In the early stages of e-commerce, customer service was an entity that seems to have been left in the dust.
Globally, e-commerce sales accounted for over $22 trillion last year and competition is stiffer than ever. More and more brands are realizing that stellar customer service is what differentiates the average e-commerce businesses from the great ones.
Research indicates that 60% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience.
With this is mind, online retail is about more than simply buying and selling. The key to earning customer loyalty is building a relationship meant to enhance the overall experience from square one.
Here are four e-commerce brands that are going above and beyond to provide excellent customer service.
#1 – Zappos
Perhaps the most quintessential example of stellar online customer service is done by Zappos. There are countless “WOW” stories out there from satisfied customers where reps have gone the distance to make sure everything meets their needs.
Perhaps the most distinct component of Zappos’ online store is their famous easy return policy. They actually encourage all shoppers to return items that didn’t match their expectations and make the process as painless as possible.
The strategy behind Zappos’ success in the customer service department lies in their efforts to create a culture of people who strongly believe in the values of the company. These values are embedded within the internal landscape of their operation and job candidates are screened thoroughly to ensure both parties see eye-to-eye.
“Businesses often forget about the culture, and ultimately, they suffer for it because you can’t deliver good service from unhappy employees.” – Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.
This concept of building a brand from the inside out is crucial in developing a loyal customer base. In Zappos’ case, 75% of their business comes from returning customers. To the consumer, having the assurance that every single purchase or inquiry they make will always be met with a superior level of service is worth a few extra dollars.
#2 – BlueStone
Bluestone is an e-commerce jewelry store based out of India. They are truly a pioneer in their field due to the more traditional Indian market where a highly personalized customer experience reigns supreme.
Bluestone knows that selling jewelry needs to be done on an extremely personal level and the customer can only get so much out of seeing a picture of what they will be buying. Keeping this in mind, they offer a generous 30-day money back guarantee giving the customer the option to use the refund as store credit, or simply have the money put back in their account. All return shipping is free.
Bluestone also offers a lifetime exchange and buy-back policy on all purchases. This means that a customer can exchange an item (with the original product certificate) at any time based on its current market value.
They do a phenomenal job of establishing trust among their customers as they provide transit insurance once items are shipped. In such a high-value industry, this does a lot to show customers they are cared for.
#3 – Kit Ace
In the ever-expanding abundance of online clothing stores, Kit Ace is one that knows what makes customers tick.
67% of e-commerce customers are lost due to a lack of adequate product information. This is how Kit Ace works to differentiate themselves from the next online clothing outlet. Their product pages go the extra mile in providing the consumer with everything they need to make a purchase. This includes a wide range of high-quality images, and an in-depth detail section complete with the information on size, material, and usability.
In addition, the have a section that explains how to properly care for and wash clothing items as well as the best ways to wear them. These sections are equipped with links to personal interviews from customers about how they sport their purchases. By showcasing this type of user-generated content directly on their product listings, they are showing credibility from a third-party through real-life testimonials. This is an especially powerful technique because 88% of online shoppers incorporate reviews into their purchasing decisions.
An online store should be a one-stop solution that gives visitors all the information they need. In turn, this level of customer service will inevitably result in higher conversions.
#4 – Made.Com
Made.com is an online custom furniture store that only produces items that have been ordered. With no physical stores, they must work together with designers and craftsmen to create these products tailored to the customer’s needs.
So how do they deliver exceptional customer service on their e-commerce platform?
They strategically use their website and social media to maximize the effect of user-generated content (UGC). As previously stated, online testimonials can be a game changer in encouraging customers to buy from a certain brand. With a fun and witty tone, they promote UGC in their blog while featuring things like videos and case studies from previous customers.
By promoting their service on social media outlets, they provide a strong social proof and sense of trustworthiness from the first-hand visual accounts of satisfied customers.
There is no denying that UGC is extremely powerful. Building a website that features real-life customer satisfaction stories supplemented with a consistent tone is critical in promoting a trustworthy, relatable brand.
Customer service has always been very important. This idea was briefly forgotten when e-commerce first took hold of the retail landscape. Now, it’s projected to be the key brand differentiator over product and price by 2020. While there are many approaches to take in providing excellent customer service, each company has different ways in which they conduct business and components that make them unique. Research your target market and find out what your brand can provide to stand out among visitors.
This post is part of our contributor series. It is written and published independently of TNW.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.