As an e-commerce business owner, you’re not facing only your local competition. You have to take on all the large and small businesses in your niche if you hope to remain competitive and successful.
Depending on your industry, you need to find ways to stand out from giants such as Amazon, Alibaba, even eBay. And since you likely don’t have the same resources as these companies, it could seem challenging to develop strategies to increase sales.
However, the best strategy is often the simplest one. If you want to improve your customer retention rates and boost your profits, one of the key things you need to do is offer an outstanding customer experience. And that starts with proactive customer service.
Proactive, rather than reactive customer service means you anticipate problems or needs before they occur and take the appropriate action. This can take many forms, such as making sure a tricky technical feature has an easy to find and helpful explanation in the FAQ, or upselling useful products to go with something a customer has just added to their basket.
Stats show that 70% of global customers think more highly of brands with a proactive customer service approach. So, let’s see how you can implement this for your business.
Get to know your customers
Before you can start introducing proactive strategies and improving the processes that your remote customer service team follows, you need to know your customers. Otherwise, your strategy can fail to meet their needs.
Perhaps your customers want to have a better mobile experience when they visit your site, but you’re only focused on introducing irrelevant features. Maybe they need a more detailed FAQ page, but you’re only committed to teaching your support teams how to use social media safely.
To ensure better customer satisfaction rates, you need to learn your customers’ pain points and current issues, preferences, likes, and dislikes.
Effective ways to collect this essential information and gather relevant feedback on your current performance include using surveys, reviews and feedback forms.
They can help you see your brand from your customer’s perspective and can show you your business’s main strengths and weaknesses.
Create a user-friendly self-help portal
A self-help portal with detailed FAQs, interactive forums, engaging and insightful content is one of the most powerful proactive customer service tools at your disposal.
The Harvard Business Review reported that across industries, fully 81% of all customers attempt to take care of matters themselves before reaching out to a live representative.
Speed is key here - nobody wants to wait on hold at the end of a phone line. Customers prefer self service as opposed to contacting customer support teams because they want to find answers to their most pressing questions fast, and they expect companies to provide the kind of information they need. It streamlines the process and enables customers to solve their own issues quickly.
However, if your self-help portal is too complex it can lead to more customer frustration. So make sure it's well organised, user-friendly and fully optimized.
Highlight your most common FAQs, promote your most relevant video tutorials, optimize the navigation bar, and make sure that all information is easy to find and understand.
Sony's support page provides a first class example. You can search by keyword, or by product (via the dropdown or the icons), or by resource type (downloads, manuals, Q&A).
Further down the page you have links to popular and important topics.
And scrolling further brings you to ways of contacting Sony, the Sony community, and links to popular online services such as repairs and warranties.
There are multiple routes to finding what you want, and the page is set out in a clear, user-friendly way, showing a company keen to provide great customer care.
Educate your customer service teams
Few things are as frustrating to consumers as customer support teams that don’t provide adequate support. Inability to answer questions, transferring from one agent to another, taking too long to respond – these are all common issues that impact your reputation and cost you your customers.
A Forbes survey found that an astonishing 96% of customers would leave and go elsewhere due to bad customer service.
Here’s how those numbers break down:
- 27.9% said they are extremely willing to switch to have a better customer service experience
- 32.7% are very willing to switch
- 35.5% are somewhat willing to switch
And service starts with knowledgeable customer service teams.
It’s in your best interest to invest in employee training programs that enable them to offer high quality customer service.
Educate your employees to make sure they are knowledgeable about your products and services. It’s also important that they have awareness and techniques to enable them to deal successfully with difficult situations which can arise.
Easy availability at all times
Fast response rates are one of the most important criteria for good customer service. You need to keep your support available so that customers can reach out to you at any time of day or night. 24/7 might not be feasible for a small company support team, but there are ways to mitigate this.
You can hire remote customer service team members who will be active at different times, corresponding to the timezones that suit your customers. This way you can ensure fast response rates without needing to keep your local teams working after hours.
Additionally, chatbots can go a long way to picking up the slack. Implement a chatbot widget on your website that’s clearly visible.
The live chat option is an excellent proactive strategy. You can use it to greet every customer who visits your website to let them know that you’re always available to offer help if needed.
Put your social media accounts to work
Social media is one of the most useful tools for an e-commerce platform. It allows you to expand your brand awareness, engage directly with your consumers, and inspire your customers’ loyalty.
Most importantly, it allows you to keep an eye on your online reputation and find out what your customers might be saying about you.
Not all customers will communicate directly with your customer support agents when they have a complaint or problem.
Many will air their grievances on social media channels – sometimes through their own status updates, sometimes through posts on a public group, and sometimes through your competitors’ comment sections.
That’s why it’s critical to be proactive and use social listening tools to monitor brand mentions, relevant keywords and hashtags. It can tell you more about your customers’ experiences than the reviews on your website, and will help you pick up potential issues and resolve them before they become too big a problem.
Offer personalized recommendations
Personalized recommendations and the “products you may like” feature on your website can work wonders for enhancing users’ overall experience and boosting your customer retention rates.
After all, instead of forcing your customers to go through product page after product page, you’re giving them a shortcut to find out about the best products that might suit them.
However, make sure that your recommendations are relevant and personalized. Monitor your website visitors, analyze individual shopping behaviors, and only offer products that make sense to the individual visitor.
Remember that personalized recommendations don’t have to be reserved solely for your products and services.
You can recommend your insightful blog post on “The Benefits of Natural Cosmetics” to a customer who’s been browsing your 100% organic foundation, or offer your video tutorial on “How to contour” to a customer who’s just added your contour kit to their shopping cart.
Take advantage of email newsletters
Email newsletters are excellent for expanding your email list and generating new leads. They can also be used as part of your proactive customer support strategy.
Clear communication is critical for customer retention, so you’ll want to make sure that you communicate every relevant detail about your brand to your customers.
Use your email newsletters to keep your consumers informed about any potential problems such as website downtime for scheduled maintenance, temporary shipping issues, sold-out products, and more.
Of course, newsletters can also be used for product announcements, positive news, events and offers. Get inspiration from some of the best email marketing examples to learn how to catch your customers’ attention and keep them happy and engaged.
A proactive approach to customer service can keep your business thriving even in some of the most fiercely competitive fields.
It can enhance your brand awareness, boost your customer retention rates and increase your sales, as well as helping to stop customer tickets piling up and eliminating problems at an early stage.
So don’t be running to catch up, be ahead of the curve with your customer-centred, proactive approach and build a top quality reputation for your business.