Tips for providing excellent customer service and retaining customers

Customer service is often neglected during, and post-sale. It is important to focus on these aspects of your business as it can be an effective way of building a loyal customer base, rather than spending extra money attracting new customers. Sage Business Expert, Darren Bull, founder of the Metakinetic ecommerce agency, provides tips on how to improve your customer service for existing customers.

“Good customer service costs less than bad customer service”
Sally Gronow, Welsh Water

I’ve often heard it said that customer service is equal to customer retention and one statistic that gets trotted out, and not without merit, is that “attracting a new customer can cost five times as much as keeping an existing one”.

Should retailers pay as much attention to retention as they do to run and grow their business?  Definitely. Do they?  Often, they are somewhat understandably too busy with growing their business to deal with customer service. They may say they will focus on it later but never do.  They also might not have the infrastructure or the knowledge of how or what to analyse in order understand their customers and how to retain them.

If you’re an online retailer, here are a few things to consider:

Don’t treat customers like sheepCustomer service

Customers by their nature don’t want to all be treated the same, like sheep. However as a business you need to consider each as one entity and not to silo them into different buckets depending on how they have interacted with you i.e. online or in a shop. You need one view – one customer-centric view.

Traditionally companies have used call centres and emails for support but now you should be using social media to interact with your customers as customer service spills into social channels via Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  

“I don’t want a Faceless Service”

Although the big online retailers such as Amazon and eBay are faceless in that there are no people in the online buying process and everything is done electronically, their customers are happy as these organisations have invested heavily in their customer support centres. However for smaller retailers, who can’t invest time and money in this way, this approach won’t work quite as well.  There are some easy, basic ways to provide a face to your shop and ensure customers feel they are getting a personalised service:

  • Publish a contact telephone number, so that customers know they can always get in touch with someone on your team
  • Have social media buttons to allow customers to interact – Facebook, Twitter, Google+ – one of our customers uses Twitter as its main support channel and questions  or complaints can be handled quickly and also can be seen by others.
  • Use LiveChat to listen and talk to your customers.
  • Choose a channel that’s convenient for your customers and is also good for your brand.  The advantage of social media is that its always available and you can respond even if you are on the train or the bus to work!

Use switch sell/upsell options

Sometimes an order may be placed and accepted before you realise that the product is out of stock, as it can be difficult to make sure all channels are in sync. Whilst this may initially seem to be a problem, it can provide a great opportunity to get in touch with the customer and ask them if they would be happy to switch to a similar or alternative product and also to upsell products. Usually customers will accept the alternative and will see you as providing great customer support.

Customer service is closely aligned with customer loyalty and repeat business. If you provide a fantastic service then most of the work is done to turn them into a loyal customer. So don’t forget about customer service – it’s very important.  From a perspective of working with some big retail brands we know how important customer service is to them and is often central to what their brand is all about.

Darren Bull

Darren Bull

Founder of Metakinetic

Darren founded Metakinetic in 2005, following a successful career running one of the country’s largest online retail teams. An expert in ecommerce, Darren consults with a wide range of Metakinetic’s clients on varying retail challenges, from conversion rate optimisation through to channel strategy. Darren is also central to the development of Metakinetic’s ecommerce solution, MetaCommerce.