eCommerce Insiders

Why service must be top priority for online retailers

In the past years online retailers have shown little attention for delivering great customer service. A Limelight survey from 2011 which shows that only 45% of their online retailers are willing to invest in a customer support tool that is focused on customer interaction. Awareness of the importance of customer service is growing slowly, but as the industry stabilizes I expect customer service to become a trending topic.

The number of web stores is growing rapidly. Consumers have more and more choices where and what to buy. So where do you buy your stuff? You don’t have to be the cheapest if you are the best. And there will always be someone cheaper.

A recent international study by American Express shows that in the USA 33% of the respondents see poor customers service as a reason to change brands/shops. One out of two respondents (55%) walked away from an intended purchase in the past year because of a poor customer service experience. Americans are growing more frustrated with customer service, and businesses are feeling the heat as consumers tell an increasing number of people about both their positive and poor service experiences by social media.

Earlier I wrote about the role of customer service when you participate in the Google Trusted Stores program. But even if you don’t participate in this program, customer service should be top priority. “Delivering outstanding service creates impassioned advocates and can serve as a powerful marketing weapon for companies,” said Jim Bush, Executive Vice President, World Service, American Express. “For example, consumers who have used social media for service in the last year are willing to pay a 21% premium at companies that provide great service. They also tell three times as many people about positive service experiences compared to the general population. Ultimately, getting service right with these social media savvy consumers can help a business grow.”

It’s one of the things where online retailers can make a big difference and leave the competition behind.
Online retailers spend a lot of money on online advertising and other ways to get traffic to their web store. However, a prospect with a question or even a complaint is one already interacting on your website. This is where you can turn him into a free ambassador of your shop without any cost except simply demonstrating him your customer care

The effectiveness and ROI of campaigns is measured and can be optimized. Conversion ratio and average order value are very important metrics. Trust and retention are important influencers. That’s where customer service shows her value.

In my job at I have the honor to work with small and midsized online retailers. They share their experiences with us about working with Robin, their customer service assistant, and how that affects their online business.

I would like to share a real story with you. Recently I received an e-mail from one of our customers. It was 10.30 pm in the evening and the subject-line was showing some love for our product. I became curious and opened the message. It contained a screenshot from our iPhone app:

Robin iPhone App

Besides that this is for us a happy customer, this example illustrated perfectly what can be achieved with great customer service. The customer is surprised that he receives this fast response. So he indicates that he is “happy”. The result is an order of $120 from a satisfied customer.

This practical example illustrates how the conversion ratio can be influenced. Proving easy ways to get in touch with a web store has a positive influence on the conversion ratio. Even when a visitor doesn’t use it, it creates trust.

It will not be a surprise that returning customers buy more. After great experiences people will often order some additional products. This will improve your average order value.

Also worth sharing with you are the possibilities of redirecting visitors and customers who have great experiences to independent review sites like ResellerRatings. When your customer service performs great, people are more willing to send their complains to you instead of writing a negative review of send out a negative tweet about your web store. You can ask people who are explicitly happy to write a nice review.

In my opinion the best marketing is great service. It’s easy to do and great fun to receive feedback from happy customers. Take your advantage and share your experience by writing your story in the comment section below.

Patrick Speijers

Patrick Speijers (1974) is co-founder and CEO of Robin, the social and web customer service app for online retailers. Robin is a multi channel customer service app, supporting communication through online contact form, e-mail and twitter. It has a handcrafted, beautifully designed, powerfull GUI for external communication, internal collaboration supported by an adaptive customerpanel. Robin works on desktop, tablet and mobile and has native apps for iPhone and iPad. For a special ecommerceinsiders deal, please send me an e-mail.

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