Improving your online conversion through better customer service

Customer service is one of the most effective marketing tools a company has at its disposal. Providing prompt and effective responses to customer queries is the best way to encourage a sale.

Think of it this way: if a customer asked you a question in real life, you wouldn’t ignore it, give a robot-like canned reply, or just wave vaguely. You would do your very best to provide a helpful answer. Surprise surprise, online customer service is no different.

Unfortunately, the poor standard of online service today suggests that many web store owners simply think “build it, and the customers will come”. They’re wrong: good customer service is a surefire way to ensure more repeat business and ultimately improve your bottom line.

See things through the customer’s eyes

Customer service is not just a box to be ticked when you’re setting up a company; the customers are your business’s raison d’être and if you want to maximise profits, you’d better treat them accordingly.

Virgin Hotels know this: in their new Chicago building the phone in each room has just one button aside from the dial pad. That button is labelled ‘YES!’ and is the only one guests need when they want something. No need to figure out whether they need the kitchens, the front desk, the valet, the housekeeping department … just press the button and let the company do the rest of the work. That’s truly customer-oriented service.

It’s the polar opposite of the email service I received from another international brand, when the response to my query was to ask me to click on a link and trawl through a list of all of their offices worldwide to find out which one I should contact. Did they get my business? I’ll let you guess.

Make it personal

Doing business online can feel anonymous. Sometimes that’s okay, but your business might attract the type of customer who wants to feel recognised and appreciated. I recently bought some crockery from Dutch webshop Dames van de Thee. The transaction was straightforward and I didn’t need – nor want – any additional correspondence from the business.

But they found a way to show me that my business was appreciated by tucking two generously-sized samples of loose tea into the parcel, along with some teabags. That was enough to show me that my purchase was appreciated, they were detail-oriented, and they really hoped I would come back.

Even when doing business online, actions can speak louder than words. That little gesture was much more effective than the most gushing email telling me how much they appreciated my business.

Customer service: not an optional extra

In face-to-face retail, the motto is “If the customer can’t see a price, chances are they won’t buy it.” That isn’t really an issue in a webshop (if it is, you need to have an urgent discussion with your web designer). But it has an online equivalent – if the customer can’t get answers to their questions, chances are they won’t be back.

Most online retailers don’t realise this. They see customer service as an optional extra, a ‘nice-to-have’, but something that doesn’t impact their bottom line. They couldn’t be more wrong! A rapid reply is a key factor in determining whether or not a customer will go ahead with a purchase.

More than half of people polled in one study said that lack of interaction with a real live person had caused them not to purchase online. Remember, though, that the quality of your response is at least as important as the speed. Don’t be tempted to use live chat if you don’t have the time to compose a helpful reply. Take it to email and do it right.

Customer service: the new marketing

The Economist Intelligence Unit has just released what may turn out to be the customer service report of the decade (PDF). Almost 500 CMOs and senior marketing executives from around the world shared their thoughts on the future of marketing. The key takeaway? Within just a few years, not the customer service guys and gals but *the marketing team will be responsible for customer experience.

Don’t sit around and wait for this inevitable trend to happen: make some changes now to serve your customers even better in the future (and keep your job secure to boot). We’ve picked out some of the report’s crucial points to get you started.

1. The nature of engagement is changing

Thanks to the internet and, in particular, social media, old-fashioned ideas of brand engagement are a thing of the past. While customers who simply love what your brand stands for are still important, capturing their attention is no longer just a question of constructing an image and sitting back to see who it appeals to.

As engagement becomes increasingly two-way thanks to social media, customer service staff need to work closely with marketing staff to ensure that each and every communication encapsulates the brand’s message. Don’t leave brand image completely to the marketing team – the way you handle your customers is the most essential aspect. Treat your customers badly and they won’t come back = end of engagement. Treating them well and upholding your brand label is the essence of the new customer engagement.

2. Digital, digital, digital

When asked the areas in which they need to develop skills in their marketing operation, 39% of respondents said that technology & digital engagement were their top focus. Surprising? Not really. Given that even customer service departments – which are currently at the forefront of digital engagement – appear to be having trouble keeping up with consumers’ technology use, it’s not exactly eyebrow-raising that marketers aren’t on top of things either.

Businesses (like yours) which conduct online customer service have a head start in this area, but that doesn’t mean you can afford to be complacent. Brush up on how to write great customer service emails that actually answer your customers’ questions; assist customers on their preferred channels; keep a watchful eye on new developments (for example the increasing popularity of WhatsApp). If your company’s marketing department is angling to take over your duties, snooze and you will lose control of this side of things.

3. Take the lead in the customer experience

Traditionally the customer service department was responsible for customer experience. Essentially, the business created and provided a product or service, the marketing department promoted it, and customer service staff took it from there. According to the report, around a third of marketing staff are currently in charge of managing the customer experience – but 75% say that they will be responsible within three to five years.

Unless you’re planning to be retired by then, you’d better take a proactive look at how you can start integrating some of those marketing duties into your customer service tasks. Customer service departments need to create their own roadmaps of the customer journey to ensure that they’re not missing out on opportunities to improve the customer experience. In customer service, as in life, the squeaky wheel gets the oil – those who complain are the ones who get assistance (in an ideal customer service model, anyway).

The question is what happens to the customers who don’t reach out to your service department. Close co-operation with the marketing department can help you to create ways of keeping in touch with these customers before you lose them – or before you are simply asked to hand your responsibilities over to the marketing department.

It would be ridiculous for us to suggest that we can tell you how to revamp your company’s customer service approach in one short blog post. However, it’s important to realise that the writing is on the wall for the traditional separation of marketing and customer service. The time to start looking at alternatives is now, because the changes are coming whether you’re ready or not.

How to WhatsApp your way into extraordinary customer service

More and more businesses have started using WhatsApp to provide customer service lately. In the spirit of meeting customers where they are, this popular messaging app is claiming its place alongside email, chat and other social media.

WhatsApp is hot – so hot that we at Casengo recently held a hackathon to develop a working prototype of a WhatsApp integration into our own multichannel customer service software, which had never been done before. We pulled it off, and we’re now being flooded with requests from companies that are keen on using WhatsApp more efficiently with Casengo!

But before you jump in to chatting with your customers using the new feature, spend a few minutes brushing up on the dos and don’ts of doing business via WhatsApp.

Do act like a professional on WhatsApp

If you use WhatsApp in your personal life, you’re probably used to swapping quips with your friends, using plenty of the many cute, fun and sometimes even mildly offensive emojis available, and taking the occasional attack of ‘fat finger syndrome’ in your stride.

When you’re representing yourself as a private individual, that’s not a problem. But when you’re representing your business, you’d better be professional. Your customer, though, is probably not at work, and is typing on his or her phone with the inevitable errors and abbreviations that go along with that. Don’t let this casualness fool you into thinking that it’s ok for you to be casual and chatty too. It’s not. And please, regardless of what the customer does, use capital letters and full stops.

Bear in mind that thanks to screenshots and Twitter, anything you say over WhatsApp is potentially a matter of public record just the same as it would be if you sent it via email. The same level of professionalism is called for.

Don’t be overly formal on WhatsApp

But here’s the thing. Yes, you’re still doing the same job, but the medium of communication has changed and you need to change with it. While you can’t be too casual, you can’t go too far the other way either. You don’t want to inadvertently make your customer feel like a hick by using overly formal language.

Think we’re asking too much? Well, online customer service is a role that calls for real writing skills and the ability to judge a customer’s mood and character online. Don’t let the traditionally low pay levels fool you into thinking that it’s a task that anyone could do.

(And if you were thinking of setting up a couple of macros for your WhatsApp sessions, be very careful. You don’t want people to think they’re chatting with a bot. Take a few extra seconds to compose a personal response.)

Do keep your responses short and fast on WhatsApp

Customers who chat on WhatsApp are possibly on the go, and almost certainly have a tiny screen to deal with – so keep your replies as short as you can. They must be easy to read at a glance. If your reply doesn’t fit on a smartphone screen, it’s too long.

Additionally, don’t spend too long crafting the perfect response to the query. You need to be fast – your customer has chosen WhatsApp because he or she doesn’t have all day. You need to be able to proofread on the go, but it’s inevitable that you’ll make the occasional mistake. Don’t sweat it. It’s better to have the odd typo go out to a customer than to be word-perfect and keep him or her waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

WhatsApp customer service is deceptively simple on the surface. Many of us are used to using chat in our private lives, so we think we know how it’s done. Using it in a professional setting is something else entirely, and even more so when your chat partner is not in professional mode. But with a bit of effort, you’ll be helping your customers like the pro you are – and on their preferred channel.

The great value of customer reviews

It’s all about the money, so it’s only logical that budgets and spending determine your agenda. Especially in the fast-moving environment of e-commerce it can be hard to maintain true focus on customer satisfaction. After all, redesigning your online shopping basket or improving something crucial on your website may lead to a direct increase in conversion in the short term – so that’s where you put your money.

But what about the long term? How important is the experience of your existing customers to your business? Let’s take a look at the importance of customer reviews.

Customer reviews teach you how to improve

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Bill Gates said that, and he was right. Great businesses constantly monitor what their customers want and what they experience whilst shopping. Whether posted on a review platform or on social media, customer reviews show what people really think about your brand. And that’s a good thing: even though you probably never really meet your customers face-to-face, reviews allow you to learn which aspects of your business you can improve, from packaging to customer service.

Your customer’s honesty about what they find annoying makes improving customer experience a very straightforward task. It doesn’t involve high-level discussions or endless meetings: just read those reviews frequently, make a to-do list, and solve the root causes of the negative comments. The reward is the elusive, yet oh-so coveted, customer loyalty.

Customers don’t think about your agenda. For them it’s merely about their personal experience with your business. So don’t overlook the value of small improvements. What should you focus on first? It’s a tough choice, especially for us human beings, with our natural tendency to seek ‘breakthrough’ changes. “Don’t look for the big improvement,” the American basketball player John Wooden once said. “Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens – and when it happens, it lasts.”

So go on: add a personal thank you card to each order, answer just a tiny bit faster, follow up consistently, add a new product a few customers suggested – you name it. These small changes can do miracles for the lifetime value of your customers and the likelihood that they’ll refer their friends to you.

Customer reviews can bring you more revenue

Apart from learning how to improve customer experience and future revenue, customer reviews also have an impact in the short run. Let’s share three ways in which customer reviews can increase your bottom line.

1. Be the best at customer service

Online price (s)hopping is easy. And so is customer service shopping. Two-thirds of consumers (PDF) are willing to pay more if they believe a company provides excellent customer service. Lower prices won’t stop them from taking their business elsewhere if they don’t like what they come across.

If you potential customers read a tweet about how crappy your customer service is, they will ignore you, even though you seem to be a little cheaper than your competitors. And the opposite it true as well: the more good reviews they come across, the more sales you’ll make! Customer reviews can make your business – or break it.

2. Ask your happiest customers for a referral

The #1 reason for people to write reviews is to help other consumers make good decisions. Your happiest customers will take it one step further: they are often willing to refer other people to your business.

Those referred customers actually spend 16% more over their customer life cycle than other new customers.

So do have a look at your client base and find out which customers return over and over again – and ask them kindly for a referral.

3. Double down on customer reviews with social media

In essence, each tweet about your company – whether positive or negative – is a small review. The positive tweets are great, and you’ll happily retweet them. But the negative tweets? Not so.

If you’re doing things right, not only will customer reviews make you look good on your testimonial section, but your happy customers will start tweeting about your business without you prompting them to do so.

Positive reviews not only increase conversion, but can also get you some new traffic – and you won’t have a spent a dime on ads!

Why email beats social media for customer service

We’ve known it for a while but now it’s official: most people are not keen on social media customer service. Done right, email still is the best way of responding to customer queries.A new survey of the over-25s shows that only 2% of respondents prefer to use social media to get help. And these are not people who haven’t given it a go yet; 67% of those surveyed had tried and tested the method, and were unimpressed. Those of us who are focused on providing the best possible service have only ever tried to give the customers what they wanted. When everybody was telling us that we needed to use social media, we made the effort. Facebook, Twitter, even Instagram – you name it, we gave it a go. So where to now?

Email: what customers want

We don’t suggest for a moment that you give up helping people on social media. Actually quite the opposite – what you need to do is ramp up your social media game to ensure that you’re not one of the companies who are putting willing users off social media custserv altogether.

I know just how it happens. Earlier this year I had a question for UK clothing company Boden, who pride themselves on their customer service – and rightly so, I have to say, having dealt with them via email. They are fast, friendly, and solution-focused. When I tried to interact with them on Facebook, though, I was sorely disappointed.

I commented on one of their posts with a question about an item featured. The post was a few days old, so when I didn’t receive a reply I thought perhaps it had just been overlooked. I tried again, repeating my question. Crickets. So what happened? Based on my (positive) experiences with the company, I think they just never saw my message.

I can tell that they don’t use Casengo’s customer service software, which would have sent my comment right to the top of their team inbox ready for them to deal with. Instead, I think it just got lost in their attempts to handle Facebook from the Facebook interface, one of many hundreds of comments they have to deal with each week. Thanks to the stellar service I’ve received from Boden in the past, I don’t hold it against them – but they did lose a sale. And I won’t try to Facebook with them again.

Use email, use email, and did we say – use email?

As a company staffed with internet junkies, we have more than our fair share of experience with online communication. When it’s done right, email has to be the best way of handling customer service.

The benefits:
• You have as much space to say as little or as much as you need to; no need to stop at 140 characters.
• It’s (more or less) private, government hacking scandals aside – in any case, it’s not being broadcast to anyone who’s ever heard of you (and even more people who haven’t).
• It is convenient for both sender and receiver. The sender can reach out at a time that suits them (no phone line opening hours to fit in with, and no being put on hold), and the recipient can respond at a convenient moment. No picking up the phone in the middle of lunch. No difficulty understanding each other’s accents. No premium phone lines.
• If you need to include attachments – photographic proof of a damaged item, say, or instructions for use – it’s easily done.
• And with hybrid chat, it can go from an email exchange to a live chat session whenever it suits! When it comes to choosing the best customer service medium, it’s important to keep one thing in mind: the customer is still always right.

Although email is almost always the best option for getting to the bottom of an issue, not all customers want to do things via email. And that’s ok. The best channel for customer service is still the one they prefer, not the one that is the one that you think they should prefer. If they tweet you, you tweet back. Facebook comments? Better be right there. And dare we say it, even the occasional customer who prefers to pick up the phone? You’re gonna chat to them in your brightest and cheeriest phone voice. Because whether they want email, Facebook, or perhaps even carrier pigeon, they’re the ones who are keeping you in business.