Emails and orders and returns, oh my!
If you run an online store as a one-man shop, you do it all.
Unfortunately, customer service often gets sacrificed for more “pressing” tasks like getting orders out the door.
Sure, you may hire people to help design your website and do other tasks – but in most one-person shops, you’ll be responsible for customer support which can make or break your business.
So, how can you deliver 5-star customer service when you’re flying solo?
How can you juggle all of your other tasks, and still ensure your customers are satisfied?
We’re here to help…
First things first.
Your primary goal should be to minimize customer service requests – at least, unnecessary ones. Obviously, you want to hear if a customer didn’t get their package, or their item was damaged in transit. Those things are important.
But you don’t want to spend your time answering questions about product color, prices, shipping, and return policies. You need to be proactive to minimize customer concerns:
Implementing the steps above, you can reduce the total number of service requests you get from your customers – which will help you focus on the important requests, and provide better service.
Customers want to hear back from you, fast.
73% of customers have said that valuing their time is important, and one of the top frustrations with customer service is “lack of speed.”
41% of customers expect an email response within six hours of asking their question. A study of the top 100 internet retailers in the US showed that the average response time of all retailers was around 17 hours.
I’ve talked about Mad Mimi in a previous post about customer service, but they’re so fast to respond to customer service emails, I have to mention them again here.
I took the average response time of 10 emails I sent to their support team. Their average response time was 8 minutes. And these are emails I’ve sent outside of business hours. We’re talking 10pm-12am. Wow. That’s customer service on another level. They describe their customer support as “fanatical.” And it is.
At a bare minimum, you should be responding to your customers within 24 hours – and much earlier, if possible. The more quickly you can begin a dialog with a particular customer, the more quickly you can resolve their issue – and ensure they are satisfied.
Just using a dedicated email address for customer support and a phone line may be enough when your company is small. But this setup is not scalable. Over time, you will begin to outgrow your support email and you’ll need a better way to keep track of customers and their issues.
If you invest in a software suite like Zendesk, one of the most popular customer support suites out there, you can track each customer and their support tickets, log their contact information, implement chat functionality on your Magento web store, and more.
While this may seem unnecessary at first, using a software suite like Zendesk or a similar customer support solution will make it easier for you to organize your business, and scale up once it’s time to add more employees.
It’s important that you make yourself available over the phone for your customers, when possible. Customers prefer to talk to live person people when they’re having a difficult issue. An American Express survey found that 40% of customers would prefer to speak to a person for a “complicated interaction” like a payment dispute.
But even if you provide phone support for your products, you can’t answer calls 24/7.
Even entrepreneurs have to sleep, and voicemail is not an adequate replacement for a real person. According to easybee, 72% of people will hang up instead of leaving a voicemail.
(As an aside, if a customer calls you during business hours and gets a voicemail or an answering machine, you should not be in business. There’s no excuse for this. either have calls forwarded to your cell phone or hire an answering service.)
Phone answering services are exactly what they sound like.
When a customer calls your number after-hours, they can be redirected to a remote person, who will answer the call as a representative of your company. They’ll take down the customer’s information and then inform you of the call either via text, email or both. Some of these services can even integrate with software like Zendesk to log customer support calls directly.
Typically, a phone answering service is quite inexpensive, and you only pay for the time that you use. In other words, you only pay when someone calls. This is one of the cheapest ways you can scale up, and offer 24/7 phone support to your customers.
When you run a small business, you may be tempted to use form letters and templates, and use professional language to make your eCommerce store seem more legitimate. That’s a natural impulse.
But the truth is, around 40% of customers want more “human” service. You should be professional, of course – but make things personal! Don’t just use form templates when responding to a customer. Pretend you’re writing to a good friend. You’ll find writing emails easier and your customers will appreciate it.
Expressing your own personality lets you connect with your customers on a deeper level, and may even increase their satisfaction. 73% of customers say that “friendly” customer service is important to their satisfaction.
You should always make it your goal to go the extra mile for a customer by providing extra perks, including offering them a coupon due to an issue with their order, refunding their purchase even if it’s past your return policy, or giving them free shipping because their order was delayed.
Why? Because it’s always more profitable to keep a current customer than get a new one. A 5% increase in customer retention can increase your profits by up to 25%, and attracting a new customer costs 6-7x more than keeping a current one.
Not only that, but good service gets around.
If you deliver excellent customer service, your customers will keep shopping with you – and they’ll also tell others about their experience, bringing in more shoppers to your store.
Our final tip is to know when to say when.
If you simply can’t handle the volume of queries, orders, and returns, it may be time to call in the reinforcements.
You’ll need a bigger team eventually – whether you choose to outsource your customer support to another company, or you choose to hire a full-time customer support representative.
This is a big step.
But hiring another person to help you with customer support means you can turn your attention elsewhere – and focus on other aspects of your business. Which is just not possible as a one-man shop.
In addition, hiring another person can help you increase customer satisfaction. A dedicated, full-time customer service professional will be able to handle more queries and concerns more efficiently, compared to a solo entrepreneur.
This results in better customer satisfaction – and in turn, that leads to more sales.
According to American Express, Americans are willing to pay 17% more to work with a business that provides great customer service, and 52% of people say that they have made an additional purchase from a company after receiving excellent customer service.
Happy customers mean a happy eCommerce business. So if you’re struggling to provide adequate customer service as a solo shop, think about what you’ve learned here.
By adopting at least a few of these tips – and knowing when you need to hire a full-time customer service rep – you can boost customer satisfaction, resolve issues more quickly, and build a customer-focused business. In the end, you can improve customer retention, minimize churn, and maximize your profitability.
Take another look at this list and think about how you can implement them to build a better eCommerce business.
Interested in more tips about eCommerce, and running your own store? Check out the 121eCommerce blog now – we’ve got dozens of articles that are sure to help you drive your eCommerce growth.