Can you afford not to provide good customer support?

After reading some interesting research conducted by Tealeaf / Harris Interactive into Online Customer Experience I thought this topic was worth a mention here on the FroggBlog.

The survey found that 41% of adult consumers click away when they encounter problems during an online transaction, either to purchase the product from a competitor or with the intention of abandoning the transaction altogether.

When you think of this in terms of how UK shoppers spent over £26.5bn online in the first 6 months of 2008 and 35% of adults surveyed said they prefer to conduct business online as opposed to in-person, online shopping sites providing bad customers support are missing out on a huge chunk of potential revenue (estimated at $57bn!)

In short, it appears that online shopping sites are not pulling their weight in terms of customer expectations. Why shouldn’t it be possible to complete a transaction on the first try? The increase in popularity of online transactions means consumers have higher expectations than ever before when making a transaction online. The process should be easy and simple, with the opportunity to speak with someone directly if the desired transaction comes across a bump in the road.

So what are the consequences to your business if you don’t provide good customer support?

Poor experiences lead to poor reviews – if online consumers have a bad experience on your site when trying to make a purchase they are more than likely to tell others about it. The survey revealed that 84% of people who encounter problems during an online transaction share their experiences with others. 58% of these people use online channels which have the potential to damage your online reputation. This is why it is a good idea to keep tabs on what people are saying about your business online so you have a chance to respond to any negative comments.

Consumers are unlikely to buy from you again – If consumers have a bad experience whilst trying to make a purchase on your site it is unlikely they will bother returning. Especially if they switch to one of your competitors to make a successful transaction. This could mean you are potentially missing out on big bucks, and to make matters worse, you will be passing these bucks onto your competitors!

Uncertain economic climate – In the current economic climate consumers are controlling their expenditure so customer support is fundamental to the success of online retailers in encouraging consumers to part with their cash.

So now you’re wondering what you can do to ensure good customer support for your online consumers…Well you’re in luck as here are some pointers:

Provide comprehensive FAQs – This will hopefully mean customers can find all the information they are looking for by themselves so they won’t have to contact you.

Provide an email contact – If consumers do need to contact you they should be able to do so with ease. If they do not wish to call a customer service department you should provide them with an email alternative dedicated to customer support.

Respond to email enquiries quickly – If you respond to customer emails quickly and efficiently this will leave them feeling valued and more likely to trust your company and therefore more likely to make purchases from you in the future.

Personalise email responses to customers – Customers will feel reassured that someone is directly answering their questions. It also helps create a face for your company, giving it a personal feel that customers can relate to.

Acknowledge the receipt of a customer email – This helps eliminate customer frustration by informing them that their enquiry is being dealt with, rather than being lost in an email system never to be seen again!

Ensure product pages are detailed – Provide customers with detailed information on the product as well as delivery details, including times and costs etc. so that they feel informed enough to make a purchasing decision without having to contact one of your staff for further information.

Offer a simple and flexible returns policy – This may give customers more confidence to buy, especially if you can offer the option to return the product bought online to a store.

Exceed expectations – Go out of your way to make your customers feel valued. If they order a product and it fails to be delivered then don’t just apologise, offer a discount on their order as a gesture of goodwill.

In a report from FreshMinds “Etailers must up their game in customer care” (NMA magazine 04/09/08) Nikki Wright discusses the outcome from an analysis of customer support strategies of the top ten UK online retailers. The research found that the online sites of high street retailers John Lewis, Argos, Marks & Spencer and Tesco are much better at delivering customer support compared to online-only retailers.

According to Wright “online shoppers have come to expect good service wherever they shop. So online retailers need their customer service to be integrated within their overall offer.” I totally agree on this point. Sometimes when I’m shopping online (I’m naming no names!) it feels as though some etailers believe that because they offer their wares at lower prices than the high street they do not need to offer good customer service on top of that. This is not true! Wherever customers are parting with their money they deserve to be confident that the buying process will be simple and easy to navigate through and the after sales service sees them treated as a valued customer.

So if your online shopping site is in need of improved customer support why not cash in on the lost revenue by implementing the points I’ve mentioned above. And to the rest of you…happy shopping!


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