(This post is part of a continuing series focusing on home-based business startups.)
It’s been a tough time to be in business for the last few years. It would seem to make sense that for this reason, customer service should be a higher priority than ever, especially if you have an online business. Who among us can afford to drive customers away right now with poor service?
But how does one define good customer service, especially in regards to an online business, where face to face contact just doesn’t occur?
You might say that good customer service is just common sense. It’s as simple as treating folks the way you’d want to be treated yourself. And you know what? I’d have to agree with you. Good customer service really is as simple as A B C, except here’s the deal. The service (or the lack thereof) I have received from more than a few online vendors in the past few weeks, has literally left me scratching my head. How in the world do these folks manage to stay in business? So….for the benefit of these online folks who have never heard of the Golden Rule, here’s the A B C’s of good online customer service.
Answer Your Email & Phone messages-
I am constantly surprised at how cavalier some online merchants are about returning calls and answering email messages.What could they be thinking by waiting 1,2,even 3 weeks to answer a question, if at all? How can they afford to simply ignore their messages?
I’m not talking about obvious spam messages, or those rediculous million dollar lottery notifications from Nigeria. Everyone ignores them and that’s OK.
I’m talking about folks who ignore email messages from colleagues or potential customers. Messages which include
bonafide product questions,
requests for information,
invitations to collaborate
appeals for advice… or any number of other honest questions.
The fact is, there’s no legitimate reason to routinely ignore your messages. Schedule time (on a regular basis) to check and answer them. Hire a service to assist you, if you must. Your replies need not be lengthy. Keeping a file of generic replies in a folder, can really cut down on the time it takes to respond to similar questions or requests that you get on a regular basis. .
Bottom line- ANSWER YOUR MESSAGES!
Be Reasonable About Shipping Charges–
I was in the process of placing an online order from a colleague last week, and was ready to hit submit, when I noticed the shipping charges. $15.00 ?
Take it from someone who has a pretty good grip on shipping costs, there’s just no way that the shipping should have exceeded $4.00- $5.00.
Unfortunately, it’s becoming more common for online businesses to lower their prices dramatically, and then make up the difference with exorbitant shipping charges, (hoping you won’t notice). This is NOT a good way to endear yourself to customers, and if you want repeat business, I do NOT recommend this practice.
Complete & Ship Orders in a Timely Manner.
Schedule time on a regular basis to process and ship out your orders. This seems obvious, doesn’t it?
But again, it blows my mind how lackadaisical some online merchants are about shipping. I recently ordered an item from a colleague and was excited about using the item in the construction of my new design. Three weeks later, I got my credit card statement and could see I had been charged for it, but had yet to receive it. This was a domestic shipment, and yet it was ANOTHER 3 weeks before I received it? Not only will I not be using this item in my design, but I won’t be recommending it to anyone else either. Big mistake on the part of that vendor, wouldn’t you say?
Did I call, or email this vendor, to find out what the heck was going on? Of course I did… but you guessed it, she never bothered to answer her message!
So how about you? Have you noticed this type of behavior in online merchants? If so, what’s usually your response?
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