Monday, August 24, 2009

Rock Your Customer Service!

I recently made several online purchases through a couple handcrafted sites and there was such a vast difference in the levels of customer service that I got to thinking about what buyers expect, and really like about purchasing online, especially in this tough economy.
So I did a little digging and found that the Research Institute of America had conducted a survey for the Office of Consumer Affairs and their findings were:

* Only 4% of unhappy customers bother to complain and for every complaint that was lodged, 24 others went uncommunicated to the company - but not to other potential customers. Ahhh, the power of word of mouth.

* 90% who are dissatisfied with the service they receive will not come back or buy again. To make matters worse, each of those unhappy customers will tell their story to at least 9 other people. Again, the power of word of mouth.

* Of the customers who do register a complaint, between 54%-70% will do business again with the company if they feel their complaint was resolved and that figure goes up to a whopping 95% if the customer felt the complaint was resolved quickly.

* 68% of customers who stop doing business with a company do so because of indifference. The study further indicates that it takes 12 positive incidents to make up for 1 negative one.

I asked a few friends what makes excellent customer service (a couple are both sellers and buyers online and a couple are buyers only).

From Jen, "Excellent customer service to me is availability if I need to call, promptness of returning my calls or e-mails and just keeping me informed regarding the entire order process from start to finish. I hate not knowing something until after the fact or not being notified of delay or availability, especially when I've already paid for it. I hate when refunds aren't prompt, especially when I make it a point to pay the moment I buy something. No acknowledgement is a big no-no too. Packaging is important too, especially if the items are of a delicate nature."

From Carol, "Excellent customer service means I will remember your store (just like I will if I get bad service). Once I buy something I can't wait to get it, so getting that special something in the mail right away is a biggie for me. I abhore shops that charge tons for mailing too".

Heather has had "some bad experiences ordering online and I think it usually starts with slow responses. I like to get a confirmation email right away and then notice of when my order is processed and shipped. I get nervous when I have to contact them because it never ends up good. I think my best online ordering experiences have been with places that provide the info before I even think about it. It makes it a little more "personal" and I feel like I am dealing with an actual person, not just a computer/website."

And for Lawatha, "Excellent customer service when I purchase something online, is the feeling of being appreciated when somebody takes the time to email me and thank me for my purchase and lets her know when my item will be/has been shipped. I appreciate them getting it out in the mail for me right away, and I always notice when they've obviously taken time to ensure it arrives safely by packing it well. As an online buyer and seller, I value positive feedback, and am always happy to let others know not only about the wonderful item I purchased, but about the wonderful customer service that came with it as well."

I've had many excellent transactions on artisan marketplaces and some unfortunate ones. For me, the sellers who don't acknowledge my purchases, don't include at least a "thank you" in my package, casually toss items in envelopes with no packaging or bubble wrap and without any regard to protection, and don't leave feedback are sure turnoffs for me and will guarantee I won't return to a shop. The key to good customer service is appreciating customers and keeping them in the loop throughout the transaction process, including afterward. Value your customers and they will not only return to shop again, but there's the all-powerful word of mouth! The bottom line is no customer services equals no customers!

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