PUTTING THE CUSTOMER AT THE CENTRE OF YOUR BUSINESS

Implementing an unparalleled customer service

Building meaningful relationships with customers is as important for modern businesses, as increasing sales and profit margins.  In today’s super connected environment, the approach to customer service has evolved from the traditional help-desk to a full-fledged process along the entire customer journey. Customer service is, in fact, the new battleground in eCommerce, where it is the main driver of competition for traders! Therefore, you need to act proactively by adopting policies that generate a safe environment for consumers whilst ensuring that these policies are honoured. This will greatly contribute towards building customers’ trust. The more customers know how your business operates, the more they will be inclined to make purchases from your online store. Moreover, it is advisable to have your policies (Example: Return and refund, delivery, terms of use, etc.) examined by a legal adviser before placing them on the website.

To stay on top of the game, you should aim to:

  • Establish a good relationship with customers to encourage repeat purchases;
  • Offer customers different channels (Example: Facebook, website, mobile, etc) through which they can interact with you;
  • Encourage feedback from customers, ideally on your website;
  • Be present on social media, keep tabs on what is being said and participate in conversations about his products/services;
  • Keep track of all communications with customers;
  • Provide customers with a self-service support centre (Example: Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs] and a live chat[1] (this adds some human touch to an eCommerce customer service);
  • Immediately acknowledge queries/complaints and handle these without undue delay; and
  • Invest in customer service technology to handle customer interactions from different channels.

 

Handling orders

The manner in which you handle orders can greatly impact customer satisfaction whilst encouraging customers to repeat business with you.

Therefore, it is recommended that you:

  • Immediately acknowledge orders. This would normally entail sending an email confirmation and order summary immediately after the customer places the order or within a maximum of one business day. Consequently, orders should be promptly processed.
  • Be extra vigilant when inputting prices on your website to avoid any typing errors. However, should it occur, for example an item is marked €2 instead of €200, it is recommended to send out a polite email to the customer clarifying matters and explaining the error. Customer service at this point is crucial!
  • Seek to inform customers as quickly as possible whether an item is in stock or not. Delay in advising customers that the product/s they ordered is not available might be inconvenient for them, as they could have selected other item/s had they known of the unavailability. Moreover, when an item is out of stock, you can offer customers the possibility of either waiting for the item to be in stock (informing them of an approximate time frame) or to select a similar item, or to cancel the item from the order.

 

Dealing with customer complaints

Whether the transaction takes place online or offline, a dispute between a customer and trader might be inevitable. With this in mind, a you need to have an internal complaint handling process which is effective and guarantees confidentiality. Customer confidence in online shopping can increase if customers experience, at least, the same level of comfort as when buying from a brick and mortar store. An internal complaint handling process is effective when it guarantees confidentiality, is free to use, and is easy to access and operate. It is a basic requirement of any customer-relationship management programme, as efficient and effective handling of customer complaints at the earliest stage can bring benefits to businesses and customers alike, alleviating the need for recourse to possibly costly and time-consuming redress mechanisms.

It is recommended to compile a step-by-step complaints handling process which is in conformity with the local laws and where applicable, codes of conduct. It should be available on your website to guide customers when forwarding queries or complaints. Every effort should be made to resolve complaints to the satisfaction of the customer within a specified time frame. This time period should not normally exceed thirty (30) days from receipt of the complaint. You need to inform the customer in good time of any necessary extension to the specified time period, and record and monitor complaints to ensure prompt and fair resolution. Additionally, you should inform the customer of any consumer complaints handling bodies to which s/he may refer a complaint for resolution if s/he wishes to do so.

 

Related Links
eCommerce consumer reviews: why you need them and how to use them (Econsultancy)
How to drive customer service excellence in eCommerce (Chron)
How to use persuasion throughout the eCommerce customer journey (Econsultancy)
Solving consumer disputes (EU Commission)
International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Putting it right: best practices for customer redress in online business
ICC best practices for online dispute resolution (ODR) for B2C transactions
Alternative and online dispute resolution [ADR/ODR] (EU Commission)


[1] 77% of customers agree that online chat positively influences their attitude about the retailer – www.desk.com