Consumer expectations are higher than ever, thanks to speedy innovations such as Amazon Prime Now, which offers two-hour delivery in certain U.S. cities. Super-fast delivery won't make or break your customer's experience—it’s what’s involved in the journey taken to reach the customer that counts.
Nurturing the customer with a great experience throughout their journey will put smaller e-commerce businesses shoulder to shoulder with big competitors.
What does exceptional customer service mean in e-commerce?
In this blog, we’ll look at the ways in which flawless communication with customers is the key to providing an excellent customer service experience throughout the buyer journey and illustrate this with examples from major online brands. Here are the areas we’ll be touching on:
- Use the right channels
- Be honest from the start
- Think customer success as well as customer service
- Stay in touch
- Be personal
- Build customer loyalty
#1. Use the right channels
Think about the fact that your audience will have different preferences when it comes to how they choose to contact you. While you might send messages through one type of communication, you should consider covering all bases to reach the customer quick.
Email: For most online shoppers, email notifications are the very least you would expect when going through the purchase process, especially for any in-depth information such as order review details or customer contact details. Regardless of any other channel you may use, every update should be sent via email unless otherwise notified.
SMS: It is predicted that by 2020 there will be 5.7 billion unique mobile users globally and this is a market that all online sellers should be tapping into. Offer your customers the option to opt-in for SMS correspondence and reach them on the go. This way if you have any delays or problems with shipping, you can pass that message on as quickly as possible. For instance, in its shipping confirmation email, Glossier gives customers the option to receive text updates about their delivery.
Push notifications: Push notifications are a way for a brand to send customers a message or notify them without having to actually go to the app or website itself. Customers that allow push notifications on their mobile are looking for a relationship-based experience with that particular brand. According to Localytics, you should start off with one push notification per week to see the consumer behavior that develops as a result of its introduction.
Social media: According to a BigCommerce study, online stores that have a social presence have 32 percent more sales on average than stores without it. This alone gives you enough information to adopt a social support strategy.
Consider the fact that only 36 percent of consumers who raised an issue on social media had a satisfactory response. In the same way that consumers nowadays expect fast delivery, they expect 24/7 support. Be sure to give your customers the option to contact a support agent immediately on social media with any queries on their order.
#2. Be honest from the start
Be honest from the first customer touch-point. According to research carried out by MyCustomer, 83 percent of online shoppers expect to see the delivery options clearly displayed on the product page they’re viewing.
Customers will appreciate having this knowledge before going ahead with an order. Nordstrom’s online store displays a clear pop-up as a customer enters the site that includes important shipping information relating to their region:
#3. Think customer success as well as customer service
E-commerce has redefined customer service as customer experience, adding customer success into the mix.
This means being available to your customers at every stage of their journey and ensuring their experience is the best it can be.
FreestyleXtreme is a great example of this. As co-founder Ben Richardson explains, your customers don’t fully understand the intricacies behind an e-commerce operation—and they shouldn’t have to. For this reason, continuous and polite communication is paramount to keeping them happy.
Once an order has been placed, FreestyleXtreme provides the customer with their purchase confirmation and a point of contact to improve the success of the process and put the customer at ease. Another email is sent to the customer 24 hours after delivery to make sure everything went smoothly and to ask for feedback on the overall experience. In this way, FreestyleXtreme takes customer service to the next step with its desire to reach the highest level of customer satisfaction.
#4. Stay in touch
Whether you’re aiming for same-day delivery or on-time delivery, be prepared to provide consistent personalized communication for your customer to guarantee an exceptional experience.
Have you ever taken a chance on an online website with an order and not received the reassuring status notifications? In today’s always-on digital world, retailers have no choice but to stay in touch with their customers.
Here are two stages of the customer journey where contact is particularly crucial:
Order confirmation: 96 percent of online shoppers emphasize the importance of post-purchase confirmation in their view of the business as a whole. This will be the first point of contact for your customer outside your online store. Make it your mission to have this process automated so when they check their inbox the purchase confirmation is there within minutes.
Check out how Society6 clearly communicates the next steps for the customer:
Tracking order status: Similar to most order confirmation emails, it’s standard procedure to provide a tracking link so that customers can trace their purchase from dispatch right up until it reaches their door. However, it’s worth going the extra mile and sending email notifications the whole way through the process. Online fashion retailer Boohoo demonstrates what your customer’s inbox should look like within two days of placing an order:
#5. Be personal
Personalization is an absolute must for an online store when it comes to communication. You don’t have the physical touch of a brick-and-mortar store to showcase your personality through in-store employees; you have to rely on the personal touch through various strategies.
There are ways to incorporate these techniques into your everyday communication with your customers throughout the journey:
Before purchase: For those last-minute shoppers, fast delivery is going to be the unique selling point. But consider emphasizing other things to shift the focus. Sometimes being simple is half the battle.
For example, make your website easy to navigate and personalize the home page to the time of year, i.e Christmas holidays, Black Friday deals, summer options and so on. Asos takes this approach to keep in with its target audience:
With the summer months just around the corner, its homepage uses “out-of-office” messaging to portray a holiday feel that plays to their customers' current shopping desires.
During purchase: If you have a consumer who has abandoned their cart or is simply searching your website, you’re going to have access to valuable data on their shopping behavior. Try using this information to email your customers with personal reminders, recommendations and offers relating to products they might like. This shows you care about their interests and you want to make their shopping experience as seamless as possible. Try something simple like what Amazon does with its confirmation emails:
Amazon shows items you might like at the footer of the email based on the items you’ve already purchased.
After purchase: Returning customers spend 67 percent more than new ones. That’s why what happens post-purchase is as important as the initial sale. Take a leaf out of Glossier’s playbook and encourage customers to share pictures of their purchase on social media.
#6. Build customer loyalty
Every touchpoint helps to promote a sense of loyalty, but of course, it’s about having the resources to manage this communication. With Amazon and eBay, there is an expectation for fast delivery. As a result, customers expect to receive this service as standard. This sense of loyalty can be fostered in the same way, if not more from a smaller online seller. Customers will appreciate communication throughout the journey and this satisfaction will go further than online sellers expect.
Look at how online printing business Moo.com shows appreciation for customers one year after their first-ever purchase:
This is a playful technique to promote customer retention and loyalty.
Ultimately, the unknown is a big fear for any online shopper, particularly if they have never purchased from you before. After all, they have just handed over their payment details and ordered a product online, which they’re hoping will arrive. Consistent communication throughout the customer journey will put their mind at ease.
For smaller online sellers, these communication strategies should be prioritized over fast delivery to show your appreciation for customer loyalty.
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