Social Media Magazine

The Importance of Customer Service For Online Retailers

Posted on the 16 November 2012 by Onlinere

The Importance of Customer Service For Online Retailers Illustration

Great customer service leads to loyal customers which is a key element of customer retention. From my previous post on customer retention, you’ll know how extremely important this is to growing and building your business as profitably as you can. It’s easy to forget your online customers because you can’t physically ‘see’ them or interact with them face to face, however this doesn’t mean that their needs aren’t as real as in-store customers. We’ve come to expect that great customer service is felt and experienced when shopping on the high street and that when buying online, customer service isn’t seen to be as important due to most customers completing the basket without any real need for personal interaction.

With the percentage of customers shopping online increasing each year, it’s important that online / virtual customer service is as present as ever. Customers still expect the same levels of customer service when purchasing their items online as they do when in store, and they are coming to expect that all important ‘personal touch’ too. My recent experience with online fashion retailer Warehouse is a perfect example. They went above and beyond in assisting me with my query. Their responses to my emails were extremely quick and the same person contacted me each time which made the experience feel very personal from start to finish. Even when I thought I was asking for more than I thought was possible, they continued to aid me in my query and fix any issues I had. I was so very impressed with their online customer service that I will more than likely shop online with them again, rather than go into their store.

One key point to be aware of is the growing importance of social media for businesses and how it’s fast becoming the portal for all business to customer relationships. According to the Institute of Customer Services, research from Fishburn Hedges – The Social Media Customer – tells us that two thirds of consumers think social media is a better way to communicate with companies than call centres. Not surprising is it?

Their research also shows that the number of British consumers who dealt with companies through social media rose from 19% in August 2011 to 36% in April 2012. 40% feel social media improves Customer Service for that particular brand. Statistics we just cannot ignore!

Now we all know the benefits of social media as a customer service portal, but do we understand the potential risks involved too? The issue with social media is that it’s very vocal – perfect for customer compliments and interacting with our customers, however it can give angry customers a channel to voice their complaint. This in itself isn’t the issue, but if their complaint isn’t seen to be dealt with properly and efficiently, you may have a viral complaint on your hands! A perfect example of how complaints can spiral out of control would be Femfresh and their recent social media backlash. So bearing all this in mind, if you’re going to have a Facebook page, it’s advisable that you have a dedicated team looking after it. It’s not something you can do half-heartedly. However, even with social media stepping up and becoming a route for consumers and companies to connect with each other, we simply can’t forget about the traditional ways of customer service either! Going back to the research from Fishburn Hedges, 7% of those surveyed felt they had a worse experience on social media than with call centres, which isn’t surprising if the interaction isn’t handled properly online.

Not forgetting the basics, it’s important to have a friendly voice on the end of a telephone for customers who still prefer to speak to someone when purchasing an item online. This tends to be when purchasing a high priced good, something with a complicated nature or an item that involves a contract e.g mobile phones. However just because you may not sell these types of products doesn’t mean you can forget call centres altogether. Whether we like it or not, customers like to have the option to speak to someone on the phone even if they don’t use the service. By having a contact telephone number, it reassures the customer that you’re a company they can trust and contact if they have any issues or queries with their online purchase. I don’t know about you, but when I see a company without a contact telephone number, I tend not to trust them or at least move on to another site.

Ever come across a ‘live chat’ pop up when browsing a website? Most banks and mobile phone provider sites now offer this ‘live chat’ or ‘live customer support’ option which pops up unexpectedly when you’re browsing their sites. This can be fantastic for potential customers who have a quick question they need answering instantly to aid them with their purchase. If the consumer was in any doubt about a particular product and simply cannot wait for an answer, then offering them the opportunity to speak to an advisor whilst browsing is likely to mean the customer continues on with their purchase, rather than leaving empty handed, so to speak.

Finally, successful customer service isn’t just down to the dedicated team. I’m sure you all know it’s integral for all areas of the business to communicate effectively and share any important details. I mean, how frustrating is it as a customer when you’ve been on hold for an unreasonable amount of time and when you finally get to speak to someone they cannot help you with your query or do not have the information readily available? A wasted phone call and a potentially angry customer!

Marketing and product teams need to be updating the customer services on any new promotion, products and business activity that might affect the customer. This arms customer services with all the information they may need. But remember, it’s always a two way relationship! It’s also important for customer services to feedback on any queries and questions they receive or any comments, good and bad, in order for the business to improve in any area the customer feels would benefit them on their next visit.

So whether it’s a dedicated informed call center for online sales, live customer support or a dedicated social media team, we need to keep up with the growing needs of online customers and their expected customer service needs.

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