How to offer excellent customer service – 7 tips for small business ecommerce

 

customer service for small business

Customer service is a direct reflection on your business and your brand. Consequently how you manage your customer care is important. Poor customer care could result in the loss of customers and ultimately damage your reputation. Great customer service can create loyalty, bring in new customers and give you the edge over your competitors.

We now live in a society where social media and customer review sites are part-and-parcel of the business world and although they are both excellent vehicles for positive customer feedback, it also means that negative consumer experiences are out there for everyone to see – sometimes before you’ve even had the chance to deal with them directly yourself.

58% of consumers are more likely to tell others about their customer service experiences than they were 5 years ago

Ensuring that your small online business or start-up is offering all it can in terms of excellent customer care is essential for the long-term success of your business.

Impact of poor customer service

  • 82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service
  • 44% of customers switch to a competitor following inadequate customer care
  • 55% of customers intending to make a purchase have walked away due to poor customer service

Impact of great customer service

7 customer service tips to help your business stand apart

As a small online business or ecommerce start-up, you are unlikely to have an all-singing, all -dancing customer service call centre to hand. Chances are it is going to be you fielding the majority of  calls and emails. We’ve outlined some simple tips that are easy to implement, cost-effective and could make a big difference in terms of customer satisfaction.

1. Offer that little bit extra

Going that extra mile for a customer won’t cost you much but can pay dividends in terms of customer loyalty and repeat business. A little extra effort on your part – for example getting something in the post to a customer on the same day or going a bit above and beyond the call of duty to deal with a query or issue – will be noticed and appreciated by your customers. In the days of automated customer services, long waiting times and being passed around from pilar to post, you have the great advantage of still being able to personally deal with many of your customers directly – it’s your chance to establish a solid relationship.

2. Walk in your customers shoes

walk in your customers shoes

If you don’t understand your customers and recognise their needs, how can you be certain you are offering them a positive customer experience? Get to know you customers (and as we mention before you are in the great position of being able to have direct contact with your customers so use those moments to find out a bit more about what they like and don’t like about your business), think about their customer journey from start to finish and see what you can implement to improve their experience. Having a good understanding of your customers will enable you to deliver the service they want.

3. Be flexible.

There are times when a little bit of flexibility will reap rewards for your business in the long-term. Of course you will need to make a judgement call on each individual situation after all you are in business to make a profit, but a little bit of give now and then, particularly when you know you are dealing with a loyal customer, can be a great way to give a customer the feeling off special treatment. For example perhaps honouring a promotion or sales voucher when the deadline has passed or accepting a return even if it doesn’t quite meet your criteria.  Remember it is far more cost-effective to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. So where you can offer customers some flexibility – you’ll find it will be appreciated.

4. Save precious time – pre-empt simple queries

Of course, dealing with customer queries yourself is great for getting to know your customers and for relationship building, but the reality for a small business owner is lack of time means that having to deal with all customer queries is a potential headache. It is essential that you set up a way to deal with the most frequently asked questions and queries – ones that are simple and straightforward to deal with .  This will include simple things like your return policy, shipping times, opening hours, product descriptions, set up instructions and so on.

set up an FAQ page

 

Think about the calls you take and emails your receive.  What are your most frequently asked questions and which ones don’t require a telephone or email response. Set up  FAQ page and put all those kind of queries on to there. Make sure your FAQ page is clearly marked on the website and direct people there in your initial order confirmation emails and paperwork. It will save you time, enabling you to concentrate on the customer queries that require a little more personal attention.

5. Start with ‘sorry’

Even if you seriously question whether you should be saying ‘sorry’ always start your response to any customer complaint by saying that you are sorry that your customer has experienced a problem. This is simple good manners and not an admission that the fault is yours.  It takes the wind out of a customer dissatisfaction and shows that you are genuinely concerned that your customer is unhappy enough to take the time to make a complaint. Acknowledge if you have made a mistake and don’t try to  pass the buck. Your customer isn’t interested in whose fault it is – they just want their complaint listened to and dealt with quickly and efficiently. Remaining polite, well-mannered and professional at all times is essential no matter how frustrating the phone call or email .

6. Have clear guidelines in place

There may be times where other member of your team will need to step in and deal with complaints on your behalf. If this is the case with your small business, then it is imperative that you have clear guidelines in place. Not only on a practical level so that the issue can get resolved in your absence but also in your company’s overall approach to customer service. For example all members of the team should be clear on the kind of service they are expected to offer customers all  such as being friendly, polite, approachable, professional and communicating clearly and effectively.

7. Respond to negative comments

45% of customers share negative reviews on social media and 63% of consumers read negative reviews on social media.

Social media and customer reviews sites mean that even with the best effort in the world you will be faced with a disgruntled customer who will post a negative review. How you handle negative feedback is important. The difference between dealing with an unhappy customer via email or on the phone is that any negative comments posted on social media or customer review sites are there for everybody to see. It is really important to respond quickly and efficiently to comments. Apologise upfront for any inconvenience caused – showing you take the complaint seriously, be honest and remain professional and polite at all times – no matter how unfair you deem the complaint to be. To ensure the comment doesn’t escalate if it is appropriate take the comment offline to deal with – as in the IKEA example below:

 

social media dealing with negative comments

 

Don’t underestimate the importance of great customer service . It doesn’t cost the world and even implementing some simple practices can make a real difference to how you are viewed by customers and potential customers. A little bit of extra effort can pay dividends in the long-term.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on what great customer service means so please do leave a comment. 

 

 

 

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How to offer excellent customer service on social media – 7 best practice tips

social media customer serviceIn the US social networking now accounts for the most time spent on a particular online activity, with the average person spending 37 minutes a day on it. As more and more people interact with social media on a daily basis, it is little wonder that it is becoming a favourite channel for customer services communication.  The beauty of social media is its two-way immediacy. The minute someone posts a comment on your page you are alerted so you can respond equally swiftly.

Many small businesses have embraced social media and it’s become an integral part of a businesses online presence. Indeed, out of the 4.8 million small businesses in the UK nearly 23% earn over £1000 per annum through connecting with customers through social media platforms. Providing a top class customer experience as part of your social media presence is essential as businesses are increasingly recognising that customer services should no longer be just focused around telephone and email.

  • 92% of customers in the UK have left one business for another in the last year due to poor customer service.
  • 71% of customers who have a positive customer service experience via social media are likely to recommend that company
  • If consumers receive good customer service via social media they are likely to spend 21% more
  • Social networks account for the most online activity in the US with an average of 37 minutes a day.
  • 33% of users prefer to contact brands using social media than the telephone.
  • Failure to respond via social media channels can lead to a 15% increase in churn rate for existing customers
  • 71% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service

So as a small business are you confident you are following best practice when it comes to dealing with customer intereacions via your social media platforms?

7 Best practice tips for managing customer service online

1.Swift response

Customers need to feel that you take their concerns seriously.  Of course a prompt response to any customer service issue whether via email, telephone or letter is essential, but with social media speed becomes even more important. The very ‘immediate’ nature of social media is reflected in the time customers will expect you to respond. The speedier the better, particularly where complaints are concerned.

For example econsultancy note that53% of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within one hour. However, if a customer is making complaint to using Twitter, it goes up  72%.

Acknowledging comments as quickly as you can will score your business brownie points in your customers eyes. Whereas a slow response may reflect poorly on your business.

2.Dealing with negative comments.

Nobody likes handling negative comments but they are part-and-parcel of customer interaction. Dealing successfully with adverse communications is an essential part of successful customer service. Unlike telephone and email, when you are responding to negative comments on social media they are out there for everyone to see.  Don’t be tempted to ignore them as then the situation can mushroom out of control. When responding to a negative comment on social media:

  • Apologise upfront. Start with an apology as it shows you take your customers concerns seriously.
  • Be transparent. Don’t try to hide anything. Be upfront and honest about the situation, even if it is your mistake.
  • Don’t pass the person from pillar to post. Commit to dealing with the customer by supplying your name and a clear offer of help
  • Remain calm, polite and professional. No matter how disgruntled your customer, remain polite at all times without getting defensive.
  • Take it offline. When it’s appropriate, take an issue offline to deal with. For example, have a look at IKEA’s Facebook page. As you can imagine the very nature of IKEA’s business and its size means it gets a lot of adverse comments posted on its social media platforms. So when its appropriate they take it offline as in the example below.

social media dealing with negative comments

 

3. Clear and helpful information

In the same way customers visiting your website would expect to find information about your business, so to should your social media presence. Remember your website isn’t necessarily someone’s first experience of your business. Think about what information customers might be looking for. For example:

  • Completed profile pages: Make sure your businesses about us and profile pages are fully completed across all your platforms
  • Clear links. Have clear links to useful customer information such as to your website, FAQ page and contact us page.
  • Post helpful information. Post regular helpful customer services information such as delivery dates, opening times and service updates. This is particularly helpful during holiday periods such as Christmas when there may be a change to normal service. See the helpful example below from online retailer notonthehighstreet.com .

 

 

social media customer service

4.Learn to prioritise

It’s human nature to put off the things we find least enjoyable, and dealing with customer complaints probably falls into that category. However, as we mentioned earlier, the very immediate nature of social media means you have to respond as quickly as possible customers – that means no putting off dealing with the more difficult customer communications. Learning to manage your social media presence, particularly in regard to customer service is an essential skill.  Learn to prioritise how you respond to particular customer interactions.

Prioritise comments that require immediate attention for example, customer complaints, account queries, product issues, sales queries. Other more ‘proactive’ responses such as thanking someone for their feedback, commenting on a post and general queries regarding your business can wait a little longer.

Setting a response target for particular issues can be helpful. Of course it will depend on your business and how much manpower you have but for example, you could aim to respond to high priority queries within 30 minutes and more general queries within an hour. But don’t wait too long to answer any query as you don’t want to turn what started out as a general query into a complaint due to your slow response.

5.Train staff

If you aren’t the only one dealing with with your business on social media,  then you need to ensure you have trained your staff to how to respond appropriately the varied customer interactions.

Good communications skills are essential. How your staff deal with complaints and interact with customers is direct reflection on your business. Make sure you spend time ensuring staff have the key skills required to deal effectively with customers. For example excellent written skills are essential. Poor spelling and grammar won’t give customers much confidence in your business.

Make sure your staff understand the tone you want to set for your business on social media. Obviously it depends on your business and your customers, but even if you take a more informal approach in social media interactions, you and your staff must always remain professional. Making sure your staff understand the balance is important.

6.Personality – humanise your business

Social media is a great way to build your brand personality and bring a human touch to your business.  When someone posts a comment, likes your page or shares something,  thank them and where appropriate open up a discussion. Here are a couple of good examples from IKEA and Boden:

social media customer servie

 

Both Ikea and Boden set the right tone – friendly and not overly formal – keeping with the spirit of the posts.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 10.19.15

 

It’s good to show customers that they are dealing with real people so always add your name in, particularly if you are responding to a customer query or complaint.

7.Embrace customer feedback

Don’t underestimate the great opportunity social media offers your business. It’s a great way to get a feel about a particular product or service and so therefore postively encourage feedback from customers even if it is negative. Showing customers that you value their opinions shows them just how important they are to you. Here is another great example from Boden. Actively thanking customers for their feedback on a new collection even though the feedback is not hugely positive.

social media customer feedback

 

As more and more people use social media a channel for customer services, taking an integrated, multi-channel approach to customer care will ensure that you have covered all your bases and are offering your customers the best possible service. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of social media customer service so please do leave a comment. 

Why you need social media customer service (Infographic)

Social media networkInfographic: Social CRM combines the power of social media with customer relationship management (CRM)

It is no surprise that social media customer service is now a very real, valid and useful communication tool. Businesses small and large alike that choose to ignore customer complaints and inquiries on Twitter, Facebook etc. are increasingly finding themselves in hot water.

Everyday social media users are increasing their usage daily making the importance of this medium that much more essential. If companies want to harvest new business they are practically required to set up a social media CRM (customer relationship management) Department.

Dennis Stoutenburgh, co-founder of Stratus Contact Solutions, a company providing one-to-one customer engagement and multi-channel solutions comments,

“If you’re not engaging customers during the entire product life cycle through social media, you’re missing out. Because someone else will.”

When it comes to any business model, no matter how generational, antiquated thinking may be a bad move when it comes to future success. This is not the time to be a technological ostrich hiding in the sand until the fad passes, this is the time to get on the bus.

The Sleeping Giant

Consumers are becoming more savvy by the second. They are what the Japanese used to call, a “sleeping giant.” When social media customer service is exchanged, in many cases, millions of eyes are could be watching.

Immediate Gratification Generation

In the old CRM model, direct communication meant maybe a phone call; being transferred to a supervisor; or calling the customer back. Now, with an immediate gratification generation poised at the ready, businesses better have an instant answer to any query. In addition, it is a generation that has been raised with everyone getting a trophy. Therefore, it is important to commend and console validating for all to witness.

Pick Your Poison

It’s important to choose the social media platform that works according to each business genre. Whether an in-house social media CRM department is set up or an outside team is used, knowing how each correspondence will be viewed is paramount. For example, if a complaint is posted on Instagram it may not create as much of a negative backlash than if it were viewed on Facebook. Each business needs to decide the level of platforms they want to concentrate on or if they want to cover a broader spectrum, which of course means more expense.

Priority and Monitoring

Response time is now a real statistic that just may determine getting a leg-up on competition. Making a query a priority on social media platforms such as Twitter lets the consumer know that you are part of their world. It is also important to continue a relationship with each social media communication by requesting to follow and especially to respond to their threads.

Once this relationship is set up, monitoring software can show specific consuming patterns for not only the business involved but other businesses as well. By following consumer’s social media path, patterns may emerge that offer advantageous purchasing information.

Maneuver, Influence and Encourage

Social media customer service has an opportunity to use these platforms to immediately connect with their customer base. Setting up fun follow programs, contests and/or free giveaways can bring an influx of new business practically overnight.

With the simplicity of not having to do more than press a virtual button, consumers can be maneuvered into getting involved; influenced by a variety of marketing techniques; and encouraged to recommend friends and family.

Service Topics and Consumer Response

As an example of how social media CRM is responded to by consumers, particular service topics show some interesting numbers (Buffer Social 2/14).

A comparison of service topic response includes three demographics:

A – Do not use social media for customer service.

B – General population

C – Use social media customer service.

 The response is as follows:

Amount of consumers willing to spend more for great service.

A. 11%

B. 13+%

C. 21+%

Amount who aborted a transaction due to poor customer service.

A. 49%

B. 55%

C. 83%

Number of people who will be told of excellent customer service.

A. 9

B. 15

C. 42

Number of people who will be told of bad customer service.

A. 17

B. 24

C. 53

When social media customer service is used and maintained correctly the potential for positive results is practically guaranteed. Embracing this new consumer tool will not only offer an opportunity to increase a bottom line, it just may bring back a “human touch” that many would have never connected to a virtual exchange.

 Continue on to the graphic below to see a more granular breakdown of platforms and user information.

Social media customer service

 

Dave Landry JrGuest Author: Dave Landry

Dave Landry jr. is a financial and marketing adviser for small enterprises. He hopes you enjoy the infographic and accompanying article, and encourages you to hone in and emphasize your social media for customer service strategies as much as possible. You can find more from Dave on Facebook.

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post. Please do leave a comment.

Social network image courtesy of stockimages at freedigitalphotos.com