Businesses with higher levels of customer satisfaction will benefit from higher profit and productivity, as data shows from the UK Customer Satisfaction Index: https://www.instituteofcustomerservice.com/research-insight/research-library/ukcsi-the-state-of-customer-satisfaction-in-the-uk-january-2018.
This data reiterates the importance of customer service, regardless of the size of the business, though it is especially important in small and medium-size retailers. One of the attractions of independent businesses and small retailers is the personal connection with the employees via interactions when buying products. A butcher might know the cut you prefer and keep it aside for you, or you might make friends with your favourite barista.
Customer service is one of the ways that small retailers can fend off websites like Amazon and huge retailers which usually have lower prices. The variety and cost of goods on Amazon cannot be emulated in small retailers; neither can they necessarily copy the convenience of Amazon Prime, but treating customers with care can go a long way.
According to Gartner, a research firm, customers will manage 85% of their relationships with retail businesses without any human contact by 2020. We can already see this change occurring in shops, with the rise of self-service checkouts.
Giving Customers Choice and Transparency
Even if customers are buying through your website, you can try to emulate aspects of a face-to-face service dynamic by doing these things:
– Notify your customers at every stage following their purchase, whether that is the order being packed, dispatched, the day it will be delivered. Giving the customer this information makes them feel more in control and, on a practical note, helps them to make sure they are in to collect it.
– Current and correct stock information. If a customer orders something which it then turns out is out of stock, they are going to be disappointed and less trusting of the website and company. Customers may even leave negative reviews of the site on social media, which is the last thing any business needs.
– Choices, choices. When it comes to delivery, often the most stressful part of the purchasing process, giving your customers as many choices as possible is a great idea. Where possible include these options: delivery at a specified date/time, next day delivery, click-and-collect, delivery to a pick-up-point/locker, and, of course, free delivery. Make it clear how much postage costs but have a variety of price points available. Nearly half of customers have abandoned a basket upon discovering delivery costs or choices they considered unreasonable: https://edelivery.net/2016/11/consumers-stress-growing-importance-good-delivery-returns-experiences/
– Make your website as simple and easy to use as possible. This seems like an obvious point but ensuring that your website is running quickly because customers get frustrated easily with an inefficient website. The site is like a shop employee: the more helpful, clear, and quick they are, the better.
Providing good customer service online
Excellent customer service can be more difficult to provide when you are not seeing your customers face-to-face, but it is still very much possible. Here are some tips:
– Have an accurate and detailed database so that customer service can sort out problems with orders quickly and efficiently. This data needs to be updated in real time as customers will often deal with issues as soon as they happen.
– Diversify the number of customer service options available to customers, whether it is email, online chat, phone, an in-depth FAQ section as well as social media, which is dealt with in the next point. Different customers prefer different ways of communicating with companies.
– Have active social media staff as this is increasingly an important channel that customers use to contact companies prior and post purchasing. Ensure that your social media staff also have customer service training and access to customer records, It sounds basic, but it is easy to forget in a busy work environment
– Where possible have 24/7 customer service, you never know when a customer might want to make an order. This can be difficult to achieve, but you can deal with many customer service problems via online chatbots as well as having a detailed support section.
Remember that as an e-commerce company, your website is your shop window and, therefore, you need to invest the appropriate amount of time and money into it. The site is the most significant reflection of your company in the mind of the consumer, so make sure that your customer service is as diverse, detailed and deft as you want from a group of employees on the shop floor.