Communication is Vital
Customers are the lifeblood of any business. They’re the driving force behind the development or selection of products, they provide the most important source of cash flows (sales), and, through word-of-mouth, they can become your best marketing channel.
It is vital to stay in close contact with your customers and truly understand their needs and the best ways to meet those needs. Whether it’s providing support, asking for feedback, responding to inquiries, or up-selling and promoting your products communicating well with your customers is a must.
So, what is the best method for communicating with your customers?
Every business is different, as is every customer segment. One communication solution may not be right for large technology companies, while growing eCommerce companies may find better success with something more streamlined.
Below, I will provide a list of tried and true methods for effectively communicating with your customers. But before we get into that, I’ll cover the importance of providing amazing customer support in eCommerce and the importance of providing your customers with communication options.
The Importance of Amazing Customer Support in eCommerce
The purpose of customer support is to ensure that your customers are having the best experience possible with your products. This means that your customers are pleased with the performance of your product and recognize the value they are receiving.
Every interaction with a potential customer or existing customer is a chance to prove to them that you have quality products and a solid brand. Because, in the end, you really do want every customer to come away happy with their experience.
But, many times customers don’t have good experiences with products. Perhaps their order was delayed or lost in transit, maybe the sizing was a bit different than they expected, or maybe they didn’t anticipate assembling the product themselves.
In situations such as these, amazing customer support has the potential to turn disgruntled customers back into true fans or to solidify the love a happy customer may already have for you.
In this way, customer support becomes one of your biggest competitive factors, as it can help you stand out from the crowd.
Example: Amazing Customer Support
A few years back, a friend of mine bought a jacket from the then up-and-coming outdoor apparel company, Cotopaxi, which uses the tag line – “Gear for Good”.
When the jacket arrived in the mail, my friend discovered that it was a size smaller than the one he had ordered. His receipt showed the proper size, but a mistake had been made in the packaging and shipping process.
My friend reached out to the Cotopaxi customer support team and let them know about the issue. The team at Cotopaxi could have simply offered a refund or an exchange, but they saw their mistake as an opportunity to solidify in my friend’s mind the value of their brand.
Rather than offering only an exchange, the Cotopaxi team made up for their mistake by shipping an extra jacket with a different style along with the original jacket of the correct size.
They used customer support as a competitive differentiator. It made my friend a true believer in their brand, and years later I am still thinking about the experience and sharing it with you.
That is the power of amazing customer support.
The Importance of Providing Communication Options
Rather than pursuing the one best way to communicate with customers and provide customer support, you should be thinking of the best ways to provide customer support.
Providing multiple options for your customers to communicate with you is a powerful strategy because it simplifies the process for your customers and it makes it convenient for them. Convenience is critical when it comes to interacting with customers because if you can’t make customer communication convenient your only hurting your own brand.
Everyone has had a bad experience with a company. You try to ask a question or request a refund or exchange, and the company makes it impossible for you to do so. The website lists no phone number, no email address, and offers no live chat.
Your response to this situation is to hate the company, swear to never shop there again, and tell everyone you know about how bad their customer support is. Not a good outcome.
Now imagine if that company had not only provided a way for you to contact them but had also provided multiple methods for contacting them. On top of that, what if they responded quickly and offered to truly help.
You would walk away from the situation with a completely different mindset. You may even be talking about how awesome they are years later.
This is the power you gain, by giving customers options for communicating with you. It is 2019 after all. The technology is available, so why not allow your customers to truly interact with your company.
These days people use their phones and computers to talk through countless communication channels. Not only do they call, text and email but they also send direct messages on Twitter and LinkedIn, talk through Facebook Messenger, create videos on YouTube, Snapchat and MarcoPolo, and comment and like on these same social platforms.
How you interact with your customers should be driven by your customers. Duh! We just covered that. But in order to know how they prefer to communicate, you first need to give them options. This is why, if you visit Mochi’s website, you will see a chat widget in the bottom-right corner of the page (Yes, right down there. Go ahead and say “hello”) and on our contact us page we provide email addresses and phone numbers.
The important thing is to be consistent across your communication channels. Salesforce found that 75% of customers desire a consistent experience regardless of how they engage a company, e.g. social media, in person, by phone, etc…
Below is a list of recommended communications methods to explore.
Email is probably one of the most important methods for communicating with customers, and I don’t mean one of those annoying “contact us” forms on a hard-to-find contacts page.
Simply providing your customers with an email address sends a clear signal that you are not trying to discourage them from contacting you. With a form, on the other hand, all the customer is left with is a hope that you will see their message and send a response.
Where Email Shines
Email is great for communicating with a large number of your customers at one time. For example, when you are having a sale or a promotion, or if you’re sharing content or announcing something new about your products or business.
When people read email, they expect to spend a bit more time with one piece of content. They are more willing to sift through a lot of text and images to find the information they are interested in.
Email is also a great way to up-sell your existing customer base. This usually works best with customers who have opted into your email lists.
The Pitfalls of Email
Email can also be great for customer support and customer service. The challenge is that email allows you to be a little bit lazy. When someone sends an email to your customer support team, they don’t necessarily expect a response right away.
However, the companies that set themselves apart with their customer support will respond quickly. If you are wondering how much you can differentiate yourself from the crowd by responding quickly to emails, just consider that the average time for a company to respond by email in 2018 was 12 hours and 10 minutes. On top of that 62% of companies actually ignore customer support emails!
Responding to emails promptly will show your customers that you really do care about them. For this reason, customer support is truly a differentiator in the highly competitive eCommerce market.
Offering customers the ability to contact your company by phone is another great way to stay connected and show your customers that you care. Phone support is one of the oldest and most effective ways of connecting with your customers.
Where Phone Support Shines
Phone support is ideal for complex products that may require a customer support agent to walk your customers through a task related to your product. If your product requires assembly or if the customer needs to have some technical know-how, phone support is very effective.
Phone support is also critical if you have a very large company, due to the volume of inquiries. For many small to medium-sized eCommerce stores offering a phone number for customers to call can build trust, but you likely won’t receive all that many calls.
In these cases, customers will likely prefer Live Chat or email.
The Pitfalls of Phone Support
The challenge with phone support is two-fold. First, offering phone support can be expensive. Even paying for a service that simply reroutes calls from an automated answering software to your phone can be pricey for eCommerce stores owners. The price only increases if you need to pay a full time phone support team or outsource the task.
Second, unless you do it right phone support can be bad for your brand. According to Glance, 67% of customers hang up the phone in frustration when they cannot reach a customer service representative.
If you don’t have the time to answer calls when they come in and provide engaged customer support when you have a customer on the line, it may be best to avoid offering phone support.
Social Media Support
Social media is a great way to connect with your audience in a less formal manner. On social media, you can promote your products, offer information, and engage in a genuine manner.
Where Social Media Shines
Social media is a great way to build an engaged audience of potential customers and brand loyalists. Some eCommerce stores have a good experience selling directly from these platforms, but others use them as a way to build a community or an audience that will purchase from them down the line.
Social media is a great way to interact with people and get them interested in what you’re doing. Share helpful content, tips, and information related to your product or store. You can also use social media to promote the content that you create on your blog or YouTube channel.
From a customer support perspective, social media is a great place to learn about the things customers are struggling with. More often than not, people like to post something they are not happy with. If you can intercept their post and offer to make their experience right for them, you are signalling to everyone else that you are a brand that cares.
Likewise, when someone does have something positive to say, you can quickly piggy back on their post to push it to a broader audience.
The Pitfalls of Social Media
However, you do run a few risks by airing out your laundry in public. One concern is that, similar to email and phone if you don’t respond promptly and in a friendly and helpful manner, you are telegraphing to the world that your brand lacks good customer support.
Second, if your answers aren’t to the liking of your customers, then again you are showing other potential customers that your brand is not worth spending time with.
On top of that, social media is a place, where even a person with a small audience can make a big splash. If that splash is negative, it can do a lot of harm.
FAQs and Self Help Pages
A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page is a must for any business. This communication method doesn’t need to be overly analyzed, but there are some things to keep in mind. After all, it’s about serving the customer more than just making your life easier.
While an FAQ page is a must, it should never be your only means of communicating.
An FAQ page builds trust with your customers, while reducing the number of support requests that you will receive. But, if you don’t offer methods for your customer to actual contact you, then you are doing yourself and your business a disservice.
Live Chat Support
Now, for eCommerce businesses these last two communication channels – Live chat and text messaging – are absolutely crucial. The biggest reason that these are important is because of the customer that eCommerce businesses are targeting – individual consumers.
Individual consumers act very differently than customers for a business-to-business product. Consumers are doing more shopping on their phones and other mobile devices, they are shopping online as they perform other tasks, and the options for them to shop elsewhere are nearly infinite.
Where Live Chat Shines
Live chat shines for eCommerce because it is the preferred communication channel of customers. In their Customer Service Benchmark study, which included 2,000 consumers, eDigital found that consumers prefer live chat as a support channel versus other options and that live chat received a satisfaction level of 73%, compared to email’s 61% and phones 44%.
Another reason that live chat stands out against other communication channels is that it allows for a much faster response time to customer inquiries. In a study performed by Zopim (now Zendesk), they analyzed over 85,000 live chats and discovered that on average customer queries were responded to in less than 23 seconds! And the average resolution time was only 42 seconds.
The Pitfalls of Live Chat
Live chat is not a perfect solution, because just like the other options it requires effort. If your customers send you a chat and don’t hear back from you, the entire communication channel breaks down.
Fortunately, live chat solutions, such as Mochi, offer solutions for responding to customers when you are not personally available. Examples include off-hours contact forms, automated responses, and chat bots.
To learn more about the value of chat bots, check out this post – The Value of Chatbots in eCommerce.
Text Message Support
Similar to live chat, offering customers the ability to send your business text messages is becoming increasingly important. Again, consumers are shopping online and want to have an delightful mobile experience.
For more info on optimizing your online store for eCommerce, check out our free eBook – How to Optimize Your Online Store for Mobile Commerce.
Where Text Messaging Shines
Text messaging is great for consumers who are shopping on their mobile devices and are on the go. If they have questions about products or shipping, they can shoot your company a text message and move on with their day. They don’t expect a text message response right away, but that’s alright because they’ve got a lot of things to do anyway.
Texting is also convenient because you can include links and images in your response. And, similar to email, you can use it as a medium for sending mass texts for promotions, updates, or informational messages.
When customers exchanges texts with your support team, they feel as though they are engaging with a real person. This makes them feel valued and helps builds trust in your brand.
For this reason, texting for customer support or sales related questions is extremely powerful for you brand.
Over to You
In this post I covered the importance of providing amazing customer support and the importance of offering customers multiple channels to communicate with your eCommerce store.
Then I covered the pros and cons of the various communication channels you could choose to offer your customers. These channels included:
- Social Media
- FAQ Pages
- Live Chat
- Text Messaging
Now, it’s up to you to execute on the strategy that makes the most sense for your business. Take what I’ve shared here and apply the things that you believe will be most beneficial. If you have any questions or comments please let us know. Thanks and best of luck building your eCommerce business.