There have been numerous studies and statistics proving that long-term and repeat customers are more productive to a business than new customers!  Successful businesses must focus on delivering quality customer service that translates to customer loyalty and retention.

In a 2010 Harvard Business Review article, Mathew Dixon, Karen Freeman and Nicholas Toman state that

“Research shows, loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic, even plain-vanilla promises than on how dazzling the service experience might be”.

They further reported findings of a study by the Customer Contact Council, a division of the Corporate Executive Board, which found that

“First, delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does. Second, acting deliberately on this insight can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and decrease customer churn”.

Web 2.0, advancement in mobile technology, and social media have taken a lot of businesses online and into the virtual space as that is where consumers are on a daily basis. With 3.9 billion internet users Worldwide, online is the new marketplace.  Whether you still maintain a brick and mortar business but have an online presence or operate solely as an online business, developing an effective customer service strategy is essential to the survival of your business online and offline.

A dissatisfied customer of a brick and mortar business will tell 10 people according to studies while a happy customer will tell one or two.  These disadvantageous statistics can be more disastrous for an online business as the web has truly made the World a global village.  A dissatisfied online client can damage the reputation of a business tremendously by leaving negative comments, reviews and blog posts that other potential customers will find when looking for your business online.

Achieving Excellent Online Customer Service Strategy

Achieving effective and quality customer service is not an easy fit. It requires developing sound systems and processes which are continuously monitored and improved.  Your experience and interactions with customers will also help you shape the most appropriate service for your unique clientele.  Here are some tips and suggestions to help you develop an effective customer service strategy for your online business:

Build Speed Into Your Processes

Think turnaround time!

How long does it take you to respond to messages, answer inquiries, acknowledge, and fulfill orders? Online customers are constantly on the move and processing a lot of content.  Your ability to respond rapidly greatly affects the perceived convenience of your business and overall customer satisfaction.

Improve your response and turnaround times by:

  • Automating various processes such as acknowledgments, order confirmation, invoicing and receipt.
  • Developing scripts and canned responses to use in responding to frequently asked questions and inquiries
  • Leveraging technology and software for notifications and reminders.
  • Going mobile! Use mobile apps and features to ensure you manage your online business on the go.

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Offer Ease & Convenience

Simplify your processes and offer convenient options for customers to interact with your organization and acquire your products or services.  The first step in offering ease and convenience is making it easy for people to contact you.  Place your contact information, business address, opening hours, and other relevant operational information visibly on your website and social media platforms.

Take advantage of push-notification and mobile adaptations to make calling you a push away when customers access your page on a mobile device. Also, enable mapping so that customers on mobile can get directions to your business.

Derek Gehl suggests developing a comprehensive FAQ page to address common customer inquiries and issues.  This information allows customers to quickly resolve their own issues, improves the perceived convenience of dealing with your organization, and reduces the amount of time you spend responding to inquiries.

Be Social

Online businesses are built on customer engagement and interaction.  Set up relevant social media profiles to interact with customers and potential customers online.  The decision on which social media platforms to be present on is dependent on your target market and objective.

Various social media platforms have their unique attributes and features.  Your decision to be on some or all social media platform should be guided by your overall brand strategy.  You may also choose to be on various platforms and use each platform differently.

To illustrate, while the 120 characters of Twitter constrain users to provide short update-like information, Facebook posts allow more elaborate posts, and Instagram provides a visual platform to showcase products and services.  A clothing line may decide to use Twitter to post updates and comment on events in the fashion industry, use Facebook as a platform set up groups or forums to engage customers while showcasing its unique designs, and real-life versions of designs on Instagram.

Going Further

Jennifer Lonoff Schniff of CIO in an article discussing how E-commerce businesses can improve customer service states that just having a social media and online presence is not enough to offer quality customer service.

Organizations must “develop and manage reactive (solving an issue), proactive (educating at scale) and preemptive (addressing potential issues before they arise) social customer care programs”.

Online businesses must resolve complaints and issues effectively to limit bad reviews and impressions.  Develop content that educates consumers on the effectiveness and usage of products and services; anticipate likely issues and put mechanisms in place for resolving them. Being a reactive, proactive and preemptive organization can be achieved by:

  • Having dedicated inquiry, complaints, and helplines that customers can easily reach for assistance
  • Collating common issues and challenges using your product and services and addressing all in a comprehensive FAQ session
  • Developing a process guide/checklist for customer service personnel to ensure service delivery is uniform
  • Developing value-adding content that educates consumers about your product, service, and industry
  • Conducting product demos and testers to showcase your product
  • Offering guarantees and warranties on products

Conclusion

Customer Service is essential to every business – online and offline. Online businesses are faced with greater challenges in the virtual space as consumers are more demanding and want service to be instant and convenient.  Online shoppers want the convenience of satisfying their wants and needs without leaving their homes or offices. Therefore, online businesses must focus on streamlining their processes and operations to seamlessly deliver convenience.

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