Customer service is the most crucial aspect of sales for any ecommerce business. No product can sell itself without friendly, efficient service. Customers want their problems fixed fast, and they want to know that you truly care, which is why building a loyal following means delivering excellent customer service. So, how do you make the extra effort to stand out from the competition?
Take Zappos as an example. The company has been called “insane” and “fanatical” for the way it will go the extra few miles to please its customers. Zappos Founder Tony Hsieh even wrote a book on world-class customer service, “Delivering Happiness,” and the company has been distinguished the online retailer as a standout in customer support. And, the company is surely a standout and has created an extremely loyal customer base with its incredible customer service. Zappos’ customer care stories are legendary and are a key part of its brand:
- In 2009, a traveler checked into a Vegas hotel realizing she had left her favorite pair of shoes at home. She had originally purchased the shoes from Zappos, so she browsed the website to find the shoes out of stock. She called Zappos’ help-desk, which is headquartered just outside of Vegas. The Zappos team ventured out to look for the shoes at a nearby mall, purchased the shoes, and then hand-delivered them to the hotel, at no charge.
- Later that year, Zappos overnighted a free pair of shoes to a best man who arrived at a wedding shoeless.
- The longest customer call on record lasted more than eight hours. The customer service rep helped the caller find a pair of cycling shoes on another site when they were out of stock. Then the two just started to talk. Zappos focuses on building an emotional connection with its customers rather than quickly jumping off the phone.
These acts of customer service heroism surely cost Zappos money, but those customers probably told all their friends, who told their friends. The incredible support that the company generated definitely did more for the business than an advertising or marketing program Zappos might have spent millions dollars on. Thus, Zappos utilizes relatively little advertising or traditional marketing tactics. The company relies most exclusively on word-of-mouth and customer loyalty.
As a small ecommerce business, you don’t have to go as far as Zappos’ measures, but there are a few things you can do to wow your customers similarly:
1) Get right back to customers.
Providing lightning fast responses to customer questions and concerns is extremely crucial. Many large businesses take a few days to reply to customer comments or sometimes don’t reply at all. That, of course, wouldn’t fly in a customer-oriented ecommerce business. Show your customer that you care and reply to customer emails as soon as you can. This also means checking your smartphone after hours.
2) Treat repeat customers well.
One Zappos customer service tactic is treating loyal customers well, often by upgrading customers to next day or second day air shipping. Include extra samples and a handwritten note or consider offering coupons to your best customers.
3) Implement a fair return policy.
In other words, never argue about returns. Zappos has a 100% satisfaction guaranteed return policy. Returns are part of its business model. In fact, the company encourages customers to order multiple sizes if they’re unsure of what to order, try them out, and then return the sizes that don’t work for them. To provide the best possible service for your customers, consider implementing a similar policy.
4) Be well prepared when problems arise.
Keep in mind that you’re selling products through the mail. Things could go wrong, from shipping issues to the customer ordering the wrong color or size. You should be prepared to handle problems when they come. If a certain type of problem arises, such as packages being delivered to the wrong address, be sure to take some action to prevent this problem arising in the future.
5) Treat customers as individuals.
Remember you’re in the people business. Learn to treat every customer as an individual. Each customer has a unique story or problem. Listen to your customers’ needs and concerns to maintain their interest.