Providing Great Customer Care in an E-commerce World
This article will give you tips on how to provide great customer care, whether your business is strictly online or online service is only one way you do business with customers.
There are other ways that you will want to provide good customer service, and we will talk about them here:
Web site: Your Web site is a type of customer service contact tool. Does it provide good customer service? An entire book could be written on how to create a customer-friendly Web site, but we will look at just some select tips here.
Have a customer service link on your site so that people can click it to complain about bad service, ask questions, and contact someone about a warranty issue. This "one-click service" is a great way to centralize your service and make sure no one slips though the cracks.
When creating your Web site, try to develop it from the customer's perspective. It can be tempting to put all of your business information on your site, but a customer is not always looking for your annual report from three years ago or your organizational chart. Perhaps they just want to buy something but cannot find the "buy now" button. Make sure that you are using customer-centered language on your site and you make clear the one or two things you want your customer to do, such as make purchases or contact you.
Provide more than one contact method on your Web site, including fax, e-mail, and telephone numbers.
Do not make clients click too much to find the information they are looking for. If necessary, have a professional help you develop an organized Web site.
Provide a secure environment in which people can purchase your products.
In your shopping carts, tell your customer the total number of steps that they can expect and what step they are on now. Customers who are shopping want to know that they are step three of five and will be more likely to buy.
Create Web sites that are quick to load.
E-mail: E-mail is a business tool that can be powerful or ineffective. A good e-mail from a business can result in a sale, while a bad e-mail can have your address blacklisted as spam!
When sending out e-mails, be sure to provide very clear, distinct subject lines. Do not provide subject lines that are too friendly or obscure. If possible, put the company name in the subject line.
People also look at the "from" line before they open a message. Your "from" line should be from your business uniform resource locator (URL) address. If you are using a third party e-mailing service, you should ask it to make it appear to be from your address. For example, if your address is XYZinc.com, people will recognize it and open it, but if the address is MailBlaster.com or something like that people may not recognize it and will trash it unopened.
When communicating with e-commerce clients, it is acceptable to send periodic e-mails to them on specific company matters and maybe to send them information on specials. Do not do this more than quarterly, however.
If you would like to communicate with them through e-mail on a more regular basis, one way you can do that is to offer an opt-in newsletter. Opt-in newsletters are e-mails that you create that someone has to subscribe to, usually through a signup line on your Web site. When subscribing, the customer is giving you permission to market to them. Send out a newsletter that is either weekly, biweekly, or monthly. Reconsider anything that is more or less frequent than these three models.
There are many permission-based e-mail service providers out there, but Constant Contact is one of the biggest and best. When sending permission-based marketing, be sure to provide valuable information, not just blatant marketing messages, and plenty of links. Studies have shown that the more links you have in your e-mail, the more likely it will be read and clicked. (The "sweet spot" is about 20 to 25 links per message). Do not forget to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act and include an "unsubscribe" button on your link.
When customers contact your business by e-mail, use an automatic responder to contact them back immediately: Let them know that you received their e-mail and you are going to respond to it within a certain timeframe. If at all possible, try to keep that timeframe less than 24 hours.
General e-commerce customer service ideas:
Ship out products as quickly as possible. The Internet is an instant medium and people do not like to wait for things that they have bought online. If what you are selling is not downloadable, be sure to put it in the mail the next day and even offer faster mail service for more money.
E-mail the customer to let her or him know when the product was sent out and then e-mail again in about a week to make sure the product was received. One more e-mail in about a month's time is appropriate to follow up and make sure they are enjoying the product.
You will speak with customers from all over the world. Some businesses in some countries do very well at handling the cultural differences, language barriers, or unique challenges of other cultures. Other businesses in other countries do not and unfortunately U.S.-based businesses are often among the latter. While the
may be a great place to live, underlining the key differences between countries during an e-mail is not always appropriate and could result in lost business. U.S.Want to learn more? Take an online course in Customer Service.
Remember that all the good principles of customer service, such as rapport-building, communication, and putting the customer first, remain intact in the e-commerce relationship and are just augmented by these ideas.
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