The Christmas season is well underway for retailers, which means customer service departments will be facing a battle to maintain standards.

With many customers shopping online for the first time, as well as those internet shopping veterans who will turn out in great numbers, etailers must ensure that they provide a positive experience to encourage repeat business.

So how can they do it? Some tips after the jump…

We’re big on the subject of customer retention here at E-consultancy, so what can an e-commerce firm do to keep shoppers satisfied and coming back for more? How can the internet play a part in all of this?

E-commerce companies should consider the following, to boost customer satisfaction while reducing those expensive offline support costs that can devour margins… and remember, it isn’t too late to introduce some of these – there are some quick wins here:

  • Provide comprehensive FAQs

    This can help customers quickly find the answers to their queries about shipping, returns policies etc. A searchable FAQs section that covers every conceivable question will enable customers to get answers more quickly and take the pressure off customer service staff.
  • Allow customers to email

    Customers may have a query that isn’t covered by the information available on the site. Customers may dislike having to call customer service departments, so provide them with an email alternative.
  • Ensure a speedy response to emails
    Some surveys have found that customers sometimes have to wait 2-3 days before their emails are answered. This is not good enough, especially during the festive season when customers need to know when their goods are arriving. Not answering emails quickly enough will also increase pressure on call centres.
  • Increase staffing levels

    This will be the busiest time of year, and online customer service departments may be dealing with five times the volume of emails, as well as extra customer calls, so ensure that you have enough staff to deal with the rush.
  • Personalisation

    Personalise email responses to customers – this will reassure people that someone is directly answering their questions.
  • Acknowledge the receipt of a customer email
    This will eliminate needless customer frustration by ensuring that their questions are being dealt with.
  • Detailed Product Pages
    As with providing a good FAQs section, providing accurate and detailed information on product pages can avoid the need for customers to call or email. Provide detailed information of delivery costs and times, as well as general information about the product on offer. 
  • Returns policy

    Making  your returns policy as simple and flexible as possible, by allowing customers to return product bought online to a store, for instance, will avoid unnecessary hassle, and may give customers more confidence to buy.
  • Exceed expectations

    Mistakes are bound to happen, but it is important to deal with them well and exceed customers’ expectations. For example, if you fail to deliver an item, then don’t just apologise for the error, but offer the item discounted or free of charge.
  • Invest in online customer service technology

    The market for online customer service solutions is growing at 50%, and such technology can benefit online retailers in a number of ways.

    The cost of the average customer interaction by telephone is estimated to be between 20 and 40 times more expensive that a web self-service interaction, so this investment can pay off for retailers.

* We’d love to hear more from retailers and other e-commerce companies that are focusing on retention, rather than simply using the internet as a channel to acquire new customers. Let us know if you’d like to share some ideas on what works best (email

blog@e-consultancy.com

).

Related stories:

Banks slammed over web customer service

Firms could improve customer self-service

Related research:

Online Customer Service Solutions Buyer’s Guide 2007