Online Success through Customer Service

Having a successful online business means you have to serve many people.  Developing a servant mentality is critical to growing your online business.

One aspect of the servant mentality I am going to talk about is Customer Service.  People purchasing products online have come to expect the same customer service they experience at retail stores.  By providing excellent customer service experience you will strengthen customer relationships and make them advocates for your business.

Some of the strongest online businesses became giants by focusing on customer service.  Zappos.com for instance was just another Internet shoe store.  There were many brick and mortar shoe stores that also had an online presence. How could an Internet startup with no physical store to allow customers to hold products even think they could compete with the many established shoe stores that have been around for decades?  The answer is superior customer service!  I have outlined how you can provide superior customer service for your customers.

Here’s how:

1.    Win the customer’s hearts and minds to obtain word of mouth benefits to help you build your business.

For example a lady called Zappos.com to return her husband’s boots because he had passed away. Zappos.com processed the return and sent flowers the next day. I’m confident in saying that the lady became an advocate for their company after that.  The mere fact that I’m repeating this story is testimony to Zappos.com’s superior customer service.

Remember to be a person first and treat all your customers with respect and kindness just like you would friends and family.

2.    Systems and Procedures for consistent customer experience.

Did you ever go to a restaurant a number of times and each time the experience was different?  If so you probably stopped going there because your customer experience was hit or miss.  On the other hand McDonalds Corporation is the master of Systems and Procedures.  Regardless of the location of McDonalds you know what the experience will be like every time you go there.  That is one of the reasons McDonalds is so successful.

When you are building your online business you should develop Systems and Procedures for every aspect of your business.  There are volumes that can be written on this topic.  To learn more about Systems and Procedures I recommend a book called The E Myth by Michael Gerber.

3.    Follow-up with a thank you and ask how you can serve your customers better.

All business comes down to how well you build your relationship with your customers.  Whether your customers are inquiring or purchasing products from you thank them and ask how you can serve them better.  Collect customer feedback and overtime implement commonly requested changes to better serve your customers.

4.    Give corrective feedback.

Let customers know that you have made changes to better accommodate there needs.  I know when I hear back from companies that they have implemented changes to better serve the customer I feel more confident in purchasing products from them in the future.

For example I purchased an e-product that became outdated from an online retailer.  When online retailer updated the product they sent me a free copy of the update.  I am now an advocate for that online retailer.

5.    Be proactive and not reactive.

If you begin to notice an insufficient component occurring in your business address the issue immediately.  Do not let it linger!

Resolve the issue before the customer brings it to your attention. Your reputation is on the line. You must always deliver the best possible customer experience.

6.    Let customers know you care.

When you have an online business with hundreds or thousands of people it can be extremely difficult to maintain many relationships even with all the social media tools.  Make announcements on your site or send emails thanking all your customers for their support and business.

A couple of times per year hand select a customer or two and give them personal attention and access to your products for free.  You could even hold a drawing for this to create some buzz about your business.  Expect nothing in return.  Your reputation and business will expand by word of mouth by doing this.

7.    Anticipate questions by building a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

The FAQ page will continuously be a work in progress. As time goes you will be able to direct customers to your FAQ page.

8.    Respond quickly to customers.

When customers submit a question you should have an automatic reply telling them their question is very important to you, give them a time frame they can expect to hear back from you and finally have a link to your FAQ page.  Depending on the volume of questions developing a process to handle them in a hierarchical manner is key to being productive with your customer service efforts.  All questions are important but you need to weed out time wasters too.  I typically answer existing customer questions first then sales questions and answer information gatherer questions last.

9.    Hold your customer’s hand during their experience with your business.

Never assume anything.

Each customer’s needs are different.  You will have some customers that are more advanced than others.  Not all customers are the same.  Some may need instructions on how to get started using your site or product.  Some may not need any assistance with your site or product.  You may need to consider dividing your customers into beginner, intermediate and advanced groups to better serve them.  Then put procedures in place for serving each segment.

10.    Don’t sound harsh in your email responses.

It is easy to sound cold in emails.  When you respond to your customers take time to make it personal like you are talking to a friend.

For example I asked for help from an online store inquiring about a product.  When they replied to me four days later the answer was short and abrasive. At that point I went elsewhere.

That company does not even realize they lost a sale because they were not personable in their response. Imagine how much business they have lost because they are not personable? With that said be friendly and humble with your customer correspondence.

In conclusion these steps will put you on the right path to delivering superior customer service to help expand your business. You must believe that the customer is king because without them you do not have a business. The key to customer service is attitude. Some customers can be extremely difficult and challenging. You must not take anything personally. Take professional corrective action with the utmost respect for your customer. The customers that are a pleasure to deal with will make your business worthwhile and they help keep your enthusiasm for building the business further.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Thank you for taking the time to read it.

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Tom Sasnauskas is an entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience focusing on Information Technology and Small Business. Tom helps people learn both topics with his expert advice at Understand IT Now and Job Talk Today.

Comments

  1. Julia says:

    Thanks for the tips guys, this is really great information.

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