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Customer Service: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly

 by zack on 10 Aug 2013 |
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It’s one of those things that’s so basic it can be easy to overlook, but customer service is really imperative to any ecommerce business. With a saturated online retail market like we have in today’s virtual reality, providing subpar service to your client’s will quickly alienate them, causing them to leave in droves. It’s in your best interest not only to provide an excellent product, but also an excellent experience around that product. If you don’t, you can bet that someone else will, and your site’s visitors will quickly take notice. The good news is providing quality customer support and care can be as easy as being sociable. Today, we’ll go over some of the basics of good customer service, as well as some of the gaffs you’ll want to avoid.

Good Customer Service

Providing your customers with quality service and care should be a primary focus. However, it’s easy to get lost in all of the day-to-day humdrum of running an online store. So be vigilant against complacency, and always remember that you’re there to provide reasonably priced products as well as convenience. Convenience should be your mantra, always be looking for ways to improve user interactions and experiences with your brand. The easier it is to engage with your company, the more willing a visitor will be to buy from you. This is an issue of attitude and effort. How far are you willing to go, in order to close the sale?

If you responded with “the extra  mile,” you’ve probably been in the business for a while, and that’s good. You’ll know what to expect. So stretch out because we’re about to put in some serious leg work.

Beyond having a winning attitude in your interactions with customers, you’ll also need to provide multiple avenues for interaction. Customer service is a multi-tiered operation. You need to have several direct lines of contact that play toward a multitude of consumer preferences. Your company should be easily reachable through all of the following channels:
  • Phone –The fastest way for a customer to make him/herself understood.
  • Email – Easy, unintimidating, and prompt communication.
  • Live chat–77% of online shoppers expect this service from a reputable ecommerce site.
  • Snail mail–Because some folks like to keep it old school, and it’s nice to give and receive a hand written letter. Use direct mail for a personal touch that really spells quality customer care.
You should also set up a support forum, where your users can discuss issues, problems, or difficulties with your products or site. This allows a degree of self-help, as well as offering a great means of monitoring customer feedback and reactions to your product. Most customers begin their search for answers at your website, and if you can avoid spending man-hours directly addressing their needs, by having a DIY resource at their disposal, you’ll save a lot of time, effort, and all the accompanying overhead costs.  A support forum can be a valuable resource to both you and your customers.

Another factor that should play a role in your customer service strategies is social media. Whether you’re a Facebook fan or not, you have to recognize that social networks have revolutionized the way that businesses can interact with their clients. Developing a social media presence isn’t just essential from a marketing standpoint, but it’s also a boon to the way you’re able to intercept customer complaints and get ahead of any misgivings that someone may have about your products, content, or the reputation of your brand.

Being present on social outlets also affords you an opportunity to react quickly to customer complaints. Speed is a powerful force in online retail, and should be prioritized in customer interactions. Try to provide a timely response to any customer outreach, no matter how big or small. This shouldn’t only be limited to social media interaction either. No one wants to wait 5 days to receive an email reply. Keep on top of your interactions with consumers on every level, because it could be the difference between a loyal customer and a bad review.

Lastly, you’ll want to manage your customer’s expectations. Don’t promise the moon if you can’t deliver. They say that hate is only love deferred, and this idiom holds true in the arena of customer care as well. When dining out, a restaurant patron isn’t going to be happy if they ordered prime rib and received sirloin. Be honest and upfront with the services that you can provide, and then look to deliver a little more than what the customer expects. A little extra care will go a long way in establishing yourself as a trusted source of consumer satisfaction.

Bad Customer Service

While all of the above will make you friends and help you influence people, all of the following will ostracize and disappoint the clients who keep the lights on in your office. There are certain things that any and every ecommerce success story will be sure to steer clear of. Here are a few pro-tips on the faux pas you need to avoid.

Don’t make a customer repeat themselves.  It’s irritating at the best of times and downright infuriating when you’ve got a problem with a purchase. Having to move up the chain of customer support command when explaining a problem can be a real chore. This is especially true if every time you reach a new higher up, you’re forced to re-explain the situation to another uninformed employee. It’ll drive a customer bonkers, and leave them with a bad taste in their mouth. So make sure they only explain their problem once, and have that information recorded and relayed in every transfer. Or if you can avoid transferring at all, go ahead and do so. Keeping a single point of contact with a customer helps develop a rapport, and a deeper level of intimacy. One that they’ll definitely appreciate.

Keep and informed staff. Ask yourself this question: if one of my employees doesn’t know enough about our brand to be a good ambassador for our company, why would I let them talk to a customer with a problem? You wouldn’t. So don’t. Train any customer facing employees properly and to the fullest extent. This isn’t a job for the inexperienced. Providing good customer service can be a frustrating and difficult job. It’s not for the impatient, the faint of heart, and especially not for the uninformed. You want your staff to answer any and all customer queries in a prompt, friendly, and efficient manner.

Don’t be inflexible. Life is all about compromises. If you fall back on that tired old “I’m sorry, but that’s store policy,” every time someone asks you to go above and beyond the call of customer service, you’ll end up looking more like a brick wall than an amiable ecommerce outlet. Use customer interactions as an opportunity to let you customers know that they can sometimes trump the rulebook. This kind of customer service will pay big dividends in the long run.

Try to keep these customer service crisis points in mind whenever engaging a loyal buyer. They’ll appreciate the fact that you’ve gone the extra mile, and you’ll appreciate the positive feedback they give you, as well as the word of mouth advertising that will follow.

Good customer service is all about attentiveness. Listen, compromise, and conveniently acquiesce to any demands that aren’t too overbearing. Keep to a policy of accessibility, rather than insensitivity. If you can follow these guidelines, your company will be on its way to ecommerce affluence and customer service excellence.  That’s all for now, keep updated with the latest ecommerce happenings on the Ashop blog.


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