The following article was written for Western Computer by Laurent Allardin, CEO and Founder of k-eCommerce.
Providing an optimized customer experience for your e-commerce business requires walking a fine line between robust self-service functionality and outstanding customer support.
E-commerce is characterized by convenience and speed. In some ways, it’s like the world’s largest vending machine. Shoppers put their card numbers in and the products they purchase come out (on their doorstep).
At the same time, the personal touch customer service provides is a critical element to e-commerce success. The best online businesses are able to strike just the right balance between letting customers take care of themselves and stepping in where the customer needs help.
Let’s take a closer look.
Self-Service vs. Customer Service – A Comparison
Today’s online shoppers are used to doing things for themselves. E-commerce best practices have evolved over the past decades to foster consumer independence and quick, convenient purchases. Customers can log on, browse products and buy from anywhere on earth, 24 hours a day. Meanwhile, an ERP-integrated e-commerce platform processes these orders and invoices them automatically, efficiently growing your business around the clock.
Customers also like to manage their own accounts. Easy account access that lets customers update billing and shipping addresses, add credit cards, or review past purchases is a standard for most e-commerce businesses. Not only does this provide a superior customer experience for your clients, it significantly reduces your operational costs by letting your support team focus on more difficult tasks.
That’s where customer service comes in.
Sometimes the customer wants to make a return, but needs company approval because it falls outside your policy. Or maybe it’s a B2B sale above the usual purchase rule limit. Other times it could be a technical problem, like a product that’s difficult to assemble or install. Maybe it’s just a glitch that the customer needs help with, or perhaps there’s some complex billing or shipping issue.
The bottom line is that the customer should have full independence when it comes to making purchases and managing accounts. But when there is a problem the customer can’t solve, your support team is always there to help.
Self-Service and Customer Service – A Strategy
Taking care of your customers is the first responsibility of any business. With online self-service, you empower them to purchase your products and enjoy the efficiency of shopping with you. And with customer service, you take care of any issues they can’t resolve themselves.
By optimizing both of these facets of the customer experience, you hone them into a strategy that positions your business far ahead of the competition.
Unfortunately, a lot of online businesses neglect customer service. The ease of being able to automate orders over the web can sometimes lead to an attitude of “as long as the machine’s working, there’s no problem.” This leaves customers stranded when there is a problem and they aren’t able to reach anyone for help.
So when you provide your clients with good customer service, it sets your business apart from all the other e-commerce companies that don’t. Just listing a phone number that customers can call already gives you a competitive advantage. 47% of shoppers say they take their business elsewhere when they don’t see a phone number.
Customer Experience – The Deciding Factor
One of the most common reasons businesses feel reluctant to develop an e-commerce channel is the high degree of competition online. Almost anyone can put up a web store and start selling products. But thousands of competitors with the same idea make it hard for anyone to stand out.
In a saturated market, customer experience is often the deciding factor.
Naturally there are other important elements, like having a good knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO). But at the end of the day, making sure that your customers enjoy the best possible shopping experience while doing business with you is the best way to keep them coming back.
Building a loyal customer base keeps your business competitive as the marketplace evolves. On the one hand, returning customers are more likely to purchase than new customers, making your existing client base particularly valuable to your long-term ROI.
At the same time, the rise of the Internet has made word-of-mouth marketing more powerful than ever. Not only can news spread across the globe in a matter of minutes thanks to social media, but recommendations from friends and family remain the single most powerful marketing tool available.
Allowing customers to leave ratings and reviews on your website can thus be great way to advertise the excellent service you provide. When a shopper has a particularly positive experience with your customer support team—or if they’re pleased with your web store’s ease of use and speed of delivery—their review serves as a testimonial to other shoppers who are considering a purchase.
This can easily make the difference between you and a competitor with the same product and price, but no review. Additionally, it helps SEO by adding unique content to your web store’s pages, and enhances the customer experience even further by empowering your shoppers to leave feedback.
Download our white paper to learn more:
About the AuthorVisit Website More Content by Laurent Allardin