High on the agenda at Casengo

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.

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!

Black Friday: price versus service

Black Friday (November 28) is coming up! Is your customer service team ready for the busiest online shopping day of the year? Traditionally, the day after US Thanksgiving has been a day for massive discounts in retail outlets. In recent years the trend has spread online and around the world.

Are you thinking of taking part? It’s tempting to focus just on turning over lots of stock, but the support you provide to first-time customers on those days will make a lasting impression.

Black Friday: come for the prices, stay for the service

Time after time, surveys have shown that potential buyers rate customer service as being more important than price. I’m not going to pretend that price isn’t important on Black Friday – nobody’s going to come running to buy from you just because you promise good customer service. But once you’ve snagged customers with your low prices, you have a much better chance of keeping them by backing up those great prices with stellar customer service.

My personal experience backs this up – on one occasion, trawling the net for the cheapest printer ink prices, I came across 123inkt.nl. I figured I had nothing to lose by giving them a go. My order arrived the next day and soon afterwards I received personal follow-up. Turns out I’m not the only one who’s been impressed by the great customer service. I couldn’t really tell you where I bought my ink in the past; I just shopped around for the lowest prices. Once you feel like a valued customer, you’ll remember the business and keep on returning.

Quality service remains long after price is forgotten

Of course, the opposite also holds true – you could attract customers with your low prices and subsequently make such a bad impression on them that they vow never to buy from you again. While the adrenaline rush from clicking ‘purchase’ on that great Black Friday bargain is fleeting, dealing with issues caused by potentially defective or not-as-ordered items can take weeks. And that’s the part that the customer will remember.

Prices are transparent, but poor service is hard to spot before clicking that purchase button. That’s why it’s important to be clear about your service standards up front – and then stick to them. Otherwise your customers may well end up being very unsatisfied indeed, and sharing their dissatisfaction with their friends. Experts say that unhappy customers tell up to twice as many people about their experience as happy ones do. And if they write an online review about your company’s bad service on top of that, you could find yourself losing a lot more on Black Friday or Cyber Monday than what lowering your prices will cost you.

So remember: the online retail craziness is more than just an opportunity to increase turnover. It’s a chance to win over new customers for the longer term. It’s important to plan your online offering carefully, but be sure to take some time to work on your customer service strategy for Black Friday. With the right approach, you’ll be reaping the benefits all year round.

Customer service: the missing link on e-commerce blogs

How does one tempt new customers and get them to spend money? How can one create a brand image for one’s business? It’s no wonder the most frequent topics in e-commerce blogs are Search Engine Optimisation, Search Engine Marketing, and Content Marketing. Three topics that every e-commerce entrepreneur wants to live and breathe. The pillars of e-commerce!

But what if we told you there was a missing link, a fourth pillar with even more power and influence over customer acquisition and average basket values. I’ll give you a clue: it’s centered around the people that make your world go round. Customer service, the dark horse of marketing, is a force not to be reckoned with. Marketers put most of their time and money into acquiring new customers through more ‘traditional’ methods, while tending to overlook the importance and potential of retaining and satisfying their existing customers.

Take a look at the numbers: - Customers are 70% more likely to do business with you again if their complaint is resolved

Shockingly, less than 5% of content in the top five e-commerce blogs was about customer service. Shopify.com, a well-known player in the e-commerce world, have posted only three articles regarding customer service since December 2012.

If successful sites like shopify.com aren’t writing about customer service, why am I? All businesses have the same core ways to drive sales: repeat sales, customer acquisition, and a word of mouth.

Zappos is world-famous for its customer service. Here are 3 ways how this is helping them to drive sales:

1. Repeat sales

Humans instinctively resist change, so if a customer is happy with your product or service, they're likely to keep coming back. According to Bain & Company, it costs 6-7 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. That means if you’re not putting in the hard yards to keep your existing customers happy, it’s going to cost you to find a replacement.

How do you ensure your customers stay with you? Traditionally, email marketing is how businesses like to do this. Some people (like myself) can find such emails intrusive, and more often than not it’s likely to deter me from purchasing from that business. However, when I like a business, it's a different story. People can like a company due to their marketing, but also because they had an amazing personal experience with customer service.

2. Customer acquisition

Using Adwords or display advertising is a great way to poach first-time customers, but it’s also a costly endeavor. Wouldn’t it be great if customers were directed to your page by these ads, saw how good your products and services are, and then added your URL to their favorites? That’s the best case scenario. They might just remember the name of your website, or something special that caught their eye. What’s important here: give them something to remember you by! So go for great customer service, which will separate yourself from other businesses. Offer something more than just your product. Give your business that human touch that customers love.

3. Word of mouth

This is essentially where it is most important for you to treat your customers well. 67% of people spend money after getting recommendations from their friends on online communities like Facebook and Twitter. We’ve also seen that in the mobile phone market, positive and negative recommendations from person to person canincrease or decrease a company’s market share by 10-20 per cent over a 2 year period.

Although the ‘word of mouth’ effect may seem somewhat out of your control, particularly when an unhappy customer vents on social media, don’t underestimate the value of damage control. As we explained in our previous article, complaints are a great opportunity to turn angry customers into fans. Always respond to complaints no matter what, and be patient and understanding. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar! Turning your customers into brand ambassadors by providing them with great customer service can reduce costs and increase conversions. A 2% increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10%.

So although customer service may seem like that annoying task your business is forced to deal with, take a second look and you’ll realise what an influential marketing tool it can be. The rise of e-commerce has meant increased competition, and a greater need to differentiate your products and/or services. Let your customer service be your star attraction.