The world of business has transformed in the last thirty or so years with the tremendous growth of the internet, e-commerce and online marketing. Indeed, the web has become so influential that it is estimated around 70% of all consumers now begin their shopping journeys with an online search, further highlighting just how integral the web has become in business and retail decisions.
The benefits of operating online are undeniable and the internet has allowed companies big and small to compete on a level playing field and expand into new markets on a local, national and even international level.
However, while the web and other associated online services have brought tremendous advantages to business owners in terms of expansion and reach, it has also led to decreased one-on-one, face-to-face interactions between firms and their consumers, which raises questions about how companies can still provide adequate customer service.
The Importance of Good Customer Service
In today’s fast-moving, cut-throat online landscape, providing good customer service is more important than ever and can often be the deciding factor between making a sale or a prospective client walking away. The statistics gathered from recent research make for very interesting reading:
- Following good customer service, 52% of consumers go on to buy from the same company again with 51% recommending the firm to others. It was also found that, on average, US consumers will tell 11 other people about their positive experience.
- Conversely, of those clients that receive bad customer service, 59% will never use the company again and 55% will look at working with a rival firm. Moreover, the average American will tell 15 other people about their bad experience.
Clearly, customer service is vital if your firm is to expand its client base and reach into new markets – but just how can you maintain a good customer experience with so little personal contact and the increasing levels of automation now used in web technologies?
How Social Media and Review Services Are Tipping the Balance Further
In the age of social media and customer review sites, it is now easier than ever for your clientele to spread opinions about your goods and services – potentially to 100’s or even 1000’s of other clients. All it takes is one bad review or rating to significantly affect your reputation and ranking in these client feedback services – while a bad review on social media can potentially spread like wildfire.
Sites like Trustpilot, Feefo and Shopper Approved are great if you are getting good ratings, but they can sink a company if it consistently receives bad reviews. For this reason, if you fall victim to negative feedback, you must address the problem quickly.
While no firm likes to see bad comments, this feedback can often provide a good barometer in terms of how your customers view the service you are providing. So rather than burying your head in the sand, you should isolate where the issues arose and find ways to make sure the same mistakes never happen again.
Tips and Tricks to Maintain a Good Customer Experience
As with so many other areas of life, prevention is the best cure and keeping your customer service levels high is the best way to avoid problems appearing in the first place. Below are a few tried and tested tips used by companies recognized for offering a great client experience:
Start by creating a positive shopping experience: With the rise of automation, e-commerce and price-matching technologies, in many cases, there is now very little to differentiate brands from one another. However, research shows that the purchasing experience has become one of the biggest influencing factors on purchasing decisions in recent years. A surprising 79% of consumers report being more likely to shop with a firm that cares about them – and one of the best ways to do that is by creating a positive shopping experience. If you run an e-commerce store, this means making the purchasing journey as quick, intuitive and personal as possible. For example, you could think about integrating a live chat service onto your website to engage with users the minute they hit your pages. Meanwhile, if you operate a real-world store, the potential to have face-to-face interactions makes it considerably easier to create an overall great experience by using demos, positive sales talk, and so on. For a great example of how stores have evolved over the years, one need only look at the Apple model, where its shops are less about sales and instead have become more about education, experience, support and community.
Always greet clients by name: There is no greater way to personalize the retail consumer-business relationship than by greeting your clients by name. Whether you are communicating in person, by email or over the phone, using a client’s name helps humanize the shopping experience.
Thank your clients: It is widely accepted that a company’s staff is its greatest asset, however, running a very close second is a firm’s clients. Your customers are the reason your company exists – they are the lifeblood that keeps you afloat – so thanking them once in a while should really come as second nature. Nonetheless, it is surprising just how many firms fail to show their customers how much they value them. Research shows that approximately 60% of companies lose clients by making them feel undervalued or that the firm is indifferent towards them. Thank you emails or hand-written notes in packages, etc can go a very long way to showing your clientele just how much you appreciate them and their business.
Make your emails/email replies personalized: Automated email replies can buy you time when you are busy but unless your firm reaches stratospheric customer volumes, you should always try to personalize your replies. Also, when it comes to mail shots or email marketing, make sure you use software that allows you to at least address the client by name. Many modern email marketing software packages now allow you to single out clients by previous purchasing habits or interests meaning you can further personalize your message.
Use Customer Relationship Management software: If you want to stay truly on top of your game when it comes to customer service, in today’s largely automated environment, there simply is no substitute for integrating Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software into your processes. A CRM package will allow you to hand-hold clients from their first point of contact right through the entire purchasing journey into after-sales care and beyond.