8 Ways to Keep Customer Ratings High This Holiday Season

December 10, 2015

Marketplaces ChannelAdvisor By ChannelAdvisor

Last year’s holiday season was a huge success for US e-commerce companies. But with so many transactions taking place in such a short period, customer satisfaction sometimes takes a hit. Shoppers have sky-high expectations when it comes to service, speed and value and keeping them happy should be at the heart of your e-commerce strategy. Because, consumers are prone to leave feedback — both positive and negative.

Poor buying experiences can cause your new year to be kicked off with bad mentions on review sites — or even with suspension from marketplaces.

To help ensure you maintain your customer ratings this holiday season and into 2016, we’ve compiled these eight essential tips.

1) Maintain Your Rating on Marketplaces

Achieving top marks for service on marketplaces this season will give you increased visibility in eBay’s search results and ensure you hold onto your Amazon seller privileges. Make Top Rated Seller status on eBay your aim and keep metrics up to par on Amazon so that you don’t lose control of the precious Buy Box.

  • Fill Your Amazon Customers with Goodwill This Season

Avoiding customer A-to-z Guarantee claims is a priority to keep your account in good standing. Customers file these when; their order hasn’t arrived, the item they received was materially different from what they were led to expect or you agreed to refund a customer but didn’t do so, or refunded the wrong amount.

First, don’t be guilty of the above. Second, should things slip, never allow the situation to reach an A-to-z claim stage. Approach the buyer and work hard to resolve the problem amicably.

  • Keep in Constant Contact with Your Holiday Customers

Organize returns promptly and keep customers updated on the status of their orders. Also consider adding messages on invoices to state exactly how returns can be made. And always keep in contact via email, so Amazon can see you’re a responsible seller.

Also, it’s worth remembering that customers don’t stop shopping on weekends, so don’t let your weekend communications slip. Reply to customer queries in the same timely manner as you would during weekdays. Amazon includes weekends in its contact response (CTR) calculations, so failing to respond will tarnish your seller reputation.

Listing clear shipping policies is a must. Don’t mislead customers by tacking on extra fees after they’ve bought from you. This includes adding extra shipping fees after checkout.

No matter how much you want that positive feedback, never coerce buyers into leaving positive feedback.

  • Keep EBay Customers Happy

Despite the forthcoming changes to eBay’s seller metrics, this Christmas is business as usual on the platform, so ensure you kick off the new year in good standing by adhering to the following best practices.

  • Feedback on eBay

Every time customers buy from you, they’re invited to leave you feedback. They can give you a negative, neutral or positive score. EBay gives you a point for positive feedback and deducts a point for negative feedback. Based on how many points you receive, eBay then assigns you an overall feedback score, along with a colored star to show shoppers what your rating level is. It goes without saying that your ultimate aim is to gain as many positive points as you can.

2) Persuade Customers to Leave Feedback

If you feel you’ve given great service, it’s disappointing when customers fail to leave you positive feedback. Energize them into action by leaving feedback reminders on your listings and at touchpoints on their way to purchase, such as at checkout. Add reminders to your invoices, too.

To avoid negative feedback, make it clear that customer satisfaction is your priority — and that you’re always on hand to sort out issues. The point being that customers should contact you first before leaving that damaging feedback score.

3) Take Stock

Nothing’s more guaranteed to make your customers’ blood boil during the holidays than hearing that their much-wanted gift has gone out of stock. Plan inventory carefully to ensure this doesn’t happen.

If an item does go out of stock, notify the buyer ASAP, apologize and offer to repay them in full if they’re not happy to wait. This will hopefully mollify them to the extent that they won’t leave you bad feedback.

4) Keep It Real to Manage Shoppers’ Expectations

Use clear, accurate and realistic images in your listings if you want to avoid your festive buyers’ ire. It must be a case of what you see is what you get.

Describe items accurately when you list, so there’ll be no disappointment or confusion when buyers receive their goods. Highlight any product flaws in great detail. If you get this covered, you can’t be accused of misrepresentation.

5) Be Clear Around Fulfillment and Returns

Offer the best fulfillment and returns options you can. But whatever you offer, be transparent. Make your terms clear to customers before they order, then stick to them like glue.

Make sure you’re up to speed with eBay’s returns policies — which is 90 days over Christmas. Or use eBay’s managed returns service. If you do, according to eBay, you’ll see an upturn in sales and better feedback. Some sellers are now required to offer this, and you can check out how to opt in here.

6) Keep Your Holiday Customer Service High

Customer service is king, so if a problem arises, get back to customers straight away and resolve the situation. Make sure your customer service employees are professional and knowledgeable. Treat customers personally — if you want to get great feedback, never make customers feel like they’re just another number.

7) Get Social

Everyone is aware of the power of the positive or negative tweet. If you haven’t been paying attention to social media, now’s the time. It’s an immediate way to interact with customers who are asking about your product or business.

Make sure you have a policy in place to answer customer questions, deal with problems and react to negativity around your brand and products before it escalates. Have a dedicated team ready to respond to queries quickly. If you haven’t done so, it looks like many of your competitors already have: A study by Simply Measured showed that 99% of brands are on Twitter, and 30% have a dedicated customer service account, with an average response time of 5.1 hours — 10% of firms answering within an hour.

8) Communicate!

Publish last-minute shipping dates for Christmas, returns policies and other important information prominently on your website. Also post key information on social channels to keep shoppers in the loop. Consider using a live chat function, so you always have someone available to answer questions. A study by eConsultancy shows that live chat has the highest level of customer satisfaction, with 24% polled saying they’ve used it. Out of that group, 73% are happy with their experience.

Why It’s Important…

Customer satisfaction as a measure has never been more important. Customer expectations have increased and will continue to do so. Earn great reviews and ratings this holiday season by providing top-notch customer service and keep a constant watch on what your customers are saying about you on marketplaces, review sites and social media. It may take some effort, but it will be worth it when you start 2016 in good standing.

Are you already planning for 2016 by working on your budget? Here are five e-commerce priorities we think you’ll want to find space for in your 2016 budget. Take a read of our 6 Budget Must-Haves tip sheet now.