The Internet has definitely opened a lot of doors for everyone. Known as the great equalizer, the Internet can make millionaires out of self-made businessmen and they can also add millions more to the pocketbooks of already established entrepreneurs. By being an online merchant, overhead costs such as rent are eliminated putting less strain on the wallet of someone who is still starting out. However, just because you are isolated from your clients through a monitor does not mean that customer service in the online setting is dead. Customers, whether online or offline, still want to feel important and valued by entrepreneurs whose businesses rely on them to flourish.
Customer service is an important part of any business because this determines how loyal your customers will be to you. Moreover, customers love to talk, and they can either talk your business up to their family and friends, or they can turn your entire business upside down. Frank Media even goes on to drive the point home by showing that one upset customer can tell 6,000 of his or her online friends about a negative online business experience. When you operate your business entirely through the Internet, customer service becomes trickier to master because you don’t interact with your clients the same way you would if you ran a physical store. Whether you’re thinking of ways to improve your business’ current customer service or if you’re still in the planning stages of trying to start an online store, your business would benefit from the following online customer service techniques.
Develop a Comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Site
Especially if you operate a small business where you are the entrepreneur, sales person and customer service agent all rolled into one, you need to come up with a system that emphasizes self-service without putting that much burden on your customers. So that you don’t have to keep answering online queries from your customers, which can you pull you away from your other functions, you can pre-empt all of the questions your customers would ask you and integrate all of them together with their answers in one FAQ page. You can even include videos and interactive tutorials if it helps your customers. The time you spend in composing a very exhaustive FAQ page will pay off later on in terms of more time for you to manage your business meanwhile keeping your customers happy at the same time. Practical Ecommerce recommends this approach as a number of online vendors have seen great results by employing this strategy.
Treat Each Customer Concern as Urgent
Ever wonder why people love Superman so much? It’s because he is the personification of speedy responsiveness. Whether the problem is a burning building or Lois Lane falling from a helicopter, you can be sure that Superman will be able to save the day in the nick of time. The fact that he shows up promptly whenever he is needed builds confidence in him. You must pattern your customer service strategy on how Superman works. By being prompt in your responses whenever your customers present to you a concern of whatever magnitude, you slowly build a culture that fosters confidence and reliability. While there may be glitches every now and then, your customers will still continue to be loyal to you because they know that you’ll be on top of things in a snap. You can choose to respond to your customers via phone or e-mail. However, the almost real-time element that social media platforms are known for is also something you can take advantage of. Shep Hyken even suggests going further by being proactive and anticipating your customers’ needs.
Use Autoresponders to Thank and Apologize to Your Customers
Inasmuch as you would like to be like Superman in the paragraph above, you realistically won’t be able to respond to every complaint and sale just mere seconds after the message was sent. That is fine; you don’t have to beat yourself up for that. However, that does not excuse you from not acknowledging that the complaint or order was received. This is when autoresponders fit into the picture. An autoresponder will automatically send out a reply to your customers should they shoot you an e-mail. Make a separate account for sales and customer inquiries, and, likewise, set up corresponding autoresponder messages.
For sales, make sure that your message starts with a thank you to your customer. Also detail in your message the specifics of the when the order is expected to reach your customer and what the customer can do should the order not reach him or her by then. If you want to up the customer service factor, you can even add a special surprise like an online coupon redeemable during the customer’s next purchase. On the other hand, if the message is an autoresponse for complaints, then start off by apologizing. Follow through by reassuring your customer that you are going to fix the issue or make a response as soon as you can. Better yet, include a timeframe for when your customer should hear back from you. Entrepreneur advocates doing so.