Are Customer Relationships Important?
A look at e-commerce platforms Part III
One of the major challenges that face many e-commerce businesses is not just reaching future customers but retaining them once they become customers. Customer support is one of the foundations that a successful business is structured around. Starting up customer support to efficiently handle and respond to the large amount of questions and requests requires customer service offered in many different languages is not easy. For vendors that only target a market that uses one language predominantly this task is simplified, but for targeting the market worldwide, this can be hectic.
Taking this challenge head on can reduce problems further down the road when it comes to providing the kind of service that the vendor needs to be successful. This task is a very important factor during the staffing process of any business. By setting and maintaining tight standards vendors can assemble a top notch customer service team, this can be one of the vendor’s most important assets. It is tough enough in the e-commerce market to gain the needed customers and it becomes even harder to retain customers. Some of these practices will be discussed in brief to give the future online vendors a quick overview of what they may look for.
The customer service team should be well rounded with experience in dealing with a wide variety of issues that arise in the business that you operate online. Another important facet of the customer service is the ability to converse with the customers in their native language, or a close common language. Today many businesses try employing specialists that possess unique linguistic talents to offer customer support in many of the most demanding languages. This part can present problems if the language is not widely used or if a vague dialect is used.
One of the next areas to touch on is to know the target area of the customers. Throughout the world there are many diverse cultures and within those cultures are subjects, topics and even phases which can be very sensitive without knowing. A common work around to this particular issue is to avoid localized phrases and idioms because they can be misunderstood. Getting to know the consumer base that you will be targeting and as much information about the culture will increase the viability of your success online. The best service can be delivered through understanding who your future customers are and where they are located. With this said, be sure that diversity is a standard practice. With the vast amounts of different cultures, religions, and lifestyles employees must have diversity on their minds at all times.
Once the customers are known make sure the customer service team receives proper training to ensure they have the necessary skills to receive and answer questions. In-depth training on products or services your business will provide, will be an effective tool for employees. Delivering knowledge to the customers is made extremely easy if the information is communicated clearly and professionally.
Stay away from the common call center type of customer services. These types of services do not provide as informed services as a well-trained customer service team would. With a well assembled and trained customer service team the service that is provided can make or break a business, especially e-commerce businesses. Take the time to know your team as well as your customers and this will provide a more cohesive environment for the vendor and employees alike. Providing a more personal service can give your business an edge and it will give the customers a more secure experience.
For operating your business on a worldwide scale, try offering a 24/7/365 customer support service. Taking into account the many time zones, people will benefit having the 24 hour service available. This could save conversion loss because a human voice is not reached and the prospective customer decides to go elsewhere. Whether callers actually have service-related questions or not, they do remember the service they do not receive because a machine could not answer it. This will greatly reduce frustration and increase satisfaction.
Try taking advantage of the information highway and introduce a newsletter. Providing a newsletter with updates or new information about services and products can increase business and customer satisfaction. There are many newsletter programs and services to use that can prove useful. Without a lot of time to invest you can reach your entire customer base with targeted newsletters, maintaining the relationship with them between purchases.
Some of these suggestions may seem either a no-brainer or minor, but the continued effort to provide the best possible service is a major part of the retention of hard earned customers. The most pleasant service is one that people will remember and can be the make-or-break part of your online business. In order to retain and maintain return customers these practices should be utilized and become a standard. Keep in mind that the online sale does not finish at the browser and the extra efforts will help to increase any vendor’s bottom line.
As mentioned in the previous parts of this “Look at E-Commerce Platforms”, individual tools and tips offer benefits in different ways and they are all discussed as means of increasing your e-business. There is no defined single answer for the ever growing business models, but having some inside opinions always helps.
This series of articles is an inside view of an e-commerce platform for today’s economy and the sole opinion of the writer.
Dennis Michael Gannon
Marketing Communications Representative