For small businesses and start-ups looking to compete and thrive on the internet, one of the best USPs you can have is great customer service. When you have great customer service, more visitors turn into customers, more of those customers will return and many will spread the message about how good your company is. It’s a triple whammy win situation.
But online customer service has a lot more to it than tradition customer service and much of what you need to do revolves around your website and how you use it to offer customers a great and easy buying experience. You can’t get away with just putting a phone number on the screen and having someone sitting waiting at the other end. In this article, we’ll explain what you need to make your site and business offer top quality customer service.
How does great online customer service improve sales?
A customer who first encounters your company via your website will have one of three responses, they will find the experience positive, average or negative. To make the sale, you must aim to make that experience as positive as possible. You may not have the cheapest offer or even the best products, but if your website helps build a better relationship with customers, they are more likely to buy from you.
Top tips to improve online customer service
Make life easier for your customers
If you go to a shop and cannot find what you are looking for, you would expect a member of staff to go and look for you. Whilst this isn’t easily done online, the nearest thing you can do is to make it as easy as possible to find things. In this sense, great customer service starts with easy navigation. Make sure your menus are prominent and that everything they need is listed in them. Have a search bar so that they can find things without having to trawl through endless product pages looking for the items they want.
If you are an e-commerce site, provide customer reviews too, so that they can get honest and informed feedback from other customers about the products they are considering.
Make your site work for customers on the go
We now do twice as much internet surfing on mobiles as we do on computers, so it is vital that your website is designed to be mobile friendly, otherwise you may lose a lot of business. This is particularly important for local businesses and online stores.
Local businesses can benefit from people in the vicinity wanting to check out if you are open or have something in stock. For e-commerce stores, you’d be surprised how many customers find products in physical stores and then look on their phone for a cheaper online option before deciding where to buy from. If your site is mobile friendly, you can benefit from these consumer behaviours.
Make it simple for customers to contact you
There are several ways to make it simple for customers to get in touch with your business. One of the best is to offer live chat on your website. This makes it easy for them to ask questions about products and services and get instant responses to their questions. Often, with the internet, it is the speed of response to these questions that brings the sale. If they can’t get the answers from your site, they will from your competitor.
In addition to live chat and traditional contact methods such as email, contact forms and telephone, you should also consider using your social media accounts for customer service. Not only will these help with answering customer questions quickly; your responses may be seen, shared and liked, resulting in new customers.
Train your customer service staff
There is no point having live chat and social media customer service functionality if the person at your end is giving poor quality information or is pushing for the hard sell. You need to ensure that your frontline staff has both customer relations skills and detailed product or service knowledge to answer visitor’s questions. A customer service representative who fails to give you the answer you need is offering poor service which won’t help with your conversion rates.
Good representatives will have a clear knowledge of industry jargon and will understand the products or services in enough detail to be able to better serve and educate visitors about how to use the products and help them make informed buying decisions.
Put the answers online
If you find that customers keep asking the same set of questions about your products, you can save them time and take the pressure off your customer service reps by putting the answers in a FAQ page, knowledge base or, if it relates to a specific product, in the product description. For example, software sellers always put a list of system requirements on their product specifications so customers know that it will run on their computers.
Polite and plain English terms and conditions
You’d be surprised how many people opt out of a purchase because the terms and conditions are either too complex to understand or because they appear threatening. Rewording the terms so that they are clear to most people makes it much more likely that they will accept them.
To give you an idea, of how you need to write your terms, it may be worth considering that the average reading age of adults in the UK is 9 and that over 40% of people have a reading age under 11. The reading age of The Sun newspaper is around 8 and even The Guardian is only around 14. For many people, the average T & C page is too difficult to understand.
The other problem with terms and conditions is that they can be couched in terms which are not consumer friendly: “if you do not… then we will.” If you have put a lot of effort into making the rest of your site user-friendly, these aggressive sounding terms can be a real conversion killer.
A clear sign of good customer service is transparency; making sure there are no hidden extras or costs.
One of the most frequently asked questions on e-commerce sites is the cost of shipping – mainly because many sites hide this until customers reach the checkout page. What these sites don’t realise is that lots of customers leave before getting to the checkout page simply because they cannot see the shipping costs. Making this information easy to find and transparent will help improve the service you offer to customers and increase conversion rates.
Other areas which need to be made clear are your returns and complaints policies. Although you must follow strict laws covering online and distance selling, not all consumers are aware of their rights and it’s a matter of good service, therefore, to make it clear what your policies are.
The Internet has given customers the ability to voice approval and disapproval for businesses they come across every day. By spending time and effort on creating a website which offers excellent customer service, you give yourself a unique selling point that enables you to boost your company’s reputation, increase traffic and convert more of those visitors into customers.
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