Make Customer Support Part of Your Marketing Plan

October 27, 2015

reply manager

ReplyManager helps retailers manage inbound customer communication by consolidating messages from multiple selling channels (eBay, Amazon, Rakuten, etc.), automatically organizing email, sending auto-responders and providing access to staff to respond to email and customer messages. ReplyManager’s ChannelAdvisor integration allows mutual customers to search and track ChannelAdvisor order data from within the ReplyManager application.

 

As an online seller, you’ve already begun implementing strategies to prepare for the 2015 holiday shopping season. And you’re no different from big retailers, as giants like Walmart, Target and Amazon have already begun holiday advertising campaigns. Your strategies are likely geared toward marketing spend, search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click (PPC), page optimization, listing optimization, social media and more. But one thing that’s often left off the list, or left for last, is customer support.

Too often, customer support is an afterthought, something we do at the end of a purchase cycle or something we don’t have to worry about until later. Instead, we should be thinking about customer service as the newest, most cost effective and impactful marketing tool.

Marketing is defined as the action or business of promoting and selling products or services.  Traditionally, this has included methods such as TV, radio and print media. In the ’90s, the internet brought a massive change to advertising practices, introducing concepts like display advertising, PPC, SEO, content marketing and email marketing (just to name a few).

But more recently, social commerce, as demonstrated by companies like Amazon, eBay, and Yelp, brought about further change to how we view online marketing — especially as it pertains to e-commerce. Customers were given a voice, sharing their experiences through feedback and reviews. And social media channels like Facebook and Twitter made it even easier to broadcast. Today, the majority of users share way more than they did five years ago, and 88% of consumers say that they’ve been influenced by an online review. That’s powerful stuff.

So what drives social interactions?

Customer service. It affects feedback, reviews and customer loyalty. It feeds social media and public relations. And for Amazon sellers, it could determine whether you win the Buy Box. Pricing, prompt shipping and quality also play a role. But at the end of the day, the customer’s “emotional” memory of their experience is what inspires them to share. If you go to a restaurant and have the best meal of your life and the waiter spills a glass of red wine on your favorite white pants, which part of that experience are you going to remember and share with friends?

Improve Online Support

Online customer support takes many forms. And in this digital age of instant gratification and social media, customer support can prove to be quite challenging. Here are some tips for improving support for chat, email and social media.

  • Respond to chat requests in 30 to 60 seconds. Immediacy is key.
  • Return messages in four to six hours at most. Studies show customers expect a response within six hours max.
  • Communicate hours and expected response times (e.g., weekend response rate).
  • Respond to social media queries in 30 to 60 minutes.
  • Ensure your responses are timely yet thorough.
  • Reply to feedback and reviews without emotion. Remember, this isn’t personal.
  • Don’t air your dirty laundry. Be mindful that everyone sees your responses to feedback and social media requests. Be empathetic. Be objective. And move complicated issues offline so they’re out of the public eye.

Create Brand Cheerleaders

According to Dimensional Research, 45% of people tend to share bad customer experiences, compared with the 30% that talk about the good. The following tips will help you provide good experiences, and then use those customers as brand cheerleaders.

  • Engage with positive reviews. Get pictures, names and locations, as well as permission to share stories online.
  • Ask for feedback and story submissions. Make it easy, but don’t be annoying.
  • Pictures are like gold, giving the story added credibility.
  • Set the right tone. Be appreciative of customers’ patronage and acknowledge that their time is just as important as yours.
  • Share, share, share. Once you get a story or review, share on social media, your website, collateral materials, etc.

Put Together a Plan and Follow It

And lastly, put it all together in a customer support strategy. Even if you’re a one-woman (one-man) shop, putting ideas and strategies down on paper (so to speak) really helps to flesh out concepts and lay a roadmap for moving forward. Don’t forget to identify tools that will help you reach your goal. And if you have staff, be sure to share it with them. Giving them guidance will ensure they represent your brand accurately.

 

Blog post by Jodi Gaines Pereira, co-founder, ReplyManager

jodiJodi Gaines Pereira is the co-founder of ReplyManager, a web-based tool designed to help online sellers manage their incoming customer communications, which was sold to XSellco Limited in 2015. She is also a founding partner of iguanafarmGroup, a web development and marketing agency. As a thought leader and speaker on customer service and marketing, Jodi is a frequent contributor to online publications and a sought-after webinar host.

 

 


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