by Pam Sissons
(*This post was updated in July 2021)
Excellent Online Customer Service: Not Just For eCommerce Anymore!
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic changed everything, including the importance of excellent online customer service.
Suddenly your computer was your lifeline to your kids schooling, your food shopping (and shopping for everything else), your business and work life, your doctor and veterinarian, not to mention family and social connections. The ‘personal touch’ of superior customer satisfaction was instantly a ‘thing’. The fact is, all website owners would benefit from exploring and implementing customer-centric practices. Excellent customer service features for businesses online is no longer just the goal of online retail and ecommerce. Everyong – from candy companies to child care to landscaping companies – need to up their game to connect with current and new clients and customers.
This is what I posted on my Facebook page:
I was shocked to see the response it got…so many people chimed in that they had the same or similar experience, that customer service is non-existent, that they could identify with it. I got a number of “Good for you’s” that implied they have been subject to this type of behavior themselves in the past, and wanted to do the same thing.
The thing is, visitors to your website may be experiencing that same sort of feeling! You may be turning customers away from your business before you ever even know it, leaving them feeling frustrated, annoyed, excluded, disappointed, or even insulted. (Consumer Reports National Research Center lists the top customer complaints!) No matter how spectacular your website design, there are many reasons why people discount a website after just landing on it:
- Don’t immediately see what they came to the site for
- Can’t find what they want on the website – no organization
- Get lost and can’t find their way back to where they started
- Can’t get the product/service information they are looking for
- Links don’t work
- Language and content is inappropriate or not at the right level
- No contact information readily accessible
- Site loads slow, pictures don’t load, the click on something and it takes them off the site…the list goes on
Even if your website is not a shopping cart, and you sell your products and services in a brick and mortar store or use your website as a lead generation tool, a strong digital customer service approach can represent your business in a way that nothing else can. Well, except for you!
Best Customer Experience & Website Usability
Since I did a lot of my shopping online this year, I got thinking about the experiences I had in that environment. Pretty much across the board, online shopping was moderately easier in some instances when it came to getting my questions answered, finding the facts/information I needed, making returns, etc. I’m a hugely strong proponent of shopping where you live, but when it comes to customer service the online shopping space really had it goin’ on.
Think LL Bean.
What does everyone say about them when they talk about ordering products from LL Bean? That you can return them no questions asked. That’s the guarantee they built their business on from the very beginning. The sequel to that is that even though their online business has grown to be huge, their focus remains on a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee and “Outstanding Customer Service Direct From Maine“.
The LL Bean website is a bit outdated in appearance, but it doesn’t matter. When you call that number, you get the most attentive, helpful, knowledgeable person you could possibly ask for, with what we refer to as the “Down East low-key cheery” persona. Once they pick up the phone they’re with you till they find it, fix it, or figure it out.
If you’ve never heard of MeUndies, prepare to be dazzled. This shopping and subscription underwear website has all the pieces in place. Their website is simple, clean, incredibly easy to navigate and tells a compelling story from the minute you land on the home page. Photos, videos, customer-submitted images, a presentation of their sustainable product manufacturing and referral incentives actually turn this whole website into an online FAQ for their product line.
Their Help page? “Ask Us Anything” And they mean it…when you call the number, they are gracious, helpful and responsive. Members of this subscription club feel like their business is invaluable to this company.
If you wear contacts, you know the feeling of panic when you realize you thought you had another box of them, but nope, you’re down to a matter of a couple of days. Or less. At 1-800-Contacts, they are always on the other end of the phone to help. Their website provides information on how to read your prescription, an easy-to-browse FAQ page, and an online Chat if you have questions.
They make everything easy…you can even text your prescription to them. 1-800-Contacts offers some of the best online customer service out there. Their phone support reps are terrific…warm, polite and responsive on the phone.
Best Practices For Stellar Customer Service On Your Website
Customer service is arguably the biggest problem businesses face right now, as evidenced by the visceral responses my Facebook post generated. People want it. They crave it. They appreciate it. So give it to them.
How can you provide exceptional online customer service in 2016? If you aren’t LL Bean, and you don’t have a ton of money to pay people to answer your phones and you don’t see them face to face frequently at all, how can you provide excellent customer service through your website?
- Connect with your market. Tell your story, just like LL Bean and MeUndies have done. Who are you? Did you start your business in your garage? Did you get to where you are by extraordinary means? Does your company have a history? What makes you unique, and why should someone want to buy from you instead of the guy down the street or on the other side of the country? Put a “face” on your website…and your business.
- What makes you different? What’s awesome about your product? Is it bigger? Faster? Cooler? More beautiful? Are you offering something completely new or improved? Is it your customer service?
- Answer the questions! Do your visitors and yourself a favor, and answer as many questions for them as you can up front. A robust FAQ section can support you in many ways: a) you make it clear you know all about your product, b) you avoid frivolous calls for things that they can easily find, and c) your leads and contacts will already be more knowledgeable once they do connect with a question.
- Connect. Ultimately, customer service is a personal undertaking on part of both the company and the customer. They know what they want or need, and you have the means to provide it. Consider diving into your social media space…we mean really diving in, creating a place where you can give them help, solve a problem, respond to any issues and create a loyal “customer evangelist”. (See this post from Quicksprout! on how to keep your customers long term)
Use The Tools
Designing a website or digital environment for the best customer experience possible can be enhance in a number of different ways.
- Make your contact information easily visible…however you want them to connect with you, make it attractive and inviting
- Consider a 1-800 number
- Customer chat software is a great way to go for some companies.
- Follow up those customers service calls with an email
Most important: when they do contact you, put a smile in your voice (or in your email). Be polite. Thank them for contacting you, and give them full and complete responses to their inquiry. And follow up! That’s one of the best ways to earn and keep loyal customers.
Be sure to your local customers support your small businesses! Contact us for information on local and digital marketing strategies, or give us a call at (518) 222-6285 for information on affordable website design packages and digital marketing solutions.
Happy New Year!