Service: How Do You Measure Up?
You've put a lot of effort into building your web store. You've created a good selection of products for your market category and priced your product or service to sell. But that's not enough to earn a customer sale. Customers expect to be served, so customer service is a top priority for your web site. Because you're not dealing with customers face-to-face, your service policies must instill a sense of trust in your shoppers.
Many current e-commerce companies on the Net today don't understand this simple fact: Consumers expect service. Your web store must deliver it.
Good customer service includes these facets:
- Email confirmations
- Multiple means of contact
- Support outside of business hours
- Guarantees and return policies
After a customer clicks the Place My Order button or equivalent, he or she immediately wonders what will become of the order. It's only natural that sending an order into the vastness of cyberspace can cause a certain amount of consternation. You can relieve many of your customer's worriesand avoid frustrationby sending a series of email confirmations that inform the customer of the status of his or her order right through the sales and shipping process.
As soon as the order is placed, an email should be sent to the customer, confirming that the order was received. The email message should include a complete record of the transaction, including the following information:
- Order number
- What was ordered
- Who ordered it
- Where it will be shipped
- Total amount of the sale, including all taxes, shipping, and handling costs
- Customer service contact information, in case the customer has a question about the order
Another email message should then be sent, confirming that the product ordered is in stock and when it will be shipped. A third email message should be sent after the product is actually shipped, containing the name and tracking number of the shipping company that was used. Finally, send an email to the customer after the order is delivered, asking for feedback and even offering a discount on the customer's next purchase if he or she buys within the next few weeks.
Multiple Means of Contact
Always provide a number of different methods by which a customer can contact your customer service department. There are several ways to do this:
List your customer service email address on your web site and include in it all email correspondence with the customer. In addition, tell people where you're located. Include your company's physical address, telephone number, and fax number on your web site.
List a telephone number for customer service. Let customers know when a live person will answer the telephone. If you use an answering machine, be sure to leave a message that tells callers when they can expect their calls to be returned.
Invest in a toll-free telephone number and list it on your site. Not only is a toll-free number relatively inexpensive, it goes a long way toward building a level of consumer confidence in your business. If you'd rather not deal with the hassles and expense of staffing a toll-free customer service line, outsource it. Many service companies will staff a customer service line on a fee-per-call basis.
Finally, think about offering live chat on your site and use it for customer service.
Support Outside of Business Hours
Although your web store is available to customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, you are not. To support customers outside of normal business hours, your web store needs a FAQ section. Even though a FAQ can't tell a customer whether his product is in stock or when it was shipped, it's useful for providing clear instructions about how to use your product or service and troubleshooting tips in case customers run into trouble after hours.
Guarantees and Return Policies
One of the best ways to gain customer confidence is to offer a money-back satisfaction guarantee. As an e-business, you should offer a money-back guarantee with your products and clearly state your guarantee policy on your web site.
Even if you prefer not to offer any kind of money-back guarantee, you need to list your terms of sale and your return policy and procedures on your site. Remember that shoppers don't like surprises. Be sure they understand the terms of their purchase before they click the Buy button. Tell shoppers under what conditions they can return a product. How many days or weeks do they have to decide to return it? Will they get a refund or a credit? Who pays? Be clear and specific and list all details about your return policy on your web site.
Remember that it pays to keep all line of communication open with your customers and to provide a quick response to customer email.