When it comes to customer service and ecommerce we typically think of email and phone support, ticket systems, live chat, FAQs, etc. While these are all parts of an overall customer service strategy, what about the website itself? The website is often where customers interact with your store first and then continue to interact with over time. It’s the first layer of communication before anything else. Customer service starts with your website.
Customer experience is a competitive edge
Depending on what you’re selling, your products might not have any particular edge over competing websites selling similar (or the same) products. How do you then gain a competitive edge in the market? A couple possibilities come to mind.
1. Your customer’s experience
Customer experience (also commonly referred to as user experience or UX) involves everything a customer does when interacting with your website. This isn’t only when buying your products, but the experience as a whole. So, customer experience is everything from site speed and performance, to layout design and use of colours and margins, to the workflow for purchasing and returning products, to user personalization, to... The list of “things” that make up the overall customer experience is large.
Most ecommerce platforms and services follow a “best practice” approach, meaning that the platform has made the effort to get you started with the widely accepted standards that make up a good customer experience. There is a lot of good research out there that helps those of us in the industry determine those standards. Chances are, if you haven’t specifically targeted your customer’s experience already then you still have a solid foundation. However, this base can, and should be, improved. Make your site the best it can be for your customers and that alone will give you an edge over your competitors who have not.
2. Eliminate swivel chair processes
This isn’t related to your customer’s experience, but it’s worth mentioning since we’re talking about gaining an edge over your competitors. If you’re products don’t separate you, then your customer experience and/or your business processes will.
I won’t get into much detail here since we have another post that dives into this topic, but swivel chair is basically a business process where you’re manually entering operational data into multiple places. Automating these processes instead is a big step forward for ecommerce success. After all, automation saves time and therefor cost allowing you to focus more on other aspects of your business such as marketing and your customer’s experience.
Good customer experience is good customer service
When a customer reaches out to your customer service lines of communication, it’s normally because they have an issue that needs to be resolved or they’re trying to get information about something. There will always be a need for traditional forms of customer service, but many issues can be eliminated or resolved in other ways by adapting your website to suit your customers better. Here are some examples.
Robust product pages
Make sure your product pages are robust and give your customers all of the information they need. Make it easy to understand what variations of the product are out-of-stock and give customers any information you can about when it will be back in stock. Include an on-page customer Q&A panel so customers can ask questions about the product. This allows you or another customer to respond with an answer. Automatically engaging customers who previously purchased the item can be a valuable resource for customer submitted Q&A.
Shipping and returns
Make your shipping and return policies easy to find and read. In fact, go a step further and keep your customers up-to-date by sending status update notifications when fulfillment states have changed, include a shipment tracking number as soon as possible. Provide a self-serve return workflow that is easy for customers to use. If you also have physical stores, promote in-store returns alongside mailed return options.
Invest in your underlying technology to make sure your site is fast. We’re not patient creatures so don’t make your customers wait through agonizing load times. Make sure your server can handle the traffic that your website receives, especially during key shopping events, and ensure the underlying software for your site is modern and optimized.
Personalize your customer experience by capturing personal information that a customer has given to use in non-intrusive ways. If you know they’re first name, welcome them and use it in email notifications and account pages. Provide customers a list of recently viewed products so that they can easily find a product again when they’re ready to buy. Likewise, provide relevant promotions and product suggestions when you start to understand their buying habits. All of this can be automated.
Learn from your other forms of customer service
As you start to improve your website’s customer experience, make sure that whoever manages your other forms of customer service (email, phone, chat, etc.) is aware and ready to provide useful feedback.
Put a plan in place to make sure that you understand the nature of each customer service request.
Gather as much information as you can and use it to improve your website and workflows. Prepare your customer service representatives with a set of meaningful questions that give insight into the experience of the customers they interact with. Of course, if a customer is upset then you may not want to push them into answering unrelated questions. Instead, listen to what they’re upset about and try to understand the root cause. Ensure them that changes will be made. If you’re able to follow up and correct any issues your customers are having, these customers will appreciate your efforts. Every other customer’s experience will be improved as well.
Try to eliminate customer service requests
The type of customer service requests that you are receiving now can be quantified and tested against each improvement you make. Try understanding what type of request is most common and start with it. Engage your internal teams as well as your customers and find ways to make a positive impact on that request. If successful, you’ll see a drop in requests. Keep going until all of your customer service requests have been eliminated or reduced as much as possible.
The goal of this exercise is to gain repeat business from happy customers while at the same time reducing, or eliminating, your customer service requests. If you can do both of these things, the result should be more product sales and reduced customer service costs. Happy customers like to tell their friends and networks about their experience, too. Ideally, the gains would pay for the investments made.
If you’re unsure where or how to get started improving your customer’s experience, we can help. Acro Media offers a proven method for getting results. We offer consulting services right through to implementation and launch, as little or as much as you need. Click below to learn more about our method.