Oct 19
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Customers are at the heart of every business, no matter how large and established or small and new. And while you do your best to provide the best possible product or service for them, once in awhile things go wrong or a miscommunication happens. Some customers will be understanding while others may lash out in confusion or frustration. The best way to handle situations gone wrong and to keep customer loyalty is to ensure that you have open lines of communication through various channels to meet customer needs. Here are five important customer service channels that every company needs.

Frequently Asked Questions: Commonly known as FAQ’s, having one of these pages on your website can help you and your customer save a lot of time. Typically, customers will contact you if they need answers that they are having a hard time finding on their own. While some customers feel more reassured getting an answer directly from a customer service representative, the majority are happy to find the answer for themselves on your website or social media channels. Research common questions customers ask about the type of product you sell, and look into FAQ pages on competitors websites to get ideas. Even if you are just starting your business, an FAQ page will be beneficial to you. Make sure your FAQ page is organized, states answers clearly, and offers other ways to get in touch if the customer’s question is not answered above. As your company grows and develops, update and add to your FAQ page.

Email: Email is a classic, easy way for customers to get in touch with you. In the age of smartphones, email is easy for customers to access at any time. It allows them (and you) to communicate in an asynchronous way, which is convenient for both parties. Email communication also helps you easily keep track of customer conversations. This allows you to measure satisfaction, how quickly the issue was resolved, and feedback about the interaction. Make sure you take note of how the email conversations go so that you can continue to better your customer service and ensure that problems are solved as quickly as possible. Customers who do not need an instant response will often turn to email as their preferred method of communication, so make sure to offer a timely and helpful reply.

Live Chat: Live chat is a wonderful way to provide quick, accessible help. Live chat is perfect for customers who need a quick response (so they do not wait to wait for an email) but do not have the time for a phone call. Live chat can potentially allow for the customer to multi-task as well, and allows you to search for answers and send helpful links more easily than over the phone. Consider what page or pages you’d like to add the live chat. Unless you are a large company that offers 24/7 customer service, you will also want to set up an away message stating your office hours, and when you will be able to get back to the customers. Some chat services such as Tidio Chat will send you chats sent during off hours as emails. This option still sends the customer the away message, but allows you to respond to it from your inbox as an email.

Phone Support: Sometimes customers will be confused or frustrated, and want to talk to a person on the phone for immediate, step by step help. Often, older customers also prefer this method, as they are not digital natives and speaking to a person is more familiar to them. Do your best to answer the phone when customers call, even if you are working on something else. If you do miss a call and they leave a voicemail, try to identify their solution and give them a call back as quickly as possible. By acknowledging their issue and offering them a solution as soon as they call back, rather than ignoring the voicemail and having then repeat their problem while on the phone, you will save both of you time and frustration.

Social Media: Social media is unique in that anyone can see it in many cases. Sometimes, very happy or very angry customers will turn to accounts such as Facebook or Instagram to voice their complaints. The worst thing you can do is to ignore these comments- good or bad. If a customer is complimenting you or leaving a positive review, thank them for their business. If a customer is complaining, publicly apologize and ask them to privately contact you by phone or email to resolve the issue. When customers are researching a brand they will often look up social media accounts, and unanswered posts are a red flag for prospective buyers.

Although customer service can have a reputation for being an easy job, it can make or break a potential customer’s decision. Give your customer’s the respect they deserve by responding to them as quickly and politely as possible, and allowing them to contact you however is best for them.

Oct 12
Reading Time: 3 minutes

With the holiday season right around the corner, many ecommerce stores are starting their preparations. However, many companies overlook Halloween each year in anticipation of Black Friday and the holiday rush that comes with it. While many of your competitors are likely to focus their efforts on the holiday frenzy post-Halloween, you can get a step ahead by capitalizing on the holiday. Last year the Nation Retail Federation reported over $9 billion in Halloween product sales, Even if you are not selling anything directly Halloween related, there are some tricks to help you treat your customers.

Plan your Halloween period: Since Halloween is on a different day of the week every year, you will want to plan your Halloween campaign around when you are the busiest, and what days and times your customers are most active. While large orders are great, you will want your customer service and website to be prepared to spikes in sales to avoid frustration. Since Halloween falls on a Wednesday this year, you may want to plan for the weekend before as your busiest time for sales. Putting extra emphasis on your promotions, discounts, and advertising will help you make the most of your campaign around this time, when customers are looking for last-minute buys.

Add character: Halloween is a time to dress up, have fun, and be silly or scary. Make sure that the tone of your ads reflect the light-hearted liveliness of the holiday. Most brands will fill their streams with corny Halloween puns and spooky jokes. You do not want to come across as taking advantage of Halloween just to make more sales. Rather, let customers know that you are joining in on the fun with them. Unique, well planned content will grab customers attention and they will be glad that you are making an effort to please and engage with them. Create content that showcases your product in a fun and festive way. Use spooky pictures, silly puns, or any other content you think your customers will enjoy to grab their attention and draw them in. Make sure that you stay age-appropriate for your target customers. Oreo is a cookie that produces different flavors and colors of their signature cookie for major holidays. Halloween Oreos are ones that many fans look forward to all year, claiming that the orange filling makes the cookies taste even better than original Oreos. However, the only place Oreo advertises the release of the long-awaited seasonal treat is a social media post. They did create an ad campaign back in 2014 of a series of short films featuring “nomsters” made in an 1800’s style Oreo labratory. They asked the audience for help naming the little creatures, a great way to build a relationship with their customers and gain user generated content.

Offer a promotion: Trick-or-treat is a classic Halloween tradition, and you do not want your customers to miss out just because they are no longer children. So many stores offer specials and discounts around the holidays that you will be at a disadvantage if you do not offer even a small one. Since Halloween is the start of the holiday season, little things such as free shipping or a freebie can help persuade customers to shop your products. Introduce them to products that you think their loved ones would like, and offer a sample size with their purchase or a buy one get one deal. You could even offer a small gift card of $5 or $10 after a certain amount purchased, a deal that encourages them to come back and shop with you again without costing you much money or time.

Although Halloween does not seem like a big ecommerce opportunity, delighting your customers and building a relationship with them by having fun will help you in both short and long term sales. No matter if you are trying to get ahead of your competition, increase revenue, or expand your customer reach, taking advantage of Halloween will help you gain momentum going into the hectic holiday season.

Oct 5
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

 

If you work in ecommerce or marketing, chances are you have heard how important user generated content (or UGC) is becoming. Although it has always been important to receive feedback from your customers, with visually rich social media platforms continuing to skyrocket in popularity, user generated content is on the rise. Sharing experiences with your brand or product is appealing to customers, who want authentic and original content. This is especially true of “influencers”, a user who strives for credibility in a specific industry (fashion, makeup, gaming) by gaining a large audience who values their opinion. A study by Bazaar Voice shows that 51% of United States consumers trust content generated by other users above any other form of information. While you cannot control user generated content as you can your own marketing efforts, there are many benefits to allowing and displaying user generated content.

UCG helps build relationships: One of the biggest benefits of user generated content is that it helps build relationships. Not only does this allow your customers easy access for a relationship with you, but it also allows them a relationship with one another. Giving your customers a community builds their loyalty to you, allows discussions and suggestions, and helps promote your brand. Authenticity plays a big role in building community as well. Having unscripted conversations, videos, and other interactions add depth to your business. Do not be afraid that user generated content will make your brand look cheap or lazy, rather look for the high quality content users who are passionate about your brand are putting out. You do not have to choose between authenticity and quality, rather encourage your customers to contribute to your brand’s story.

UGC helps rid customers of anxiety: Even if your product looks great online, customers want to see it to believe it. Since the closest they can get it virtual images, many turn to reviews to see what advice previous customers have. Especially when it comes to items that are not one size fits all, potential buyers are looking to get their questions answered authentically. People trust people more than brands and marketing schemes, so allowing customers to interact and leave reviews will help rid potential buyers of some anxiety. Reading about the fit of a certain item, how well a product works, or how helpful the customer service team will be if a return or exchange is needed can make or break a customer’s decision. If you have social media accounts, especially Instagram, encourage customers to tag your brand in photos or videos of them wearing or using your product, so potential buyers can see they product they are interested in being used by people like them.

UGC helps add quality content: Trying to create content on your own can be an overwhelming task. However, many customers are happy to give you content if you ask for it. With younger customers striving to me social media influencers, they are often willing to leave a review, take content pictures, or even record themselves talking about or using a product. While not all of these pictures and videos will be top quality, chances are you will still have a good number of customers that will send you great content. To get a lot of content, consider running a photo or video contest. Running a contest will get you a lot of free, authentic content, and will also boost your social media presence. Even a small prize and a chance at fame is enough to motivate consumers to enter the contest, and will peak the interest of those who are not as familiar with your brand. Blue Buffalo shows a great example with their “Patriotic Pets” contest. To enter, pet owners simply had to send it a photo of their pet decked out in patriotic gear, with the hashtag “#BLUEPatroticPets”. This did not require the owners to go purchase a certain item to take a photo with, rather the hashtag and influx of pet pictures were enough to boost Blue Buffalo’s social media and get pet owners talking about the brand. The prize for the winners was a bag of food for the pet, so Blue Buffalo got plenty of free, authentic content to use without having to spend much time or money.

User generated content is a great opportunity for everyone involved. Customers get a sense of community, their concerns addressed by fellow buyers, and your business gets plenty of authentic content and credibility while building a relationship with your customers. Be sure to monitor what your customers are posting to be sure that everyone is being kind and respectful to one another. Encouraging customers to have a voice is essential to grow your brand, so enjoy your growing relationship with them and watch your sales rise.

Sep 28
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The holiday season can be one of the most profitable times for your company. Each year, customers seem to get ready for the holidays earlier and earlier, and this year is no exception. With customers already starting their holiday countdowns, it is important to make sure that your store is prepared for the increase in customers and sales. By starting to spend an hour or two a day now, you will avoid stress and maintain your excellent customer service. To help prepare for your traffic and sales, here are some tips and strategies to use.

Make a plan: Before you blindly start your holiday prep, think about what changes your website needs, as well as what areas are good to go. Write out your categories and subcategories, plan sales or specials you might want to offer, and decide if you want to give your website a temporary holiday makeover. Some companies choose to add in a special holiday section to their website, while others continue to keep their categories the same. Research how your company did last year, compare yourself to your competitors, and use that information to help you plan to succeed even further this year.

Set goals: Setting goals is a great way to help you accomplish what you set out to do. A good way to go about this is to set your end goal, and then work your way back to how you will accomplish this. For example, if you end goal is to increase sales by 10% this year, narrow down your steps to achievable tasks. You will want to look into how you did last year, and then possibly compare what products did the best, what deals you ran, what products you would like to promote this year, and how to do that. By working backwards you will break down your work so it is easy to accomplish before the holidays, while keeping up with your normal workload. Make sure you plan your goals so you stay on the time frame you create.

Prepare for traffic: Although the holidays are thought of as a joyful time, it is easy for customers and businesses to get stressed and overwhelmed if websites are not prepared for an influx of traffic. Make sure to keep an extra close eye on your website during the busy season to make sure it is still up and running, and has not crashed with an overwhelming amount of visitors. Before the holidays, check your website speed to see how quickly it loads. Tools such as Website Grader can help you see where you are strong, and where your website needs improvement. Doing this early on will save you headache and loss of sales when the holiday season approaches. Don’t forget to ensure that you are optimized for mobile as well, as many customers will shop from their phones while on the go. If you do not have an app, make the mobile version of your website strong and reliable.

Consider special order and return policies: You know customers are going to be spending more money than usual around the holidays, so eliminate as many obstacles as you can to encourage customers to order from you, rather than a competitor. Offer special holiday prices, such as free shipping on any order, or an extended return policy. This will make customers less hesitant to purchase from you, and encourage them to place their order right away rather than waiting. Especially for products such as clothing that require a certain size, customers get nervous about not being able to return or exchange a product that their loved one might not be able to use as they intended. Offering these deals can help boost your sales, as well as your customer retention and satisfaction.

Create a marketing campaign: Creating a holiday marketing campaign can help your business stand out during one of the busiest times of the year. While your campaign does not need to be a stressful, all-consuming project, it is helpful to remind customers that you have a great product they might like to share with your loved ones, or peak the interest of someone who might have considered you in the past but held off. The holidays are a great time to try an emotional marketing campaign, as many audiences take that season as a time to reflect on what they are thankful for and how they can help others. Incorporate all of your social media channels for maximum results.

Planning for the holidays now will ensure that you have a well thought out campaign, up to date website, and stress-free holiday season. Although it seems as though summer just ended and the holidays are far off still, you can never be too prepared. Start your holiday planning now to tackle the busy season with ease and confidence.

Sep 21
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

If you are familiar with sales and marketing, chances are you have heard of the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey is the process that a potential buyer goes through when making the decision to purchase (or not purchase) a product. The buyer’s journey consists of three stages: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision. By understanding the buyer’s journey, you can help customers decide if you product is the best to fit their needs, or update your product to meet buyer demands.

Why it matters: Sixty seven percent of the buyer’s decision is made before they even reach out to sales. The large majority of customer’s are making decisions about purchases on their own, before ever reaching out to your business for more information. Make sure that you have an updated Buyer Persona so that you can help provide valuable insight to your potential customers to help guide them towards the solution they have been searching for, and show them that you can offer them their best option. Being aware of what stage the customer is on can help you offer them guidance on getting exactly what they need. This will help them move in your direction and gain their trust, rather than driving them away.

Awareness: The first step in the buyer’s journey is awareness. This is when the buyer realizes that they have a challenge or opportunity and start to search for answers. Many users will turn to Google to being solving the challenge, so make sure your company is up to date on SEO. It is important to recognize how the buyer is describing their goal or challenge, how they are educating themselves, what the consequences of not taking action would be, common misconceptions or problems they might run into, and how high of a priority their goal or challenge is to them. For example, say the buyer has a sore throat and fever. They are likely to search for a solution to their problem, as they will want to recover as quickly as possible. However, say the buyer notices that their car is getting a lot of miles on it, but still running well. This buyer might start casually looking for a solution, but it is not as dire as the buyer looking for a solution to their illness. Take in to consideration how urgent the buyer’s need is, and find ways to help them at the earliest stage of their journey. Writing informative blog posts is one helpful way to accomplish that, by offering more information and introducing buyers to your company.

Consideration: As the second stage of the journey, buyer’s have identified their issue and have committed to addressing it. This is the stage where they will evaluate their options, and do the most research on what is best for them. If you have gotten them to take your business into consideration, this is the phase in which you need to build a relationship with the customer. Keeping up with your website and social media channels will help you achieve this. Having reviews from previous customers will help as well, as they can see unbiased opinions from buyers with personal experience with your product. Keep track of what kinds of solutions buyers are researching, how they are deciding what is best for them, and how they are deciding the pros and cons of each solution they are researching.

Decision: In the last stage of the buyer’s journey, the buyer comes to a decision on the best solution for them. Research the criteria they used to come to their conclusion, the pros and cons of your company vs your competitors, who needed to be involved in the decision making (family, friends, etc) and additional preparations outside of the main purchase the buyer might need. During this phase, you will hopefully convert your lead into a customer as well. Make sure to delight them with your product and provide excellent customer service to thank them for trusting your product as their ideal choice. Continue to interact with them and show them new ways that they can use your product.

By researching the buyer’s journey, how your buyer’s typically go through it, and what their outcome tends to be, you can help make their purchasing decision much easier for them. Customers can go through these three steps very quickly or very slowly, so be patient and helpful as you help guide them. Without customers, you wouldn’t have a business, so make sure to treat your buyers with the care and respect they deserve.