Want to improve your customer experience, earn brand loyalty, and increase repeat customers?
Who doesn’t! And it can be done if you focus on these 10 customer service skills, plus they’re easy to start implementing today.
Because tough love time: your shop is nothing, without your customer.
Really, unfortunately nothing. All the fancy web design and research and marketing will fall flat if you don’t provide a great customer experience.
And an experience is exactly what most customers are looking for today. As everyone, including your grandma, becomes more comfortable with online shopping and options both online + off have increased, having just a financial transaction – you provide me x, I give you $ – doesn’t cut it. So today we’re talking about how to treat yo’ customer with easy customer service skills you can implement today.
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This is part 4 of 6 of the Retail 101 Beginner Series
Part 1: One Simple Product Strategy to Help You Get Started
Part 2: How to Market your Retail Business on a Small Budget
Part 3: Retail Math 101 (ya know, how to make money)
Part 4: Customer Service Tips to Treat Yo’ Customer
Part 5: Why Your Online Shop Needs a Blog (plus 12 ideas to get started)
Part 6: 21 Strategies to Grow Your Business in 90 Days
Earn repeat customers by improving their experience with these 10 customer service skills:
We wanna sweep your customer right off of their feet (luda-style)
1. Respond within 24-48 hours* to all inquiries
Make that promise to them in your contact, customer service and product pages and hold firm. If answering phone calls is out of the question (and for many one employee shops it will be!), consider holding a weekly “chat session” where you’re available for instant contact and feedback on any questions or comments they have.
*One caveat – if its made on social media, you DO NOT have 24 hours to respond. According to one survey, 42% of consumers expect a response within 60 minutes.
2. Ask for feedback + share the changes once implemented
Think about how great it feels when someone asks for your opinion or wants to improve a process just for you. Give that feeling to your customers by asking what they think, how could you improve to serve them better? Then once you make those changes, share it with them! Let them personally know you took their thoughts into consideration and lay out the changes you made to make their experience better. (also a great reason to have a blog – to get feedback + to share changes! Check out this post for more reasons to have a blog and ideas of what to share)
3. Create a consistent customer experience
Anyone that has a hand in dealing with your customer should have an intimate understanding of your brand. Initially, this may just be you which makes it easier, but remember to be consistent in your approach. In your customer interaction – are you formal, funny, casual?
For employees or outside partners that work on your site, be sure you’re sharing your vision for customer service and how outward communications should be handled. I recommend coming up with an internal customer service policy to help everyone, including yourself, be consistent and understand the experience you’re creating for your customer. (See my guide to creating an internal customer service policy.)
4. Knowledgeable associates
You need to know your product inside and out. This is especially true for handmade objects which may not have as much consumer trust as there isn’t a brand they can research online to learn more and build out their opinion.
Think of how you’d interact with the product – how would you care for it? Is it food safe? Should I put it in the top drawer of the dishwasher? Great product descriptions and creating buying guides can also be a great way to share this information and provide a real benefit and learning experience to your customer; showing them you want to ensure they make the right decision for them.
5. Great photography
You want your customers to feel like they’re right there, interacting with the product. Clear, focused images from multiple angles that provide a sense of ‘scale’ cut down on potential customer questions about a product. The less distractions and uncertainty they face, the more likely they are to make a purchase. Ever come across a website that has ONE image of a shoe? I’m always left wondering, ‘what does it look like from up top?’ (aka the view everyone wearing a shoe sees 100% of the time) or ‘how does it look from behind?’ (wink)
You can read how to take better product photos with your iPhone, the best backgrounds under $25, how to get a white background in photos, and more tips here.
6. Greet your customer thoughtfully and kindly
Please, please stop putting pop-ups asking your customer for something within the first second they enter your site. There’s a lot of love/hate on pop-ups and depending on your goal, everyone may have a different take.
For the purpose of servicing your customer though, I’d opt for not using them or having them activate once on-site time has reached a certain level, where there’s gauged interest and you can offer them something of value (like a discount or timely information).
Think about how you like to be treated in-store… I personally hate when the first thing they say is a discount. Sure, it’s helping me save money, but it’s also immediately assuming your store is solving what I’m looking for. Try addressing the person first – Hey there, hope your day’s going well! / Can I help you find anything?
7. Focus on your long-term customers
There are so many new customer specials and discounts and first time sign-up initiatives, but what about the customers that first took a chance on you? Research suggests existing customers spend up to 33% more (source) and it can be 4-10x more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing relationship (source).
And most customers state just one reason why they may not come back again (hint: it’s probably not what you think).
Send them a personal thank you and a special offer to treat themselves. Think outside the box – instead of a typical discount to your own store, how else can you thank them? Maybe your customers love coffee or show support for your fellow small business owners and send them a small Etsy gift card.
Grab a custom package of cards to send out to your VIP customers from Minted:
8. Create clear store policies
Expectations are everything in business. Make your store policies clear and concise – be upfront and honest with your customer so they know what they’re getting themselves into, rather than being surprised. No matter how many times I’ve shopped at Forever21, they tell you every.single.time. you check out about their limited return policy (21 days, exchange or store credit only). When you’re aware of policies from the start, you feel in control of your choices, rather than a shop imposing them on you.
9. Send a follow up email
Thank them for their purchase, ask if they have any questions and invite them to provide feedback – hi point #2. (a small thank you discount doesn’t hurt either). If you offer special ‘chat sessions’ let them know to reach out if they have more complicated questions on how to best use their new product.
10. Lastly, provide some ‘candy’
Anyone else feeling creepy? Sorry…. but back to this ‘candy’.
Think of a way to ‘Wow’ / ‘Delight’ / ‘Surprise’ your customer. Everyone wants to be delighted, right? It just sounds nice. Think handwritten notes, pretty packaging, or small freebies.
BaubleBar has sent free “welcome to BaubleBar” jewelry – I was beyond surprised/delighted to receive a free bonus necklace with my first purchase, one I now wear almost daily! I’d say that was money well spent to wow a customer.
Equally important are the more technical ways to serve your customer:
Fast, responsive website – minimize loading time, compress images for web and limit add-ons.
(Also check out: 12 tips for creating a mobile friendly site)
Simple and fast checkout – streamline your customers click to cart experience. eliminate sign-ins, offer guest checkout and offer multiple payment and shipping options.
Shop Talk: What makes a great, memorable customer experience for you? Any customer service tips you would add?