Are you selling products online? There are many other businesses that do as well. How can you set your online business apart from your competition?
Deliver excellent customer service.
Here’s how to convert website visitors into customers, and then turn those customers into return customers who refer your business to family and friends.
Provide a Detailed Product Description and Picture
Your customer wants an online shopping experience that comes as close as possible to replicating an in-store shopping experience. Because the customer cannot hold or try on your merchandise, provide a detailed product description and present it in an organized and interesting way. Provide each item’s brand, color, material, country of origin, care instructions, and sizing chart. If there are any important usage details, include them. For example, tell potential customers that a silk comforter is warm in the winter and cool in the summer, or that a kayak is intended for use on lakes, ponds, and protected bays. The picture shown should allow the customer to view your product from several different angles, as well as zoom in on it. Better yet, include a video showcasing your product.
Allow Customers to Post Reviews
Invite customers to submit both a star rating, as well as more detailed comments. Of course, not everyone will post positive reviews, but some of the feedback may actually result in better-informed sales. Let’s say that customer reviews note that a shoe runs small, and it’s best to order the next 1/2 size up. Future customers will likely follow their advice, thus cutting down on your exchange and return rates.
List Shipping Options and Clearly State Related Costs and Timing
Online retailers should provide their customers with at least two shipping options – ground delivery and express. Clearly state what your shipping costs are and when your customer should expect their package to be delivered. Customers should be given a tracking number to monitor their order’s progress, from warehouse assembly to in-transit location. If your customer is required to sign for their package, make sure they know so they can be at the delivery location at the appropriate time.
Adopt a Fair and Reasonable Exchange and Return Policy
When a customer decides to exchange or return an item, make the process as hassle-free as possible. Clearly state your policy on your website and on their packing slip.
What condition will you accept? Apparel companies typically allow exchanges and returns as long as the item is unworn, unwashed, and still has the original tags attached.
How long will you accept returns? Customers can be given 30 days to return an item, but you may choose to honor returns well after a month’s time.
Who pays for return postage? Smaller businesses usually require their customers to pay for the return postage, while larger companies will provide prepaid mailing labels for returns. If some sales are final – such as personalized items or deeply-discounted merchandise – include this disclaimer on the product’s page, during checkout, and on the enclosed packing slip.
Include Your Business Contact Info on Every Page
Don’t make customers hunt for your email and phone number. Include it on every page of your website, on order confirmation emails, and on packing slips.
Send Your Customer Two Emails – to Confirm Their Order and Again After It Ships
Once a customer places an order, you should send an email to the customer confirming their order. Once their order has shipped, email the customer again, detailing the shipper and tracking number. Not only will this cut down on the “Where is my order?” emails, but customers will appreciate knowing exactly where their order is in the fulfillment process.
Answer Customer Emails in 24 Hours or Less
Promptly reply to customers, whether it’s a question, suggestion, or complaint. Always thank them for their email. Answer honestly – if you no longer stock backpacks or can’t fulfill an order in time for Mother’s Day delivery, say so – and then make a suggestion that will meet their needs, without the hard sell. While no one looks forward to addressing a complaint, be gracious in all correspondence and look at it as an opportunity to improve your business. A responsive company makes for very happy customers.
Do All That You Can to Find a Lost Package
Make sure all your shipments include tracking and delivery confirmation. But sometimes, even after your shipper has confirmed delivery, a customer will contact you saying that their package is lost. Believe her. And make every effort to find it, including calling the customer’s post office and speaking with their mail carrier. The mail carrier may confirm the package was placed in a garage, or behind a bench on a side porch. It is a rare business that will go to such lengths to find a lost package. Be that rare business.
Anticipate and Fulfill Special Requests
Occasionally a customer will contact you with a special request. Are you an outdoor furniture retailer that requires customers to assemble delivered furniture? When a customer calls to have a picnic table assembled at his home, have a network of handymen at the ready and do it. Are you an embroiderer that monograms merchandise? When a new grandmother contacts you to embroider a bib with a nursery rhyme on it, do it. Customers, grateful for the personal service, will become your best advertising.
Thank Customers with Special Offers
Give your customers advance word on sales. If customers refer friends, email them coupon codes to be used toward future purchases. Choose a valued customer and mail them a free gift as a thank you for their business. Invite customers to submit testimonials and post them on your site, then ask a few to join you at an upcoming company event.