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Customer service is, by far, the least sexy part of retail entrepreneurship. No one ever opened a retail site because they had a deep desire to be yelled at by people they don’t know. However, being able to provide solid customer service for your shop — even if it’s a one-person operation — can make or break your business.
We highly discourage learning this lesson the hard way.
Taking the time to turn a negative experience for your customers into a warm, positive one will pay out way more than it takes out of you. And it’s not all negative. How can you enrich the customer experience without spending a dime — or at least lessen the amount of dimes you have to spend on the less glamorous aspects of delivering great customer service?
- Connect with your customers on a personal level.
- Create community around your retail site.
- Reach out when there is not a problem.
These are all great ways to start turning your retail site into a customer service powerhouse.
Fake it ‘til you make it
You’re one person. You don’t have a customer service call center at your disposal or a social media manager — or you do, but it’s you, a human being who needs sleep and to have a life outside your work. You can’t monitor your customer problems 24/7, but there are some things you can do to make it look like you are.
Getting ahead of the problem: The power of the FAQ
Including an FAQ on your site that anticipates every problem that you can possibly think of will cut down on a significant amount of queries you will have to personally answer.
Creating an FAQ page on your retail site might be time consuming up front, but it will save you hours and hours of work down the line.
Invite friends who you trust to comb through your site and give you feedback until you’ve built a comprehensive list of “what ifs.” Post the FAQ to your site, but also pin your customer service FAQ to the top of your business’s Facebook page.
Social media: Professional management vs. DIY
Twitter and Facebook are amazing places to field customer questions, complaints, compliments and feedback. If you don’t currently have social media accounts for your shop, set them up now because this is the easiest way for people to reach you quickly.
If your shop is large or your business is doing well, it could be time to invest in a full-time social media community manager to respond to questions and complaints immediately and keep all of your accounts fresh and frequently updated.
If you are running a leaner ship, consider using Facebook Messenger short links — a great tool that allows businesses to interact with customers in real-time to answer questions, receive feedback, and extend special offers.
You also can include the short links on your mobile site, taking users directly to your brand’s Facebook mobile messaging app, reducing customer clicks.
Now that people can @ mention you on Twitter and hit up your Facebook account it is easier than ever for your customers to reach you. Don’t forget to include links on your retail site to these accounts and encourage customers to interact with you there.
Customer service software
Customer service software is a simple, clean way to manage all of your customer service tasks.
The upside to using an automated system is that it can act in many ways like a personal assistant, helping you keep your head above water when it comes to service requests.
There are a lot of customer service software tools floating around in the wild, but my personal favorite is ZenDesk. Why?
- It offers a free trial.
- It has an elegant, easy-to-use interface.
- Major companies use ZenDesk to scale their businesses.
ZenDesk provides a wide range of products that allow you to offer as much or as little engagement as you see fit and to grow at your own pace. You can add services that you need as you go so you don’t have to pay for features you aren’t ready to use.
Retail site customer service: The cherry on top
Not all customer service is putting out fires. Often, it is reaching out to the customers and creating community. We strongly recommend putting the following touches on your retail presence to enhance the customer experience.
Creating textual, graphic or audio content about your shop, then sharing it across social media and on your retail site, gives your customers a window into who you are and what you are about. This can be anything from two-minute instructional videos to a blog, to a podcast that can be tied back to your shop.
Using content to communicate with your customers will make them feel like a part of what you are doing and create a priceless emotional relationship to your shop.
The power of email
I know it’s cool to talk about how email is ruining everyone’s life, but that isn’t applicable in all situations. For instance, using email sparingly in proactive customer service can be an excellent tool for holding your customer’s attention.
To keep your retail site fresh on their minds without being annoying, send a monthly or quarterly email newsletter. You can use the newsletter to alert your customers of an upcoming sale or customer appreciation promotion.
Tips and tricks
Now that you have the tools to begin creating an awesome customer service experience, here are a few tips to keep you on the right track.
Develop good habits
Set time aside each day to answer customer service queries — perhaps once in the morning and once at the end of the day. This includes email and your social media accounts.
Get into the groove with emails. Don’t let a customer service inquiry languish unanswered for more than 24 hours if you can help it.
Beware of …
Overcommitting. You know best what you can reasonably commit to. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver on published customer service response times.
Letting your emotions rule the customer service experience. No one wants to deal with an unreasonable, angry or abusive customer. Unfortunately, losing your cool could mean losing your good reputation. Count to five and take a deep breath before responding to an unpleasant customer.
Remember, good customer service isn’t just about addressing negatives. It is a chance to show your customers appreciation and to cultivate relationships. Thank your customers often and make them feel like a part of your retail site’s community. Happy, involved customers are less likely to “Hulk out” and become problem customers. After all, nobody likes them when they are angry.