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8 Golden Rules for Customer Service in eCommerce

I was inspired to write this post after experiencing a particularly great piece of customer service from the guys over at WASD Custom Keyboards this week.

That sentence in itself should demonstrate to you how important customer service is to ecommerce businesses – the fact that people will go so far as to write blog posts about how well your company treats its customers.

Ecommerce empires rise and fall on the quality of their customer service. Amazon’s incredible and rapid ascension to ecommerce dominance is often attributed to its meticulous attention to consumer needs. Customer service is one of the most talked about aspects of any business, and those conversations are becoming increasingly public through internet users’ ever-growing abilities to not only share, but broadcast their experiences worldwide.

If you treat your customers badly, people will hear about it.

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So how do you going about making sure that you offer the best level of customer service imaginable? Well it’s a long road, and like anything in business, there will always be setbacks that you can’t avoid. However, if you can figure out what to look for, learn from the best, remember the worst, and set out with a genuine desire to give your customers the perfect consumer experience, then customer service Nirvana is demonstrably achievable.

Rule 1: Listen first

This is the number one rule in sales, the number one rule in marketing, and…well pretty much the number one rule in any aspect of your business. In customer service however, it is absolutely essential that you let the customer explain their position adequately.

Remember, listening isn’t just about letting the customer talk. It’s about actively engaging with what they have to say. Ask insightful questions, clarify their wants and reflect carefully on the best ways to help.

Rule 2: Understand the needs of your customers

This follows from rule number one, but it may require some more creative thinking and testing to understand your customers on a deep and meaningful level. Are your customers results driven or process focused? Do they prefer a soft or direct approach? Are they open to collaborative approaches or do they want everything done for them?

These questions will affect how you manage your interactions on a micro level, and your systems and processes on a macro level.

Rule 3: Don’t be afraid to explain why

It’s a myth that people want the quick, easy answer to a problem. Taking the time to explain why a thing isn’t possible (not making excuses, just explaining the situation) gives both of you the time to empathise with each other. Transparency makes the difference between a collaborative, human service and a faceless, robotic system.

It’s the exact opposite of saying…

Rule 4: ‘that’s just our policy’… just don’t say it

This is simply another way of saying ‘I don’t actually know why’, and sounds to your customer much like ‘and I don’t care either’.

Rule 5: Offer solutions… always

Never lose sight of the fact that the sole reason you exist as a business is to solve your customers’ problems. This mindset should penetrate every aspect of your customer service, from contact methods, through problem solving and into your feedback mechanisms.

Check out these 8 customer service rules to live by Click To Tweet

Rule 6: Give clear calls to action

If your customer has actions to take, make sure every step is clearly laid out for them. A meticulously planned purchasing process counts for nothing if your support journeys aren’t up to scratch too. Every communication you exchange with a customer facing difficulties should end with clearly defined next steps for both of you.

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The ‘I’ll take a look and get back to you’ approach just doesn’t cut it.

Rule 7: Think twice before automating

Automation is a great money saving tool, just make sure you’re not doing at the expense of your customer. There’s nothing worse than talking to a robot when you’ve got a serious issue that needs resolving.

Rule 8: Go out of your way

Customer service should be a focus, not an afterthought. It takes time, resources and creativity to build great customer service teams and processes. The best experiences as a consumer are the ones where we can feel that the company and/or representative is deliberately going out of their way to help us get to where we need to be. This feeling comes across not only in what you do, but how you do it and, perhaps more importantly, why you’re doing it.

Thanks for reading. Now go out there and learn as much as you can about eCommerce customer service! If you’re looking for more resources, legendary marketing guru Seth Godin produces some thought-provoking content on his blog. You can also check out the UK Institute of Customer Service for training and information.