Posted on February 26, 2008
Filed Under (General) by jennifer

Just about any e-tailer or e-commerce business owner you ask will tell you that the customer is number one. But as surveys of online shoppers have shown (heck, just recall the last time you shopped online or ask the person in the next cube or your friends and neighbors), that’s not always the case.

To find out what great online customer service is all about, I spoke with Lauren Freedman, the president of the e-tailing group; an analyst at JupiterResearch who covers customer relations/service; and small business owners just like you. You can read the results of my findings, as well some great customer service stories, by reading my article, “Customer Service with a Virtual Smile,” which was just posted on Ecommerce-Guide.com today (Feb. 26).

In a hurry and just want some quick tips? Here you go:

Top 10 Tips for Exceptional Online Service on a Budget:

Tip #1: Provide a toll-free/800 number on your home page, merchandise pages, contact page, and checkout pages.

Tip #2: Make sure you have people who are familiar with your products answering the phone(s) and that they answer calls in a timely fashion. As anyone who has ever been put on hold can attest to, five minutes can seem like an eternity.

Tip #3: Make your contact information easy to find and provide an e-mail address for customers who prefer to ask questions via e-mail. As with phone calls, make sure e-mails are answered promptly, if possible within 24 hours of receipt if received during normal business hours.

Tip #4: Include a return policy, privacy policy and a guarantee (regarding quality, security and/or shipping) on your site.

Tip #5: Provide a detailed, easy-to-find list of frequently asked questions (FAQs). Having excellent, comprehensive FAQs that really address customer issues is a great time and money saver, said Freedman, as the better the FAQs the less questions customers will have to call or e-mail you about.

Tip #6: Make checkout easy, and include a variety of payment options, such as PayPal and Google Checkout, in addition to traditional credit cards. Per the e-tailing group study, on the sites with the best customer service, customers clicked no more than six times from selection of product through checkout.

Tip #7: Provide online order confirmation and send an e-mail confirmation with the order number and contact information.

Tip #8: Let customers know when their order has been shipped. Order tracking has become very popular and allows customers to see the progress of their order.

Tip #9: Make sure orders are delivered on time. While this is given as the ninth tip, a late or undelivered order is often the top reason for a customer telephone call or e-mail and why they may not do business with you again, particularly if the order was needed by a certain date or the customer paid extra for overnight or two-day shipping.

Tip #10: Provide a personal touch or a little something extra. Although this is the last tip, in many ways it is what customers remember most.

Have a customer service story or tip you’d like to share? Post a comment!

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