Regardless of how smoothly your online business may be running, customer service difficulties are inevitable. Unfortunately, one dissatisfied customer can broadcast his or her experience all over the internet with little regard for fairness or accuracy, and few people are willing to purchase from a company they do not trust.
Want to prevent this from happening to your store? Read on for six tips to prevent negative word-of-mouth, create customer loyalty, and build brand confidence.
1. Stop problems before they happen.
Try to describe your products or services in a manner that anticipates customers’ questions. If some aspects of your business are highly detailed or complicated, create an organized Frequently Asked Questions page. Be honest and forthright, even if it might drive away a few sales. No one likes to feel duped into buying something that is not right for them.
In the long run, purchases made because of misunderstandings can hurt your bottom line more than they help because such customers will probably never buy from you again, and they may scare other potential customers away. If you have ever purchased on eBay, think about how important the feedback segment is in your decision-making. Always ask yourself what kind of company you feel comfortable purchasing from, and strive to be that kind of company.
2. Offer multiple contact method options for different types of customers.
Since you will not be able to prevent all problems from happening, be sure that your customers can contact you in a manner that is convenient for them when problems do happen. The inability to contact a merchant about a dissatisfying purchase is one of the most frustrating experiences any consumer can go through, and such customers crave assurance that they have not been swindled. For these situations, provide an immediate mode of contact, such as a telephone number or live chat service with your hours of operation displayed nearby.Naturally, it is not practical for all businesses to offer round-the-clock live service, and not all issues are pressing anyway, so offer at least one email address or an email submission form. Also, it is easy to forget that some of your potential customers are not yet fully comfortable with online shopping and email correspondence. They might prefer to contact you by post or by fax.
Providing as many contact options as possible tells customers that you truly want to help them, and assures them that your business is legitimate. Remember to keep all of your contact information prominently displayed and up-to-date. If your customers have to dig too deeply to find a way to contact you, or if the contact information you provide is inaccurate, customers might get the impression that you do not want to be bothered, in which case they might not feel like bothering you with a purchase.
3. Respond promptly.
Try to answer emails and voicemails within 24 hours. If that’s not possible, let customers know through your voice messaging system or with a pre-written email response when they can expect you to contact them. Never offer a response time if you cannot follow through on it. If you fail to live up to your promises, customers may feel that their business is not important to you, or they may even feel that you have lied to them. The fewer attempts your customers have to make to contact you, the more satisfied they will be when they succeed. Remember: your ability to address concerns quickly and efficiently affects your customers’ opinions of your competence.
4. Display a return policy that is easy to find and easy to understand.
Even if customers do not intend to return a product when they purchase, just knowing that the merchandise is returnable can convince them that it’s safe to buy from you. If certain items are not returnable, don’t be shy about sharing that information. Keep in mind that most people are naturally hesitant to give their money away for any reason. They need to have confidence in you to overcome this instinct.
If you do not accept returns or at least let customers know pre-purchase which aspects of your business are non-refundable, their fear of being stuck with something they cannot use may sway them against buying, no matter how much they want to. Remember that customers cannot hold your merchandise in their hands; they base their decisions on your pictures and descriptions. This is why it is essential that you be as clear and as detailed as possible about what you offer.
5. Offer a quality guarantee and enforce it.
This may be the clincher you need in order to win some customers over. If you believe in your product or service, prove it. To learn more, visit our previous blog entry, Tips on Creating a Money-Back Guarantee for Your Site.
6. Be courteous and personable in all forms of customer communication.
Remind your customers that even though they are using a computer to interact with you, your business is still owned and operated by flesh-and-blood humans. Adding personal touches to your correspondence and using a friendly, outgoing communication style will help put your customers at ease and keep their expectations of you at a reasonable level.
Offering a useful product or service at a good price is essential to the success of any business. But your customers aren’t coin dispensers, they’re people. If you want their business, you will have to be sensitive to their expectations and fears. Try to anticipate and prevent any problems they might have, and take the ones you cannot prevent seriously. Remember: unsatisfied customers are almost never repeat customers.
-David Yakubik, Volusion Customer Care Specialist