Friday, September 01, 2006

How To Deliver the Best Online Customer Service

Posted on 2006-08-02 by Kelle Arvay
General Online Business Articles

It seems in this day and age of exploding online business start ups on the Internet, a lot of effort goes into creating the perfect online presence. Including website design, SEO optimizing, marketing and promoting. But so often, one of the biggest things that can make or break your business is having great customer service. Sure you can have a fantastic website, great products and mass marketing campaigns going on. But if your customers feel your customer service is awful then your business will surely suffer for it.

You have to look at it this way. If you walked into a store you would surely expect the owner or sales person to be courteous and helpful right? Well, so do your customers online. When I say "customers", I'm also referring to businesses that offer intangible services and have clients also. Without customers and clients where would your business be? They are your greatest asset and you should treat them as such. So now that we've established why customer service is so important, what are the techniques for implementing the greatest customer service possible?

Let me offer you an outline to help the bigger picture come together for you.

1. The Golden Rule Method. We all need to remember the golden rule of "Treat others as you would want to be treated". This definitely applies when it comes to customer service. Give your customers the same treatment and attention that you would expect from a business. A good business that is.

2. The Customer Is Always Right. NEVER argue with a customer or client, even if they are wrong. Instead respond to their question or complaint in a polite and non-threatening manner. Do your best to explain yourself and offer answers to whatever issue they are having. For example if a customer purchases a product from your website and complains that they thought it would be bigger and are not happy with it. The best thing to do is to in this case would be to respond and tell them that you are sorry they are not happy with the item and offer A). They can return the item for a refund or B). Depending on your policies, offer them a website credit. Both examples of course are based on whatever policies you have in place. If you have a policy that says no refunds or exchanges. Instead, offer them an online voucher of so much off their next purchase if that is all you can give. But don't not do something for this customer or you might as well wave good-bye to them for any possibility that they will order from you again. Not only that but you probably won't gain any of their friends or family as customers either. Of course there are customers out there that can be dishonest and take advantage of situations so you have to use your judgment per individual situations. But for the most part it's always wise to err on the side that the customer is always right and offer what you can to rectify the situation in hopes that they will continue to purchase from you and tell others what a great company your company is.

3. Remember it's email. While email is a great communication tool, it doesn't have the ability to convey verbal expression. Unlike communicating on the phone where people can hear the expression in your voice. So always be aware of this when sending your responses to your customers and try to write them in such a way that expresses their importance to you and your concern for whatever issue they have.

4. Be Accessible. There's nothing worse than feeling like the customer service of a business is not very accessible. Always have an area on your website for customer service inquiries. Don't let your customers feel like they can't come ask you a question at anytime. A good idea is to add at the end of your response to your customers something like "If I can answer any more questions or assist you in any way, please don't hesitate to contact me again". This will let them know that they can come ask you anything, anytime. Some customers and clients can tend to not want to "bother" you. But you want them to know they are not bothering you with questions, concerns or comments they may have. Being accessible not only keeps the communication lines open but it builds that so important trust you want your customers and clients to have for you and your company.

5. Don't Make Them Wait. No one likes to wait for a response from a business. I'm sure many of you have sat on hold while calling a company and it feels like forever. Customers get frustrated with this. Unless your company has a huge customer service response team it may be unrealistic for you to respond to customer service inquiries immediately. But you can at least let them know that you received their customer service inquiry by implementing an autoresponder through your email client. This would be a email they would receive right after contacting customer service telling them that you have received their email, letting them know how important they are to you and giving them a time line as to when they can expect a response from you. For example a autoresponse email might say "Thank you for contacting "Your Company Name Here". Your inquiry is very important to us and we wanted to let you know that we will respond to your inquiry promptly within the next 24 hours. Thank you and we look forward to speaking with you shortly." -Signed by Your name and Your Company.

6. Follow Up. A nice customer service touch is to follow up with the customer. Say for example you have a customer that has a problem ordering or issue from a client that subscribes to your service. A simple email a day or so later asking them if they've experienced any further difficulty will be very appreciated and allow for an open door that you initiated in case they indeed are having more difficulties. Don't overdue it of course. Just the one follow up is sufficient. Some customers/clients may not respond and that's ok as no response usually means all is well. I hope the previous has been helpful and you all will go out now and perfect your customer service. Remember customer service is one of the most important aspects of your business. It is one of the big reasons that your customers will keep coming back to your company.

Author: Kelle Arvay <patternmart at aol dot com>

© 2006 Kelle Arvay. Kelle Arvay is the owner of Pattern Mart with offers customers access to thousands of craft patterns that they can purchase and download instantly. In addition, she is also the owner of IPM Pro which offers clients the ability to sell their downloadable egoods through their websites, email, blogs, auctions and message boards as instant downloadable products. She also is the co-founder and co-publisher of Creative Times, a downloadable bi-monthly craft magazine. Kelle has been working with customers for over 6 years.

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