As I’ve already explained in my previous articles, ecommerce requires a lot of hard work and strategic planning in order to achieve an excellent level of customer service. You see, customers may not be screaming at your face, but it is possible that they are writing negative reviews about your product on blogs, forums, Yelp, etc. These online reviews could give you a competitive advantage, but it could also potentially kill your business. Remember, whatever your customers tweet or share about your business in social media is visible to the public.
Do you know that only a small percentage of unsatisfied customers complain directly to sellers? A big number of them would simply stop shopping from your online store, or they would just update their Facebook status about your bad customer service. This means that your online reputation is possibly being damaged without your knowledge.
Let’s divide ecommerce customer service into two departments: front and back end.
Front End – This is what your customers see. It is the overall design of your web store, site navigation, shopping cart, ecommerce platform, and payment gateway. Basically, it is the storefront where you merchandise your product.
Back End – This is what happens behind the scenes of your web store. It includes order management, shipping, accounting, and fulfillment. Basically, this is where you ensure that everything is functioning properly.
These two departments must function cohesively and simultaneously to ensure that your ecommerce store is providing a positive customer experience. It would be a serious mistake to invest all your resources and time in just one aspect. Put simply, your entire customer service strategies should be focused on both front and back end.
Common Ecommerce Front End Issues
- Customers struggling with functionality of website
- Customers find bugs in shopping cart
- Customers requesting for support during wee hours
- Customers having account login issues
- Customers getting confused with site navigation menu
- Customers submitting order more than once
- Customers not knowing the process of placing an order
Making the front end of your web store as inviting as possible is crucial. Ask yourself, how do customers feel when they reach your website? Have you tried visiting your competitors’ website? Is your website easy to facilitate? Do customers feel safe when they use your shopping cart and make payments?
These are just some of the questions should be asking yourself constantly. Continuous web development is the key advantage to optimize front end customer service. You should never stop in improving your web store. Keep yourself updated with the latest technology in ecommerce. The secret also is to pick the right ecommerce platform right from the beginning. If you do it correctly the first time, you can spare yourself from costly mistakes.
Now let’s go to the other side of ecommerce customer service – your back end. This is as equally important as your storefront. If something went wrong behind the scenes, then you can expect that customers will also be unsatisfied. Your internal processes have a direct effect to how your front end is performing.
Common Ecommerce Back End Issues
- Handling of shipping orders
- Using a platform that lacks ecommerce performance metrics
- Giving staff the right amount of administrative control
- Difficulty in customizing the title tag of each web page
- Managing store, updating product colors/sizes/descriptions, storing of customer information
I cannot offer a generic solution to such issues. I tell my clients that every ecommerce business is unique and is catering to consumers of varying needs and expectations. That is why it is essential to take time and analyze the issue before coming up with long-term solutions. But I do have some tips to improve the customer experience on your ecommerce store:
- Contact – Shopping online is different with shopping in person. Since customers are not able to inspect the items personally, they may have some questions before they decide to make a purchase. Dedicate a page for the information on how customers can contact you. Live chat is a very effective tool that allows site visitors to instantly ask questions.
- Real-time – Be sure to reply to inquiries within an hour. If you can’t be online on a 24/7 basis, provide an email address where they can send their concerns. You should specify the number of hours or days they can expect to receive a response.
- Automate – Collate what common questions are being asked by your site visitors and create a plan on how you can automate the process for answering such concerns. You can also include this information on your FAQ or TOS page.
- Returns – A clear return policy is essential to a great customer service otherwise, your site visitors would hesitate to make a purchase. They should be able to return items that didn’t match their expectations like wrong size, wrong color, wrong style, etc. However, you also have to ensure that these policies are not abused.
- Stocks – Remove out of stock items from your product list. When customers place a product on their basket or shopping cart, and they find out that it is out of stock once they checked out, this is a sure fire way to annoy a customer. So, if an item is already out of stock, be sure to remove it or to make it available.
- Buttons – You are risking your sales if your buttons for “check out” or “add to cart” are not visible to visitors. If they need to scroll down a lot to find these buttons, you will surely lose sales. Make them as prominent as possible.
- On-site Search – Visitors should be able to find products/items by typing keywords on your search box. It should show accurate results even if the customer misspelled a keyword. Related products should also show up.
Many young entrepreneurs fail to recognize this, but we all know it. In ecommerce, you only have one chance with each customer. It’s not enough that you are answering every phone call from shoppers who have a complaint or have an inquiry. It’s not enough that your web store is fancy-looking. It’s not enough that your product is great. If they’re unsatisfied with your service, they can easily find another ecommerce store that offers the same types of product.
So, you must struggle to provide an excellent service to consumers at a cost that make sense to your company. If you are really serious about running a successful ecommerce business, you must take your customers seriously. They may be “virtual” but they are not imaginary, they are real breathing people. Never underestimate their expectations. If you do this, you are at risk of losing not just sales but your position in the industry as well.
Written by: Shirley Tan