Running a business is so much more than simply advertising and selling a product. The importance of customer service and the customer experience, before and after a sale, cannot be underestimated. In a crowded marketplace, great customer service and a positive experience of your website can differentiate your business and increase sales.
The customer’s experience of your website
A prospective customer may find you through your website initially, following a search on their smart phone or laptop. It is vital to put yourself in their shoes and ensure that their experience will be smooth and straightforward.
Questions to ask yourself include: Is your site easy to navigate? Has it been optimised for all screen sizes and devices? Does the text explain clearly what you do and what you offer? Are your contact details easy to find? Do you have great photos of your stock, with accurate descriptions and a link right there to your online shop? Are there complementary products they may be interested in purchasing pictured nearby? Do you have special offers to entice them to buy more than they had planned?
Whatever your line of business, consider the customer’s journey along your buying path. If they have questions once they have viewed your site, don’t bury the contact details in tiny writing at the bottom of a long page. When they click Contact Us, make sure there are all methods available for them to get in touch, including a phone number. Not everyone wants to fill in a form or send an email if they need a quick response. And if you offer contact through a form or email, make sure it is checked often and your replies are sent promptly. Think about how you would feel if you sent an enquiry and did not hear back quickly – or at all!
If you have a ‘chat’ function, ensure it is available 24/7. If the customer is interacting with a bot, make that clear. People don’t want to feel duped into believing they are dealing with a human being if they are not and they could become frustrated quickly, as many chat functions offer limited assistance. Make sure that human ‘chat’ respondents are quick and helpful in their replies, so the customer knows they are valued. It can be very annoying to be left waiting for a reply when ‘chat’ is the only means offered for communicating with a company.
No ‘hard sell’
You may be keen for site visitors to sign up to your newsletter, but don’t make that a large pop-up on the first screen as soon as they arrive on your page. There is nothing more annoying when they haven’t even had time to look around the website and the immediate response will be to delete the box so they can see what they were trying to view in the first place. Instead, perhaps include a static form at the side of the page, or initiate the pop-up invite after they have been on the site for a while. Tempt them with a special discount or free gift with a newsletter sign-up only when you know they have had a chance to gain some insight into your products or services.
If your website has a slideshow outlining the company’s services or showing a gallery of products, make sure it doesn’t move too fast for anyone to read or view those products. This is both annoying for the customer and fails to impart important information to them.
Make sure all text has been checked for accurate spelling and grammar. Poorly constructed sentences suggest the business is amateurish and reduces trust. Slick, informative and clear text descriptions demonstrate professionalism and efficiency, encouraging the visitor to do business with you.
Images and carefully selected colour palettes are important to reinforce the company brand and lift pages that may otherwise be text-heavy. Photography should load quickly on any device. Product images should be crisp and show the item from different angles and, where appropriate, in a lifestyle setting too. Measurements and weights should be supplied, as well as any alternative options in terms of size, colour or shape.
Does your company have an interesting or unusual process that may interest visitors to your website? Perhaps it is worth explaining it in more detail to give them insights into what happens behind the scenes.
The buying experience
Having had a chance to view your website, sign up for a newsletter or other communications, and have any queries answered, the prospective customer’s buying experience must be straightforward. Ensure the website’s Search box will find products easily and have a smooth process in place from the Buy button to checkout. Automated ecommerce systems will usually send order confirmations and delivery information direct to the client.
If you offer a service where you need to visit the client to discuss a project, always arrive on time. If you are delayed, ensure you ring to explain the situation. Ensure you have samples and brochures to hand and a friendly approach. The client needs to feel comfortable with you personally and confident that you can carry out the work. Similarly, if you have premises that the public visit, make sure there is a welcoming environment and staff acknowledge visitors straight away and enquire how they can help. No customer wants to be ignored and made to feel their business is not wanted or needed.
The customer experience does not stop once a purchase is made. Ensure that there is a straightforward way for products to be returned if necessary, along with a telephone helpline to deal with returns queries. While a client may be disappointed if an item arrives damaged or faulty, a good returns and replacement service will reinforce trust in your business.
If they have signed up for further information from you, make them feel special with exclusive previews and discount codes that will remind them about your business and encourage further sales.
A lot of this is common sense, but many businesses do not consider all a customer needs for a smooth interaction with them. And people who have a bad experience are likely to tell a lot of their contacts about it, further damaging your reputation. If you expend a little time and effort to put the client at the centre, it is likely you will be rewarded with a purchase, repeat business and glowing reports about your company, products and services, via word of mouth and social media.