The following post is based on a recent podcast with Manuel Rappard on The eCommerce Show. Manuel is the Founder of RPMWEST, an American-made denim outfitter in California, selling exclusively online. As a 3-year veteran in eCommerce, we wanted to get Manuel’s insight on the importance of customer service in an online-only business.
Congratulations! You’ve got a sale, which means you’ve got a customer, which means you are now in the customer service business, whether you know it or not.
Beyond the fielding of phone calls and logging customer complaints, how much attention are you giving to the service side of your business?
In a perfect world, every customer would get their order, on time, every time, with no hiccups. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world.
Manuel Rappard raised a few questions that will help get you thinking about how you can make your customers’ experience with your brand the best possible.
1) What are you doing to stay relevant?
Being relevant doesn’t mean you need to replace your current service team with a group of millennial hipsters, sporting beards and nose piercings.
Manuel told us being relevant, however, does mean that you are connected with what’s important to your customers, and that you’re keeping a close eye on your company’s interactions with them.
Customer service is actually less about fielding complaints and more about having a conversation with your customers. The airline JetBlue is a great example of this.
JetBlue took to Twitter to not only manage disgruntled flyers, but to interact with happy flyers. With a dedicated team of social media customer service responders, JetBlue had a 13-minute turnaround time to responding to tweets (of which they averaged 450 mentions per day).
Check out this interaction between @JetBlue and customer Alexa, who jokingly tweeted she wanted a welcome home parade at the end of her flight.
Not only did the team engage her online, a ground team assembled to give her a sweet welcome home parade, complete with marching band music.
This example might be a little extreme for your situation, but let it inspire you to start thinking about how you currently manage your customer service calls.
Are you listening to what your customers are telling you, for better or for worse? Do you have the right people positioned to field calls or emails and reply in a reasonable turnaround time?
2) How are you supporting your customer post-sale?
Manuel describes when RPMWEST first started out as a Kickstarter campaign, he hadn’t actually taken this question into consideration. Within 30 days, he had sold 1,000 pairs of jeans, experiencing serious demand-and-fulfilment issues.
“We weren’t quite set up in terms of getting our product to our customers in the way that we expected, in the timing we expected, or in the packaging we wanted,” he said. The result was an influx of questions about shipment tracking and customer frustrations they weren’t able to keep up with.
Getting the sale is always the end goal, but it can’t be your final interaction with your customer.
Manuel eventually migrated to a customer service software that allowed him to compile all emails from customers, assign them to representative, and track all movements relating to that customer’s ticket.
Like Zappos.com, Manuel quickly realized that delivering exceptional service was the best way to maintain relationship with his customers after the point of sale.
Another great way to mitigate customer service pains post-sale is to review what content you can make available for the customer to investigate on their own before contacting you.
- Create an FAQ page to cut down on repeating yourself in customer emails
- Integrate your shipping information on your site so customers can easily search for shipment updates on their own
- Add a 1-800 number to cut down on the back-and-forth miscommunication that is often attributed to email dialogue
3) What is your “damage control” plan?
Try as you might, the saying still rings true that you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
The difference is how you approach a negative customer experience. Whatever it was, from delayed shipment to wrong item sent, it already happened and you can’t change it.
However, you can control your reaction to it. Manuel’s advice is to acknowledge the issue, publicly if appropriate (i.e. replying to a comment on social media), and provide a clear resolution, working to the customer’s satisfaction.
Remember: a negative customer experience doesn’t have to end that way! Take the opportunity to learn from the issue and blow your customer’s expectations out of the water.
A recent survey showed that 58% of customers are willing to spend more on companies who provide better service, so putting in the extra effort to make a negative experience a positive one will ultimately affect your profitability.
“If there’s one reason we have done better than most of our peers in the Internet space over the last six years, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience.” Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon.com
If you’re not listening to your customers, you’re going to miss out on the opportunity to provide them a higher quality service. As an eCommerce vendor, you rarely get to meet with customers face-to-face to deal with issues as they arise.
So encourage and invite a conversation with your customers! Support their comments and concerns, whether it’s through social media or a good old-fashioned phone call—make sure they know they’ve been heard and their issue has been dealt with.
And at the end of the day, that’s what customer service is—ensuring your customers know their voice matters and you value them as integral part of your online business.
Hear the full interview with Manuel, and check out more great interviews with eCommerce heroes, by heading over to The eCommerce Show.