eCommerce Customer Service Checklist: 50 Things Every Business Should Be Doing

Building a successful business, online or off, takes some elbow grease. You can, however, get a leg up on the competition by emphasizing one area of your business above all others: customer service. Make your customers happy and they’ll be loyal visitors to your site. Here are 50 things you can do to help make sure your customers have the best ecommerce experience possible.

  1. Make communication easy. Don’t make your customers work to figure out how to contact you if they have a problem or concern, it will make them think you don’t care about what they have to say. List your email, fax, and phone numbers in places where shoppers will be sure to see them, or you can even dedicate a whole page to contact information.
  2. Create a rating system. One thing many online businesses forget about is getting follow-up from customers. If your budget allows, give customers a way to rate their purchases and write reviews for other potential customers. Hearing that other customers liked a product is often enough assurance for an undecided buyer to add the item to their shopping cart. Remember, even negative feedback can help you if you use it to improve your products.
  3. Create clear policies. You can avoid future headaches by clearly stating your company’s policies on purchases, returns, privacy and anything else that might concern your customers. This way, if there is a problem later, there won’t be any question about what the rules are. This protects both you and your customers.
  4. Maintain a professional but caring attitude. You want to be professional when dealing with your customers, but not so much that you seem detached. Make sure your customers feel like you genuinely care about their problems and concerns.
  5. Always send confirmation emails. When a customer places an order with you, always let them know that you’ve received their order and that you’re processing it. Once you’re ready to ship it, send them an email to give them a heads up, so that they know the status of their purchase at all times. That way, there will be no surprises and customers will feel confident in purchasing from you.
  6. Set up a live chat. One way to provide easily accessible customer service is by setting up a live chat program on your site. This way, customers can ask questions and find out about their purchases without having to take the time to call or write.
  7. Track orders carefully. Before you launch your ecommerce site, make sure you have a reliable way of tracking your orders from your storeroom to your customers’ doors. If your products are good, customers will be eagerly awaiting their arrival, and will want a way to find out when they’ll arrive, so be you’re able to pass on tracking info.
  8. Know your products inside and out. If you’re selling something, make sure you know as much as you can about it, or know how to direct customers to someone who does. That way, when customers call, you’ll be able to answer questions quickly and easily.
  9. Always provide what you promise. If you promise customers something, whether it’s a fast delivery, or a replacement item, make sure you stick to your commitment. Nothing says poor customer service like backing out on promises, so don’t make promises you aren’t sure you can keep.
  10. Make it easy to buy. One reason people shop on the Internet is because it’s easier and simpler than driving to a regular store and waiting in line. So, if you want to keep customers shopping on your site, you need to make it as easy as possible. Keep shopping down to as few clicks as possible and don’t force customers to fill out endless forms just to order. Less time spent checking out means less time for customers to change their minds.
  11. Keep customers in the loop. A big part of creating customer confidence is always letting customers know what’s happening, even if there is going to be a delay. Customers should never have to wonder about the status of their order, so send them emails, give them a call, and provide easy options if there is ever something out of ordinary happening with their order.
  12. Trust your customers. While there are some people who will use any opportunity to milk everything they can from a company, most people are reluctant to complain. So trust your customers when they say they have a problem. Most of the time they will be telling the truth and you’ll make a loyal shopper out of them by helping to solve their problem.
  13. Provide as much information as possible. Let your customers make educated purchases by providing as much information on what you’re selling as possible. Include size, colors, weight and any features the item comes with to allow customers to know exactly what they’re getting when they buy something from your site.
  14. Have an FAQ section. Chances are good that there will be some common questions that your customers will need help with. Rather than waste time replying to these kinds of questions individually, create a special page for FAQs so your customers can find easy answers right away.
  15. Analyze your usability. Before you ever launch your ecommerce site, make sure that you’ve set it up to be as easy to use as possible. Ask the least computer savvy person you know to try out the site and see where you can improve–you might save yourself some lost sales later on.
  16. Ensure security of personal information. One of the fears many people have when ordering online is that their personal information won’t be secure when they place an order. Calm their fears by ensuring that your site is secure and let customers know what you’ve done to protect their private information.
  17. Add a few incentives. One way to bring in more customers is to create incentive programs. This can be anything from offering free shipping on certain items to giving discounts for referrals. Anything that can set you apart from your competitors will be to your advantage.
  18. Follow up with customers. Don’t just let a customer fall by the wayside once an order is complete. Follow up with customers to see how they felt about their experience and make sure that problems have been resolved satisfactorily.
  19. Develop email templates. This doesn’t mean that your emails shouldn’t be personalized, but templates can help you to make sure that all your customers are getting essential information and the same level of service. Create basic templates that will allow you to add in individual responses to each customer as you need to.
  20. Create a system to respond to emails. Unless you have a part of your business dedicated solely to customer service, you’re going to have to figure out how to handle the emails that you get so your customers can get timely responses to their questions and orders. Create set times to check your email, and answer easier questions first rather than those that might require you to do some research, so that no one is ever left waiting too long for a response.
  21. Make sure employees are well-trained. If you have a customer service support staff, make sure they are thoroughly trained and knowledgeable about your business and what you’re selling. Remember that these people might be the only direct interaction customers have with your company, so make sure it’s a positive experience for everyone involved. The more they know, the more helpful they can be for customers.
  22. Go the extra mile. Make your business stand apart by being willing to go farther to make a customer happy. It may cost you up front, but it can pay off in the long run with repeat business and evangelical customers.
  23. End on a high note. When a customer calls you with a problem or concern, make sure the call doesn’t end on a negative tone. Instead of ending your call or email with an apology, try putting a positive spin on things by telling the customer what you’re doing right now to solve their problem and that they can look forward to a happy resolution.
  24. Write emails carefully. Emails make it very difficult to feel the tone and meaning behind even the simplest of statements, which can be very tricky when trying to diffuse a situation with a customer. When writing emails, it’s best to stick with a polite tone so that there is little room for misinterpretation of what you mean to say.
  25. Give customers a choice of solutions. Sometimes what you think the customer wants as a resolution to a problem isn’t what they had in mind at all. Give customers options when it comes to making them happy so that they feel like you really care about serving their needs and resolving the issue. When in doubt, just ask–it’s the easiest way to find out what the best solution would be.
  26. Respond to emails and calls as quickly as possible. Don’t leave customers hanging. Answer inquiries as fast as time permits. Who knows, if you’re especially speedy, you may impress customers enough to bring them back.
  27. Know how to apologize. Sometimes the best remedy to a problem is the simplest one. Apologize to customers for any errors on the part of your company. It’s a simple thing to do and customers will appreciate it.
  28. Learn how to listen well. If you really want to find out what will make your customers happy, then sometimes you just need to be quiet and really listen to what they’re telling you. Pay attention to tone of voice, word choice and most importantly, how they feel about their experience.
  29. Don’t overcompensate. While it’s fine to give unhappy customers a little something extra to make sure they go away satisfied, don’t overdo it. While you may have the best intentions, you’ll end up looking unprofessional.
  30. Remember small touches. It’s the small things that customers will remember when buying from you, and that will set you apart from the sea of other online retailers. Offer free gift wrap or send out handwritten thank yous to those who make large purchases.
  31. Take responsibility. Everyone goofs sometimes, so take responsibility for any errors made by your company, even if they weren’t directly your fault. Passing blame off on someone else won’t solve the customer’s problem, so take charge yourself and make things right.
  32. Use names. With so much automated business done on the net these days, customers can end up feeling like little more than a number and a dollar sign to businesses. Make their experiences more personalized by referring to each customer by his or her name. Customers will feel more appreciated and you’ll get to know who you’re selling to a little better.
  33. Don’t pitch to unhappy customers. Some business guides will tell you that you should use every opportunity to upsell customers, but try putting yourself in your customers’ shoes. If you had a negative experience with a purchase, wouldn’t you be a little irritated if the same company tried to sell you something else while fixing your problem? Save the sales pitch and concentrate on keeping your customers happy, not on making a few extra bucks.
  34. Make customers feel important. If you want to keep customers coming back, make sure they feel like they really matter to you and that their orders, no matter how small, are important. Listen to what they have to say and be sincere in your appreciation of their business.
  35. Remember the importance of saying yes. You don’t have to green light every request your customers make of you, but so long as it’s within reason, saying yes to customer requests can make a big difference in how they see you and your business.
  36. Be honest. Never try to lie to your customers, even if you feel like you’re protecting your reputation. Honestly really is the best policy, so if you’ve made a mistake, be honest. Customers will appreciate the gesture and might even feel that you’re a more trustworthy business because of it.
  37. Find the right people. Some people just love helping out others and excel at customer service work. Make sure you’re hiring employees that will enjoy working with your customers and making their experience as good as possible.
  38. Know your customers. It’s hard to provide good customer service if you don’t know who you’re dealing with. Learn who you’re selling your products to, both on a general and specific level. The better you know your customers, the better you’ll be at meeting their needs.
  39. Try to exceed expectations. Keep your customers pleasantly surprised by exceeding their expectations when it comes to customer service. Sometimes it can be as simple as making sure packages arrive early or going out of your way to get a special order, but customers will remember and come back for more if you offer great service.
  40. Have a "help" link prominently displayed. Don’t make customers hunt around if they need assistance. That’s the quickest way to send them to a competitor’s site that’s easier to navigate. Make sure you always have a help button that customers can click on and get help with any step of their ordering process.
  41. Know when a customer needs to be given to the competition. As hard as it might be to come to terms with, there are times when your business simply isn’t the best solution for a customer. While sending them away might cost you a sale, it also saves you from having a dissatisfied customer.
  42. Use a good hosting service. How does your web host influence customer service? By keeping your site reliable and fast loading, that’s how. You can’t make sales if your site won’t load, so make sure that you go with a host that can handle the traffic coming to your site.
  43. Provide multiple payment options. Just because a payment method is more convenient for you doesn’t mean the same will be true for potential customers. Don’t lose sales because you only provide customers with one way to pay.
  44. Don’t forget the images. Make sure your customers know what it is they are buying. Put images on your site of your products from every angle in every color so customers won’t be surprised when their purchase arrives.
  45. Use top of the line shopping cart software. Your shopping cart feature is the bread and butter of your ecommerce site, so don’t get some middle of the road product. Purchase a solution that will be easy and reliable for customers to use, and that has a great support team for you.
  46. Establish credibility. It’s hard for many people, especially those still getting used to buying things online, to trust a solely online business. So do everything you can to let customers know all about your business. Provide addresses, photos, and even customer testimonials to help build the trust of your customer base.
  47. Treat problems as opportunities. You can help yourself provide better customer service by simply changing your attitude. Don’t view customer complaints as negatives, view them as a chance to prove to your customers what a great business you’re running.
  48. Don’t script your phone calls. If you’re going to offer phone support, don’t make it a scripted affair. It annoys customers and makes them feel like they aren’t getting answers for their specific problem. Have some standard operating procedures on hand for common problems, but don’t script out entire conversations.
  49. Never argue with customers. Customers may not always be right, but as far as your business is concerned, they are. Don’t waste time and energy arguing with customers, just concentrate on trying to fix whatever it is they’re dissatisfied about.
  50. Focus on making customers, not sales. It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers game, especially if you’re just starting out, but the long term strategy for your business should be more about building customer relationships than making individual sales. Remember, it takes a lot more time and energy to attract new customers than it does to keep existing ones. Happy customers will be your best source of business.

Providing great customer service should be an essential part of your business, not just an added benefit. Many ecommerce sites still haven’t learned this lesson, so you’ll be ahead of the game if you start using these tips to provide your customers with the best experience possible.

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Christina

    Thanks for sharing this post via the Carnival of Business Analysts. Unfortunately it was a little off topic and so I have not included it this time.

    I did enjoy this post though and will be browsing your blog in the future.

    I hope I see you back at Better Projects oron the Carnival in the future.

    All the best
    Craig

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