Keep Them Coming Back: 4 Essential Tips to Delivering Great Customer Service Online & Offline

25 Aug 2017 9 min read

Just last year, online sales in Australia exceeded $20 billion; a 16.9% increase from 2015 and a rate of growth that is five times that of traditional retail spending. But despite the increase in online spending, pure-play online retailers are struggling to secure customer trust to win the dollar, with Australians’ preferring to purchase from online stores of traditional retailers - like JB Hi-Fi or Myer - rather than an online-only store.

And with customers able to leave your store for a competitors’ in a single click, creating a top-notch customer service strategy that keeps your customers on your site, keeps them happy, and keeps them coming back again and again, is more important than ever.

Luckily, this doesn’t have to be a hard, time consuming task. There are lots of tools that can help you deliver world class customer service to your customers - many of them you will find right within your ecommerce platform. Here’s a list of some key things to consider when putting together a customer service strategy that will take your business to the next level.

1. Answer Questions Before They’re Asked

Customer ‘support’ can come in a variety of ways and a typical customer has many interactions with your brand before reaching out to customer service. Make your customers’ lives easier and build trust by offering a range of tools and resources that can answer questions and provide relevant information at every touchpoint. For example:

  • Use FAQ pages to list answers to the top questions your customer service team receive
  • Add a search bar to the top navigation of your site to allow customers to easily find info or a product
  • Develop free online resources like blogs, webinars, tip sheets and guides

Add these elements to your site to not only help customers help themselves, but to avoid frustration and reduce the number of enquiries for your customer service team down the track.

2. Use a Mix of Online and Offline Customer Service Channels

Although traditional customer service channels like the phone are important, they tend to give ‘customer service’ a bad wrap because of long wait times and lack of personalisation (not to mention the tedious hold music). Plus, many customers just don’t want to pick up the phone and talk to someone anymore. But it’s not all bad news. Live online chat services like Intercom, Zendesk, and Facebook Messenger are turning the tables for customer service teams by providing instant support for customers, often around the clock. A whopping 75% of online customers expect help within the first five minutes of needing it, which is why live chat tools report the highest level of customer satisfaction of all customer service channels.

How does live chat work?

Typically live chat boxes pop up immediately or soon after a customer opens a webpage, offering support services beginning with a friendly greeting like ‘Hi my name is John, if you have any questions at any time I’m here to help!’ Or, customers simply click on the online chat portal to initiate the interaction themselves. Live chat is non-invasive, less formal than other channels (think smiley faces and conversational language), allows customers to have their queries or issues resolved quickly and can be a great way to upsell or cross sell.

Intercom Live Chat box - offers non-invasive support
Live chat offers quick and personalised customer service for your online store.

Increase efficiency with chatbots

Chatbots are automated programs powered by rules and Artificial Intelligence that simulate conversation with a human (but don’t worry they’re not taking over the world). You can use bots to:

  • Initiate conversation, address simple requests and identify the nature of a request before allocating it to the correct person or department
  • Increase speed and accuracy
  • Build brand trust and personalise your customer’s experience
  • Gather insights - bots learn and improve their responses over time, providing intelligence to your business

A word of warning: although chatbots are useful for quick responses, they’re not failsafe and many instances still call for real human responses. Effective chatbots will recognise when a customer is dissatisfied with its responses and request a human to take over the interaction.

Do I need to offer phone support?

Don’t ditch the phone just yet! Although online communication tools like live chat are growing in popularity, Google reports that 61% of customers still prefer to pick up the phone to talk to a business about a purchase.

Calls are 10-15 times more likely to generate sales than online form submissions, so phone support that is easily accessible and well-equipped to handle customer enquiries is crucial to your customer service strategy.

Tip: Being transparent and offering choice to customers who call - like countdown timers or call back options will increase their sense of control (and satisfaction) with the interaction.

3. Make Returns, Refunds and Exchanges Easy

Just because you sell online, offering refunds, returns and exchanges doesn’t have to be a pain - for you or the customer. Establishing a clear policy on refunds, returns and exchanges and making it accessible for your customers (e.g. clearly available on the website) is the first step to build confidence.

Sally the savvy shopper will be much more likely to purchase a dress from your online store if she knows she can easily return or exchange it if it doesn’t fit. Offer easy returns via post, or if you also have a physical store, why not give customers the option to return the product in-store?

Keeping track of your stock and backend can be a challenge particularly with refunds, returns and exchanges, but tools like Neto all-in-one retail management platform help you keep track of your stock in real time from the same platform you use to run your online, retail or eBay stores, syncing your online and offline stores and helping you to meet customer demand while reducing costs.

4. Manage Complaints and Measure Customer Satisfaction

If a customer doesn’t complain, does it mean they’re satisfied with their experience? Nope. For every customer who complains, there are 26 who don’t. And it gets worse; a dissatisfied customer will tell - on average - nine to 15 others about their negative experience. But, complaints should be treated as an opportunity - to improve your business or service, find a resolution and delight the customer. Establishing a process for managing complaints, having channels available for customers to give their feedback and measuring your success is really important to your overarching customer service strategy.

Actively ask for feedback

Feedback surveys or forms are a simple way to understand how well you’re addressing and resolving customer queries and can be simple star ratings, Net Promoters Scores, or more detailed questionnaires.

You can ask for feedback at a variety of touchpoints with the customer:

  • After a support interaction via phone, live chat or email
  • Feedback / complaint webforms
  • Direct email campaigns
  • At the end of a support/knowledgebase article e.g. ‘Was this helpful’ ‘Yes/No’
Customer feedback on Neto help article - Did this make sense?
Ask for feedback at the end of help or blog articles with quick surveys.

Keep it consistent

Over the course of a customer’s lifecycle or sometimes even when resolving a single issue, a customer might speak to you via phone, live chat, email, and social media. If you are using multiple channels and multiple customer service representatives to deliver awesome customer service, how can you keep track of these interactions and remain on-brand? Here’s some tips:

  • Structure your responses the same way across all your channels
  • Track each customer enquiry or interaction in your CRM or customer support software to prevent customers having to repeat themselves to different representatives in your business
  • Send frequent email updates to your customers throughout their journey to instil confidence and trust e.g. invoices, receipts and updates on their order

However you choose to offer world-class customer service, ensuring your strategy aims to help your customers achieve what they need from your business is most important.

Neto is the only Australian retail management platform that provides a complete solution for Ecommerce, Point of Sale, Inventory and Fulfilment. Our integrated back-end technology enable exceptional and consistent customer experience via any channel, be it in store, online, or through a marketplace.

If you would like to know how to wow your customers beyond customer service, check out our blog post on ways to surprise and delight your customers on a budget.