Some mishaps are easier to understand than others, and are bound to happen - I think we can all agree to that. But the way brands respond to requests of support from their customers sometimes leaves us shaking our heads in disbelief. While some brand interactions are worth a few laughs and are now the subject of some famous memes, there are, unfortunately, many extreme cases of bad customer service that make you feel nobody could get it that wrong, even if they'd plan it.
And as it always happens, when we’re let down by an interaction with a brand, we take to social media to express our disappointment.
When Will Lynch, Head of Partnerships at Underwaterpistol, a Cartloop partner, ordered a photobook for Christmas, he was not expecting it to be delivered 5 months later in the middle of spring.
Now...Will might be a little nicer than I am. I'd have certainly tagged that brand - as it's sometimes the only way to get a reaction from the brand (and ultimately get your problem solved).
Will's post sparked a lot of reactions on social media, with people sharing similar situations happening all across the board. In turn, our co-founder Lisa Popovici reached out to Will to invite him to our webinar and speak to our audience about what businesses really need to be aware of when it comes to truly supporting their customers.
84% of consumers consider customer service to be a key factor when deciding whether to purchase. So why don’t eCommerce brands pay more attention to their customer service offering? In this post, we'll share some of the insights Will talked to us about and why bad customer support costs brands more than a few dollars to cover a refund.
Why Customer Support is Essential
Thus, as a brand, you have two options for winning the battle with your competition. One, you beat them on price. Two, you win at shopping experience.
If you try to beat them on price every single time, you'll likely enter Discount Wars, squeezing margins and ultimately still losing your customer - when you are known for low prices, you are oftentimes automatically associated with lower quality. And that's another thing that customers don't want.
However, people admit to paying a premium for the expectation of a stellar experience - not just in eCommerce but Retail, Services or Hospitality. It is what keeps your customers coming back.
Additionally, as the title hints, negative experiences affect more than just one purchase and things can snowball into negative social media reviews that get so much bad publicity that it is difficult for brands to recover. Some never do.
Luckily, there are many ways for brands to craft exquisite shopping experiences. Customer service and brand experience are one of them.
And yet, with all the evidence and clear benefits of customer-centric strategies, eCommerce brands don't always consider customer service to be as important. In a way, it's easy to see why - when your only focus is the bottom line and with the industry moving at such a rapid pace that merchants are looking after supply chains, warehousing issues or marketing optimization and lead generation, customer service is towards the bottom of the list.
When Jeff Bezos started Amazon he focused on the customer, he said:
“We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed. We start with what the customer needs and we work backwards.” - and judging by the fact that Amazon is not only extremely profitable, but makes it into every single list of "Companies who care about customers" - it seems to be working very well for him so far.
When Do Customers Really Need You?
In order to figure out how to build a strategy for customer service, you need to first look at touch points with their customers. There are three critical moments when your customers will reach out to you:
Pre-purchase: when they need more information on product specs (e.g. electronics, fittings, beauty & care) or have issues navigating your website
Post purchase: when they need assistance in tracking their order, making changes to the delivery information or they simply wish to cancel
Post-purchase: when their order has arrived and they are not happy with their acquisition - it might be quality, fitting or arrived damaged. Or, it might be that they are not sure how to use it.
What Happens When You Improve Customer Support
At this point, you have the data to prove your shoppers believe that customer service is important, and how they act when a service lets them down. Now let's take a look at what happens when you turn your game around and optimise your customer service offering - and how to do it.
Will shared the checklist below during our webinar, with quick tips you can do today - some are quicker to execute than others, but if this is the only list you'll ever decide to follow, you'll still be ahead than most eCommerce brands out there.
Improve content to improve customer retention
- Being asked the same questions over and over? Turn it into an updated FAQ page. Not only will this save time for your Support teams who won't have to take calls answering the same questions over and over, but it will also do wonders for your SEO.
- Being asked about your green status? Dedicate a page to it and explain in detail.
- Being asked about a product you don’t stock? If the demand is there, it might be worth stocking it. (Pssst...and then why not take it to the next level with SMS marketing & Cartloop Experts and tell every single one of the customers who asked about it that it's now proudly in stock for them?)
Increase your conversions and customer retention rate
- 84% of consumers consider customer service to be a key factor when deciding whether to purchase. Do you have good social reviews about your Support teams? Start focusing on building a solid reputation for outstanding customer support and become a trustworthy brand every time you interact with your audience.
Better customer retention, returning customer rate and LTV
- Customers that keep coming back to your store, do so because they like your brand, product offering and customer service. However, a bad experience makes it easy for a customer to churn
- Good customer service can help bring a customer back from the edge of ditching your brand. A common misconception about customers that are likely to churn, is that they’re harder to convert. But actually, they’re closer to a conversion than a new customer for example, so optimising this is a quick win all round.
Better Social Media engagement
- Actively use social media for communications - overtime position you as an engaged brand that keeps open communication lines with their customers.
- Social media advertising - replying to your ads' comments can improve ROAS
The Dos and Don'ts of Exceptional Customer Support
The 'Absolutely Yes' List:
- Offer Omnichannel Support - don't limit the tools you use for convenience. Meet your customers where they want to be met: conversational SMS marketing, live chat text messaging, email, phone or social media - be present and let them choose how they reach out to you.
- Empathise - first and foremost, build relationships prior to pushing a sale; understand what your customer is going through when an order they placed with you fell short on expectations.
- Personalise Your Response - pay attention to shoppers' needs. Many brands reply in a scripted, almost robotic way, quoting (this is a personal 'favourite') "it's company policy" for every single support issue they cannot (or don't want to) fix. If you use SMS marketing, focus on conversations and understanding your customers, not just sending out pushy text messaging that irritate your shoppers
- Be Knowledgeable - understanding product features builds trust and authority and makes your customers believe you are truly trying to help them find a solution to their particular problem
- Be Honest and Take Responsibility - this is probably one of the most underrated advice out there. Sometimes even the best brands out there make mistakes. Own up to it, accept your mishap and offer your customers easy solutions - and remember - those solutions should be easy for them not for you as a company. Customers are more likely to forgive errors on your part if they see you accept your mistake.
- Find Timely Resolutions to Problems - don’t make your customers jump through hoops to get a refund, or wait 90 days for an email reply. Be timely and put them first.
- Always Follow-through: if you say you’ll send an update via email, send it. If you say you’re calling your customer, call them. If anything comes up and you can’t, let them know what is holding you back. Keep them in the loop and informed of where they are in the process.
The 'No-No' List
- Take Your Time: be quick to answer support requests, find solutions and get refunds or replacements processed in record time.
- Blame the Customer: People say the customer is always right. Now they might not always be, but you shouldn't treat them as such. If you must point out errors in their request (e.g. your T&Cs state products can't be returned without proof of purchase), do so kindly and respectfully. Yet even in that situation, try to offer some sort of resolution that shows good intent on your part.
- Offer Deceptive Customer Service: don't make false or misleading claims about what you can actually do for that customer. Presenting the situation in a rosy way now, will only come back to haunt you later when the customer eventually realizes they've been misled.
- Be Negative: Instead of “This is going to get a little trickier” say “This is where it is going to get a bit more interesting.”
- Make Things Overly Complicated: remember the KISS principle? Keep it simple.
- Add Unreasonable Surcharges: if you have "Processing fees" and "Service charges" that cost more than the product, your customer won't bother to send it back. But what they will bother to do is make public statements about your unreasonable practice.
- Ignore Customer Feedback - Make sure your customers stay in the loop and in your cart.
- Don’t assume: you might think you have a pretty good idea about what your customers' journey looks like but that should be data-driven, not 'gut-driven'. Run focus groups, perform surveys and market research. Due diligence goes a long way into developing your strategy and the products you stock, your brand's communications and social media habits. You can use various platforms to gather different customer insights (of course, we recommend Cartloop) - but whatever you choose, make sure to follow up and use the information you've gathered.
Markets are competitive, which means there’s plenty of alternatives for your customers to go to. If they have a negative experience with your brand, they are not likely to come back for repeat purchases. More so, they will spread the word about your poor customer service practices. Social media, Twitter and Facebook especially, are filled with negative business reviews. Sometimes they snowball into irreparable reputation damages as we mentioned earlier in the article as well.
If you only take away three things from this article, it should be these:
- Great customer service should be a company-wide focus
- Go the extra mile, even it that means slower profits for you short-term
- Understand what your customers expect you to do, not what is convenient for the company in the moment