How Awesome Customer Service Skills can help grow your eCommerce Business

It might be stating the painfully obvious, but we all want to grow our store – potential new ideas and strategies are never far from our mind. We invest significant amounts of time and energy into acquiring NEW customers to help us achieve that growth.

But is there an argument to suggest that the best thing we can do towards achieving our lofty ambitions, is simply to take better care of our EXISTING customers?

It's true, service sells! In this article, we'll make the compelling case for focusing on customer service (and retention!) while touching on some stuff you might be able to do better in your own business.

The value of repeat business

Attracting any new business is great, but scoring repeat business really is something to shout about. On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase. [White House Office of Consumer Affairs]

That's a huge potential revenue stream and the last thing you want to do is discourage people from shopping with you on an ongoing basis by providing lousy service.

It's been estimated that, whereas you have a 5-20% chance of selling to a new prospect, that number actually increases to as much as 60-70% when selling to an existing customer. [Marketing Metrics] 

And concentrating on existing customers can also be significantly more cost-efficient. Research suggests that it can actually cost 6-7 times more to go get a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. [White House Office of Consumer Affairs]

The numbers tell the story, here: retention deserves just as much of your attention as acquisition does!

Word of mouth

There's another reason you want to keep your customers happy, too.

Maybe it's just plain old human nature, but it's a fact; we do tend to focus more on 'bad news' than 'good news.' Perhaps, then, it's unsurprising that we're twice as likely to share bad customer experiences with our friends than we are to talk about positive experiences. [2012 Global Customer Service Barometer]

This just underlines the damage that can be done by bad customer service. Not only can it undermine your chances of scoring repeat business, it can actually hurt your image in the minds of people who've never even dealt with you before.

How does good service help keep customers?

Studies have shown that the top two reasons for customer loss are :

  1. customers feeling poorly treated, and
  2. failure to solve problems in a timely manner.

And a staggering 89% of consumers say they've stopped doing business with a company after receiving poor customer service. [Customer Experience Impact Report by Harris Interactive/RightNow, 2010]

So it's a no brainer: we need to treat our customers well, and solve any problems that arise as quickly and effectively as we can...or risk losing them forever.

What makes a great experience?

The next logical step is to work out what MAKES a customer keep coming back for more.

Realsitically, it's highly unlikely that you're going to turn every single customer into a raving fan who returns time and time again to raid your virtual shelves. A certain element of churn is to be expected in any business.

That being said, we can always do better...and isolating 'what makes a great customer experience' is often the best possible starting point in boosting loyalty and repeat business.

Draw on your own experiences – and put yourself in their shoes

Even though you're in the thick of managing your own business, there are plenty of other times where you're a customer yourself. You'll have felt the same feelings of loyalty and happiness, irritation and despair as any other consumer. So why not draw on your own experiences?

Think about the companies you frequent. What do you like about dealing with them? What do they do well? Why do you shop with them regularly?

Equally, consider some of the bad experiences you've had – what was it that particularly irritated you? Why would you never return?

When you think about the lessons you can learn from the very best and very worst of the companies you've dealt with, you'll often find that some familiar patterns start to emerge.

Communication

Communication is basically the bedrock of amazing service, in pretty much every service industry you can think of. Some of the most annoying consumer experiences in the world are rooted in poor (or nonexistent) communication.

Think about it: being put 'on hold' while trying to call someone. Waiting an age for your food, with no updates from the waiter or waitress. The checkout assistant who doesn't offer to help with your packing. It goes on and on.

Much like in every other business, good communication is the bread and butter of an awesome Ecommerce experience, and should be the glue that holds the whole process together.

  • When the customer is deciding to buy, are you there to help advise them?
  • Once their order is placed (and you have their money) are they receiving clear indications of what the next step is, or are they left in the dark?
  • While waiting for delivery, are they informed where their package is up to?
  • Once they've received it, are you checking in to see how the product was for them and asking for feedback?

Simple human interaction is something that we sometimes forget about with the whole 'buying online' thing – the better you communicate, the greater your chance of establishing loyalty and creating a great, personal experience for your customer.

Complaints are good! (if you resolve them)

This statement sounds totally counter-intuitive, but – while it never really FEELS good to receive complaints – they can actually be a huge win for your business. Why? Because they give you a chance to learn and improve.

The vast, vast majority of people who are unhappy after dealing with you will slip away silently. You'll never know if there was anything else you could have done.

Ruby Newell-Legner suggests that, typically, a business will hear from just 4% of its dissatisfied customers. But she also suggests that up to 70% of customers are willing to do business with you again, if you resolve their complaints.

In this light, it's clear that complaints, while toxic and damaging if unresolved, can be a wonderful opportunity to win customers back and establish loyalty if you handle them well.

Take a look at your procedures for dealing with complaints and ask yourself whether you can do more to encourage feedback and resolve complaints.

Conclusion

As great as it is to attract new customers, you may find it much more fruitful to concentrate on retaining the ones you already have. And the numbers speak for themselves; one of the best ways to retain customers is to provide fantastic service and address problems effectively as and when they arise. It's not rocket science, but it requires a concerted, ongoing effort and a commitment to delivering excellent service to every customer on every transaction. Good luck!

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Comments
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3
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Josh R.
August 15, 2014 11:10 AM
Hey, let's face it. If you aren't taking care of the customer, you aren't going to be around for long. Customer reviews and referrals are the lifeblood of my business. The web is both a wonderful and a dangerous thing...word about a good or bad experience can spread like wildfire and, of course, a negative comment will go further and faster. Resolve complaints, thank your customers, ask for referrals, communicate, communicate, communicate. In marketing a brand is defined by how you do business. If you have a bad brand (you conduct business poorly) no amount of amazing branding (how your brand is represented/promoted in the public) will save you.
David Adams
August 18, 2014 4:14 PM
I always look at it this way, the customer is always right even when they're wrong. At least if I can't prove the customers wrong I just deal with it the best I can. Having awesome support will go a far way into showing your business cares about clients and buyers. I've dealt with poor customer support in my day and I hate it, I would never wish it on my worst enemy, well maybe I would I don't know. A good support staff will make customers happy. If a problems can't be fixed by the staff, it's best to hire new people at that point.
Bo Tipton
August 18, 2014 6:47 PM
Good customer service on the Internet is hard to find. If someone does have good friendly customer service then they stand out from the crowd. The one thing I dislike and a growing trend with customer service is that now matter what the problem is it is the customers fault and inconvenience to solve. To be successful you have to do something different and this is one area that is wide open.

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