The dawn of the digital age and explosive growth of social media has forced the evolution of customer service. In the wake of this "social revolution" has emerged a new kind of ecommerce customer. Desk.com breaks down the qualities and ever-changing expectations of this new customer base as it continues to emerge as a dominating force in the business and ecommerce world.
Once you're finished with this blog post, take a look at Desk.com's latest eBook: "The Seven Pillars for Providing Exceptional Customer Service for Ecommerce." This ebook was written to help small and medium ecommerce organizations like you fully tap the power of awesome customer service by helping you better understand the online customer and providing you with seven critical guidelines.
Ecommerce Customer Service: Ignore It at Your Own Peril
As ecommerce has grown, we’ve seen shifts in almost every aspect of business. Most notably: customer service. Why? One of the greatest advantages traditional brick-and-mortar stores have over ecommerce is in-person customer interaction – essentially, sales people in a store to push a sale or answer questions. As more companies shift their businesses online, they lose one of their greatest assets and the foundation of traditional customer service: human interaction.
Although ecommerce is convenient for customers, it carries more perceived risk than traditional shopping. Since a buyer can not touch the product or immediately discuss the product face-to-face with a salesperson, he or she feels more pressure at every stage of the buyer’s cycle. This pressure typically leads to more contact with a company’s customer service agents – either about a problem or just questions about a product. This is why customer service for online retailers is so critical. Unlike brick-and-mortar stores that rely on their sales teams, customer experience, sales and customer retention all fall on the shoulders of an ecommerce company’s customer service department.
Who Is This Ecommerce Customer, Anyway?
Today’s ecommerce customers have significant control over the buying cycle and their voices are amplified more than ever. They’re changing everything business owners thought they knew about customer relationships. They’re listening to peers, researching heavily online and posting complaints on social media and forums. As Jeff Bezos has famously said:
“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.”
With the power of social media, the new “social customer” has emerged and they are changing everything companies thought they knew about business. Now more than ever, it is essential for organizations to listen to what their customers are saying and respond to issues in a timely manner.
Ecommerce companies are receiving the full force of the social customer, as the Internet serves as their playing field between the brand and the customer. Unfortunately, this playing field is on the worldwide stage so ecommerce companies need to be especially mindful of their service team as well as the power of the social customer.
Think the social customer doesn’t affect your business? If you don’t participate in social media, you may be surprised to find out that people are talking about your company. In fact, social media tools like Twitter and Facebook have become a standard way for the social customer to interact with companies, and businesses are taking note. There are even forums and websites dedicated to teaching customers how to complain to companies via social media! For example, a DailyFinance.com post and video suggests:
When you call a company, you could end up wasting hours on the phone. These days, it's faster and more efficient to file a complaint via Twitter or Facebook. Not only will it save you hold time, but you're likely to get better results since your comment is being made in a public space for all to see.
For small and medium business owners not using social media, this should be a wake-up call to at least monitor what is being said about your company on social channels. You depend on customer advocacy when it comes to generating new business, so you need to know when customers are unhappy, no matter where or how they’re expressing their dissatisfaction. Ecommerce businesses need to understand and embrace these new social customers, as their collective voice can support the success or hasten the downfall of a company.
Where are they coming from?
Today fewer customers follow what ecommerce companies consider “the customer service protocol,” or the steps a company tells customers to take to contact their support center (e.g., fill out a form or call us). If they cannot immediately find support telephone number or email address, they will go where they think they will be heard the loudest and get the fastest results: social media channels. In other words, more customers are abandoning traditional customer service channels and turning to emerging technologies – and expecting businesses to do the same.
Check out this graph below that reveals some of the common channels customers are seeking support:
Trust is the Name of the Game
Back in the day, small mom-and-pop shops or “the shops around the corner” were the preferred destinations for consumers. By knowing customers’ preferences, as well as their names and maybe a little bit about them, owners and employees in these small stores cultivated personal relationships and customers’ trust.
Today, trust between consumers and ecommerce companies is built upon the same interactions (maybe not quite to such a personal level as back then). Unfortunately, companies building a business online don’t have the luxury of personally bonding with customers – their support agents can’t remember the likes and dislikes of every customer. Customers know this. However, when they get in touch with a company, 40% of customers expect the representative they speak with to already know about their attempts to resolve an issue through other channels such as a website or social media.
Want to learn how to gain this trust with the your online customers? Check out Desk.com's latest eBook: "The Seven Pillars for Providing Exceptional Customer Service for Ecommerce"