Customers expect good service online or in person
March 1, 2015
Q: As more business is conducted online, how does this influence customer service?
A: A: If anything, customer service has never been more important, according to John McClymonds, a veteran of the retail clothing industry.
"Customers are much more demanding than they were just 10 years ago," says McClymonds, who now serves as a SCORE Houston mentor. "They're more sensitive to what they feel they deserve and what they feel they've earned by shopping at a particular retailer."
Studies have found that customers are willing to pay a premium to ensure quality service. Many are also more likely to recommend a company for providing outstanding service than for attributes such as product or price, McClymonds says.
Meeting these customer expectations is easier than you may think, and it begins with a well-designed, easy-to-navigate, and fast-loading e-commerce website. Make sure all the basic information about your business and what it offers is clear and easy to find. A comprehensive "frequently asked questions" page helps guide customers, and explain product aspects they may not be fully aware of.
Also, make sure product descriptions are timely and complete, including any items that may be out of stock, and that they detail any additional charges and fees (such as shipping and handling). Few things are more frustrating to an e-customer than unwelcome price surprises that appear during check-out.
Encourage your e-customer's feedback via a comments section on the website, or a follow-up email after the sale. Easy-to-create online surveys using such services as Survey Monkey, Client Heartbeat or Survey Gizmo are a good way to collect information as long as they are brief and questions are focused on the customer's experience.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites are also good forums for interacting with customers, as are online rating sites such as Yelp, Google Local and City Search. Even without direct contact, you may still spot trends or issues that need improvement. Also, thank customers who provide positive feedback and encourage them to visit your site again, giving them an incentive to recommend your site to others.
Respond quickly to complaints or negative comments. If the complaint appears in a public online setting, move the conversation offline as quickly as possible.
Be sure to post a follow-up note about the complaint on the forum, even if the outcome is not what you wanted. Regular visitors will see that you're an e-business they can trust, because you take customer feedback seriously.