It’s the Service After the Sale that Builds Your Web-Business: Five Tips For Improving Customer Service
© All Rights Reserved Dahna Chandler
You hear it all the time. “Draw more traffic! Get the hits! Make the sale! Sell, sell, sell!”. There are multiple books, websites, and articles providing detailed strategies for creating outstanding pre-sale service programs to bring in sales dollars.
But what about keeping the customer after the sale? Unlike in brick and mortar enterprises, in e-tailing, relationships with customers are even more important. Why? Because you don’t have face-to-face contact with your customers and often you don’t even speak directly to them. Your only contact with your customers through your site. You need to personalize your contacts with your customers to create long-term relationships with them.
The basic truth in any business – including e-commerce – is that it’s repeat business from loyal customers that keeps customers returning to your site, builds brand equity, and thus your bottom line. Statistically, it’s much easier and more economical to keep a customer and cross-sell other products and services to that customer than it is to gain new customers.
In fact, 20% of your regular customers will generate about 80% of your e-business. With over 4 million other websites on the WWW competing with yours for your prospective customer’s attention, this concept is even more crucial to grasp. Once you understand and implement post-sale support strategies into your web business management, you are destined for e-business profits.
Here are five tips for infusing outstanding customer service throughout your web-based business. By beginning with these tips, you will start to generate new and repeat traffic and sales on your site:
1. Don’t be a “fly by night, gone by day” e-business. Keep your site updated, available and functional and sell an honest product or service that you believe in. Don’t focus primarily on profit because e-customers are among the best-educated, most sophisticated segments of the consumer marketplace.
Your product should be high quality and your website user-friendly and secure. If you don’t provide a quality product and a quality website, that lack of quality will be reflected in your bottom line.
2. Guarantee your customer’s satisfaction and stand by your guarantee. Make your guarantee “no questions asked” and make it twice as long as your industry’s average and your competitors’. The longer your guarantee on your product or service, the less likely the product will be returned or the customer will want a refund. On the other hand, don’t guarantee something you can’t deliver!
In the same connection, fulfillment on e-commerce sites is expected to be quicker than in brick and mortar businesses. Make certain your fulfillment capabilities meet or exceed your industry standards and if you can’t deliver when promised, inform your customer IMMEDIATELY. Then, offer to compensate them (e.g., gift certificate, discount on that product or service, etc.) for any inconvenience your inability to deliver when promised.
3. Use all of the technology available today to make it easy for your customers to contact you with questions or concerns. Having an email link on your site is simply not enough. Add a toll-free number to your site. Get voicemail and make it available 24 hours a day. Make your fax machine dedicated and keep it on 24 hours. Your site should offer an email address just for customer comments, suggestions, or complaints.
In some e-businesses, particularly those in which you offer website engineering, development, or creation, a pager that offers voicemail and numeric options and a cellular phone with voicemail will be critical contact devices. Don’t make your customers have to wait too long to talk to you or have to hunt you down. Their inability to reach you may be the reason why your customer becomes your competitor.
4. Take seriously your customer’s comments, concerns, or questions about your product or service. There are fewer experiences more insulting to web shoppers than emailing a complaint to an e-service provider and having their correspondence ignored. Respond to your customers’ comments and get the answers to their questions promptly!
If there’s a problem with your product or service, tell them you will solve the problem right away and then do it! If you can’t solve the problem right away or to the customer’s satisfaction, offer a replacement or a refund promptly and readily. Or, offer them a discount on future products or services. But let the customer choose the option they want so they feel in control of the process.
5. In addition to responding promptly to complaints or questions, actively solicit your customers’ opinions about your product or service. Encourage them to be honest! Provide forms or surveys on your site for them to use to evaluate your product or service or ask them to email with their comments. Let your customers know you value their time by offering some token of your appreciation for their help. Give freebies, gift certificates, discounts or other incentives or create contests for survey participants.
Then USE your customers’ input to make changes to your product or service if necessary. Whenever you use customer suggestions to improve your product or service, recognize the customer(s) who submitted the suggestion on your site. Your customer will be thrilled and others will be encouraged to make suggestions, too!
As a brick-and-mortar business, your e-business must be a customer-driven business. Your desire to build long-term relationships with your customers should be apparent throughout the sales and service process with every customer.
While many business people understand that they need to provide a quality product or service, they need to remember that customers care just as much about service as quality. You must provide both to keep your customers coming back to your site to buy.
Dahna M. Chandler is the owner of EpifanyTM Communications Group, a new media marketing consulting firm based in the Washington DC area. Ms. Chandler is also a marketing and business journalist whose articles appear in print and e-publications nationally.
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