Exceptional Customer Service - E-Commerce
Have you ever done your Christmas shopping from a laptop while relaxing on your favorite recliner? Or perhaps you've ordered a last-minute bouquet of roses to be sent to a special someone from your mobile phone? Have you ever bought apparel after a concert from a venue that only accepts a credit card reader and app? Well, more and more savvy consumers and businesses alike are turning to the Internet and other electronic services to fulfill their “commercial” needs. In fact, e-commerce (electronic commerce) is now commonplace in business. The convenience of being able to buy and sell, or to exchange information instantaneously, is very appealing to those looking to optimize their transactions.
On a base level, it’s effective for the individual consumer to be able to search for a variety of vendors and scroll though many product choices at once -- to save time and find the best value. Businesses also enjoy the accessibility it affords them in reaching a broader consumer base and in partnering efforts with other outfits. Because the online marketplace is such an increasingly integral part of our lives, it is helpful to take a look at what it encompasses. Then, we can better understand its dynamic and thus the importance of providing and enjoying exceptional customer service through these channels. So, how does it all work? Essentially, e-commerce involves using a computer network (like the Internet) to “trade”.
On a broader level, it can include things like electronic data interchange (EDI), which standardizes documents like invoices and shipment notices between companies, even internationally. For the focus of this article, however, let’s keep to the basic relationship of business-to-consumer. One main way e-commerce “happens” is through the use of electronic funds transfer (EFT) in online shopping-sales direct to customers utilizing debit or credit cards. As established and emerging online businesses compete for our electronic dollars, they are especially concerned with providing exceptional customer service to maintain consumer loyalty and increase profits. Being aware of some of these strategies will better help us navigate our options in the online marketplace.
- Familiarization Through Social Media: As social beings, consumers are more often turning to interactive social media to do a little research on a new company, store, or restaurant. For instance, it might be worth a quick look on your mobile device, at a restaurant’s Facebook page to see if there are any reviews on a new chef, etc., before deciding to head on over... That’s smart. And yes, the relationship works both ways. Businesses can create social media pages to generate buzz about new products and promotions. They can also use them to collect and analyze data about consumer preferences for developing new items and better addressing customer needs. Consumers, in turn, can use social media to report on and share their experiences. Naturally, this can impact how an outlet handles customer service.
- Offering Online Resources Equip Consumers: An online site can utilize self-help type options to empower their guests. While it may seem like a bit of a contradiction, in terms of providing exceptional service by enabling individuals to “help themselves,” today’s consumer appreciates quick methods of targeting their interests and customizing their transactions. Web pages like FAQs (frequently asked questions) and “blogs” (material that conversationally discusses updates) enhance a consumer’s online experience.When a site publishes FAQs, it shows a company knows its customers and has preempted a lot of their concerns and provides quick means of resolving disputes. Similarly, adding “blogs” generates interest and relevancy. Visitors to sites may be more likely to become patrons if they are intrigued by and engaged in ongoing company “dialog.” A knowledgeable consumer can become an invested one.
- More Channels of Support Means More Accessibility: A recent study by Forrester (a marketing research and strategy firm), found that 45% of online shoppers would cancel a transaction if they felt they weren’t getting prompt support. Using multiple channels of support can assist online businesses in providing exceptional customer service. Offering things like toll-free and fax numbers, links to email and contact forms, as well as real-time live chat hotlines, grant immediacy to problem solving. Utilizing shipment notifications and status tracking further makes for unparalleled accessibility. For example, if you’ve ever wanted to augment or cancel an online order after it’s been dispatched, you know that having access to a representative 24/7 can be a wonderful thing. A well “supported” consumer is a happy one!
Bottom Line: Instant gratification: we all want it and we expect the full customer experience--even when buying online! Web-based businesses can compensate for any lack in the kind of personal touch found in a “traditional” brick-and-mortar store, by offering world-class customer service. Navigating features like the ones discussed here can better help patrons weigh their online options and determine where they send their business.