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How Online Customer Service Has Become an Ecommerce Differentiator

By Lori Stafford-Thomas

There's little arguing the impact ecommerce has had on businesses of all sizes. Consumers are shifting the way they access content and search for products and services to buy. Digital and smartphone technology has provided customers instantaneous connectivity with the world around them, which can - and has - helped spur business growth across a variety of industries.

Even though companies can now offer their products and services online for purchase, that's not to say the overall customer experience improves by default. Merchants still must work hard to meet stringent client needs on this channel, or else they may face the possibility of losing clients. Customer service is now the differentiating factor in the ecommerce battleground, as the ease and convenience of online shopping is nearly ubiquitous across all platforms. 

Customer service as an online differentiator

Client care helps improve the bottom line with in-store transactions, so that same mentality needs to transcend digital technology and make its way into the online realm as well. Small businesses can use the same, personalized service they've grown so accustomed to at their brick-and-mortar location as a market differentiator in the online retail space. There are a number of different ways local merchants can improve customer service efforts online:

  • Improve email outreach with more personalized and conversational messages*
  • Feature live chat capabilities on a retail site, offering consumers the chance to have their questions answered immediately
  • Take a step back and let the customer figure things out for themselves

This type of do-it-yourself support empowers consumers to find what it is they're looking for without too much pressure. As long as the online support is accurate and helpful - perhaps in the form of an FAQ page, or something along those lines - online shoppers are more likely to stay longer on a business's website until they find what it is they're looking for.

In fact, Forrester Research™ found 72 percent of customer respondents prefer self-service support to resolve their shopping issues, as opposed to picking up the phone or sending an email. Sometimes customers just don't want to wait for the other party before they can move forward. Local merchants can differentiate themselves by trusting the consumer and taking a more casual, albeit informative, approach to customer service. (1)

Strong client care online is a market differentiator, especially since most companies are offering daily deals and fast shipping these days. The way for merchants to stand out is by building more personal and relaxed relationships online. 

1. Forrester Research, http://blogs.forrester.com/diane_clarkson/10-04-06-do_your_customers_want_telephone_you_service (Apr. 6, 2010)

 

*The foregoing is provided for information purposes only and without analysis of applicable state or federal laws, rules, or regulations that may apply to your use of electronic communications or social media with your customers. Please consult with your own legal or other advisors for advice on compliance with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations.

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