Customer service is important – possibly more important than ever.
Consider this: I once spent $720 over seven different orders in an eight-month span – all without a single issue. Then the day came: A piece of clothing, after only one wear and wash, started to come undone. I called customer service but was informed it was outside of their 30-day return window. Sure, this made sense. After all, it was the holiday season and I purchased the item as a gift. Even after explaining that to them, it did not matter. Since it was out of their exchange window, there was nothing they could do.
Nothing they would do.
According to eMarketer, 79% of people are very likely to switch to another company if they have a bad customer service experience. I became one of them.
In today’s retail landscape, products are widely available, and prices are very often comparable amongst companies. In this environment, the challenge retailers face is how to entice a consumer to purchase from them – and not their competitor. This is precisely where customer service can be a difference maker.
Having friendly customer service representatives is a good start but consider the company policies they have to enforce. Are your customer service policies actually helpful to your customers?
Here are two examples of types of policies that can have a major impact on purchasing –especially during peak times like the holiday season.
Like in the example above, a 30-day window might sound good, but it is truly enough time from a customer’s perspective? Did they have enough time to wear and wash a product? Are they allowed to wash a product? Did they have enough time to test out its many features? Did they have enough time for it to stand up to normal wear and tear?
Consider the impact of expanding your return policy to 45 or 60 days, especially during the holiday season. Would you realistically see a vast increase in service requests outside of the original window? If so, it might point to other issues which may need to be resolved. However, you might be able to attract new customers because your policies are more convenient than your competitors.
You’ve likely experienced this situation. You complete an order and the next day you get an email advertising a 40% off sale. You subsequently become a bit perturbed and contact the company to ask for a credit for the difference. When the company obliges, you are satisfied. When they don’t, you become dissatisfied with the brand. Uh oh! Of course, a simple segment could have avoided this email snafu altogether, but let’s talk about what happens now.
Consider reevaluating your policies around situations such as these. Will you need to credit purchases made two weeks ago? Probably not. Should you consider crediting a customer who purchased less than 24 hours ago? Probably. No matter how you structure your policy, ask yourself whether your customer feels valued as a result.
Whether it is the cost and method of shipping and returns, hours and channels of customer service, or one of the policies I mentioned above, all have a major impact on purchases and customer retention. When crafting policies that are customer-first, be sure to promote these to your customers. Highlight them on your website, especially during the checkout process. Include them in your marketing emails, especially in lifecycle messages such as browse and cart abandonment. Constant reinforcement of your commitment to your customers should be paramount.
Seventy percent of people are willing to pay more for a product or service that has a good customer service reputation. Paying more means discounting less, which might also reduce the need to credit people’s orders for newly discounted items.
With my personal experience, I stopped doing business with a brand not because I wanted to, but because I lost confidence in them. To them, the fact I was an engaged customer did not matter. The fact I was a repeat customer did not matter. The only thing that seemingly did matter to them was taking my money. They refused to value me as a customer – and paid the price for it.
Don’t underestimate your customers. There are a lot of things in business you can’t control. Customer service isn’t one of them. You have complete control. Making it a strength of your brand can not only amplify your brand’s reputation but also be a major component of attracting and retaining lifelong customers.
Greg Zakowicz is Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst at Bronto Software