The death of the high street and the importance of customer service for ecommerce

Matt Price, General Manager, EMEA, for cloud-based help desk software provider, Zendesk, discusses why good customer service is an essential tool for online retailers.

The high street is changing radically. A combination of tough economic conditions, coupled with the dramatic growth of ecommerce, has shifted the balance of power to online retailers.

The rapid growth of customers for online retailers is obviously welcome news for their bottom line; however, for many, the dramatic scale-up that is required can cause issues.

The ecommerce model is based on ease of use and easy access to the products you want – when you want them. If you take either of these out of the equation, you will see a dip in customer satisfaction and in revenue. It is up to online retailers to maintain good relations with their customers and ensure they are regularly updated on any issues they may face with their order.

Many of the advantages online retailers enjoy – the lack of a physical store, and therefore rent, and lower staff numbers – can also pose challenges when ensuring customers are satisfied.

Traditionally, consumers can visit the shop they made their purchase from, to air any grievances and exchange or return their purchase, within a matter of minutes. Without this important point of interface, online retailers must maximise the quality of every other point of engagement they have with their customers.

It is no longer acceptable to hide behind a web form or email address, today's consumers expect to be able to communicate with businesses on their own terms, and gain the information they need instantaneously. Providing multiple avenues of engagement, including website information, phone numbers, social media and email, is an important component of good customer service.

However, it is not enough to have these points of contact if the responses customers receive are slow, or, unsatisfactory. This is where technology can really help. Cloud based customer service software can be easily integrated into a company's existing infrastructure. Using these platforms, customer service workers can coordinate their responses to consumers, monitor social media sites for queries or complaints and track the progress of responses. The software can also be used to identify any complaint or query trends. Using this information, businesses can also implement policies to improve customer satisfaction and ultimately aid growth.

The use of cloud based customer service technology can be of particular use to online retailers who have a small or disparate staff. By integrating it into multiple systems, computers, smart phones and tablets, good service can be maintained at any time or place. This is of particular use in aiding quick responses and also identifying problems before they escalate – which is an acute danger with social media.

Social media has made reputation increasingly important for businesses and made it just as easy for customers to destroy it with reproaches on behaviour and complaints of service. As the primary interface with prospective customers is via appearances in search engines there is a danger that any criticism could appear prominently in search results. Social media is also unpredictable; there is always a risk that a reported problem could go viral, causing catastrophic brand damage.

These risks can be mitigated by employing monitoring software and ensuring that avenues of communication via social are well maintained. An active Facebook and Twitter feed should be leveraged to tackle these complaints before they spread.

Good customer service is a great way for a company to differentiate itself from competitors. Consumers have a raft of choice online, making customer loyalty a difficult commodity for businesses to acquire. Quick and effective responses to queries or complaints can assist in producing a brand image which aids customer retention and business growth. But simply, look after your customers and they will look after you.


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