience, the next step is to successfully leverage your brand’s reputation to grow sales and increase customer retention even further.
Rewards and promotions
There are many proven methods to deliver these outcomes. Rewarding loyalty is a powerful way of showing customers you care and that there are benefits to coming back to a company again and again.
One option is to create specific promotions for repeat buyers. Another is to offer exclusive bundles or shipping discounts for people who buy from you after a certain number of times.
Try to think creatively and show that commitment is valued. Try not to fall into the trap where customer acquisition outweighs retention. How many of us have seen a compelling offer or discount only to find out it’s available to existing customers only? The customer goes away thinking, “I wonder if I’ll be rewarded somewhere else?”.
This is less common in ecommerce where purchases are more instantaneous and impulsive, however there are plenty of promotion concepts to make customers feel like they’re receiving an exclusive deal. Even something as simple as a time-limited discount code can generate impressive results and bring back lapsed customers.
Never stick to the customer service status quo
The final piece of the puzzle is to constantly analyse performance.
Conduct mystery shopper style tests on your customer representatives. Track response times and quality of communication. Measure the success of reward programmes, promotions and loyalty bonuses.
Make sure you have a system in place for understanding which areas are causing the most complaints and set clear goals to overcome these challenges.
Analytics and reporting help deliver the above visibility. Put appropriate tools and applications in place to assess qualitative and quantitative elements of customer service.
Both are essential if your business is going to constantly improve and refine how customers are treated.
There isn’t one customer service strategy that is guaranteed to work. Most importantly, recognise that your customers are people who want to be treated as such. Each customer contributes to business growth and the sooner a customer service strategy is aligned to this fact, the faster sales will increase.
Dan Burnham is head of customer success at Volo Commerce.
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