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Managing Customer Service Online
Many firms now operate online as the benefits of offering 24/7 shopping without the costs of retail shops are obvious. As we know whether a customer is in your store or interacting with you through the internet customer service is the key to increase your business. However managing customer services through the internet can be challenging as you don't have face to face interaction with customers. Despite the challenges, a firm can use the various communication methods the internet offers to provide excellent customer service.
Website Navigation, Speed and Content
The first step in good customer service is to provide a website that customers can navigate easily and find the answers they need. Not all queries can be answered through a website but essentials such as product/service details, company information, delivery charges, terms and conditions, help section, customer feedback and site map should all be clearly visible. The website should also load up relatively quickly so that customers do not get frustrated and move onto competitor websites.
Just as for traditional "bricks and mortar" businesses, customer feedback is important and will help you improve customer service and sales. Some websites have a dedicated feedback section, others have a pop up asking website visitors to complete a short survey. Whilst an increasing number will e-mail customers after the purchase, asking them to rate the product, buying process and customer service.
Even though the purchase process is online/via an internet website the customer must feel that they can contact the firm. There should be a telephone number the customer can ring, if it is a small online firm and staffing is limited customers should be able to leave messages so they can be contacted back at a later stage.
To make the buying process over the internet feel more human, some firms use web cams and messenger services to talk directly to customers. Web chats allow customers to have live conversations with the firm and they allow the firm's representative to build rapport with customers. It can be an effective way to increase sales, resolve queries and manage complaints.
Responding to Complaints by Email
A firm should respond to written customer complaints within a reasonable time. If complaints are about a common issue then the online firm will know that this issue needs to be dealt with quickly before it has an impact on their reputation. Unlike the post/letters emails are a quick way to answer complaints and just like letters there is a record of the communication.
Firms need to be able to deliver the product quickly at low cost or at no cost for the customer. The customer will judge the firm by how quickly they received the product and the condition of the product they received.
Customer concerns about the returns process for faulty and unwanted items can make them apprehensive about buying on line. When it comes to business reputation, the after sales service is just as (if not more ) important than the pre sales service. A simple and easy returns process is essential and there should a number of ways for the customer to contact the firm and talk through the process.
As we have seen the fact that online firms do not have face to face contact with the customer is not an excuse for poor customer service. There are many ways to communicate with customers remotely and you need to use this to your advantage. If you don't get customer service right, with one click the customer can move onto someone who has.