Even the biggest online traders have customer service problems – often embarrassingly public and at the wrong time of year. Who can forget the infamous Amazon SNAFU from a couple of Christmases ago, when parcels failed to turn up on time, or vanished altogether?
The ecommerce customer expects more, for less. He or she looks for free postage and packing, next day delivery, and prices that beat the instore version hands down. We expect to see big discounts on popular, even luxury items – that, in the mind of the consumer, is what the internet is for. So how is the ecommerce trader to stay afloat? The key lies in finding ways to make customer service promises that really work.
Never say it unless you mean it
A failed offering is a PR disaster. Amazon, which was big enough to cover the costs of its delivery mess, recovered from the bad rep that Christmas gave it. Smaller traders, who can’t afford to offset the price they may have to pay to put delivery problems right, have to box clever.
Don’t say you’ll deliver something tomorrow unless you know you will. Your customers do look for good delivery times – but they also look for items they want at the price they’re prepared to pay. If you’re offering a standard delivery turnaround at a good price, and you fulfil every order within the promised timeframe, your reputation will only get better. If you fail to do what you said you were going to do, you’re in trouble.
Don’t assume your employees know who you are
Tone of voice (TOV) is one of the most important elements to online customer service. In a nutshell: when your customer has no face to face contact, he or she only has your words and images to pin a personality to. The personality of your brand is what sells your products in the first place, so it’s vital that your staff embody the characteristics of your company in every communication they make.
You can hire the best copywriter in the country to give your website a laid back, friendly tone – but if your customer ends up in email contact with a jobsworth, all of that good work is undone in seconds. Teach your employees how to talk like you and your customer service will be more appropriate to your brand.
Don’t hide from bad press
Social media is a force many businesses are still frightened of. Don’t be. Every business runs into problems from time to time, and the best way to solve them is in the open, in full view of all your customers. If a consumer has a complaint, and you deal with it sensibly and well on a social media site, then everyone else connected to you can see how great you are. Use bad press properly and you can turn complaints into commendations.
Insure your deliveries
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? You’d be amazed how few companies understand how to protect themselves against the consequences of a stray delivery. Pay the premiums, and insurers like http://www.goodsintransitdirect.co.uk/ will cover the costs of redelivering if something goes awry.
The Author is an online journalist. His business blogs have been published on more than 150 high profile sites, some of which attract nearly 600,000 unique hits every day. He turned to syndicated blogging in 2005 after his own network of business sites was picked up by a major online news provider.