Editor's Note: Lucy Benton is a marketing specialist and business consultant who contributes to Awriter. Today she joins us to explain how online businesses are passing up major profits by skimping on customer support, and how to avoid that mistake.
Every online business has two major goals: sell products or services to customers, and support their continuous use. The first goal increases profits, while the second one works to retain existing clients and attract new ones. Exceptional customer support is a great way to accomplish the second goal because it helps you to meet the expectations of your market, and goes beyond that to building loyalty and improving your reputation.
Surveys have indicated that many online businesses fail to answer 50% of inquiries fielded to them by existing customers, so it’s clear that some companies neglect customer support, perhaps to avoid the costs of maintaining support representatives. But on average, it’s 7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.
That’s a very big difference, and so are the losses which result from poor customer support. According to NewVoiceMedia, businesses in the U.S lose out on $41 billion in revenue every year thanks to this systemic oversight.
In this post, we will analyze several reasons why an online business should invest in customer support, and key takeaways that will help you to build a better support team, and avoid an unnecessary dip in profits.
Reason #1: positive customer experience is more valuable than price
Online surveys continue to find that customers regard service and support as more important factors than price. For instance, a 2014 customer experience study by American Express suggested that more than 60 percent of customers were willing to spend more with an organization that provides better service than competitors.
According to the same study, only 5 percent of online shoppers reported that customer support ever exceeded their expectations. It stands to reason that online marketers are losing $41 billion per year as a result.
The statistics don’t lie: when online businesses show customers that they are valued and appreciated, the feelings go both ways. Eventually, people develop loyalty for a company based on good experiences.
The takeaway: customers are willing to pay more if they are valued by a company. Make an active effort to treat customers as people, address needs and concerns, and improve relationships with them.
Reason #2: exceptional customer support builds awareness of your brand
Mark Zuckerberg calls a trusted referral “The Holy Grail of advertising,” and there are good reasons for that. First, word of mouth is one of the most powerful influencers on purchasing decisions. It’s human nature to seek out testimony, and judge based on the experience of others.
Second, more than 80 percent of online customers trust the opinions of their family members and friends about the products and services of particular companies, according to the Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Report.
As such, it makes sense that content generated by your clients will always be more effective than advertising. The reason is simple: people trust experiences of previous customers, and as we have already established, good customer support makes happy customers!
The takeaway: People will remember your brand if they see positive feedback and comments about it, along with testimonies of good experiences with your customer service representatives.
Reason #3: excellent customer support appeals to new customers
Not so long ago, many businesses exclusively cared about closing a sale. As long as customers signed under the dotted line, it wasn’t very important how they were persuaded to do so. But things have changed a lot since then.
In the information age, and with hundreds of competitors to choose from, your target demographic has a lot of expectations for online businesses. It wants more than a service; it wants a personalized experience to justify choosing you over anyone else. In the competitive field of online academic writing tutorials, for instance, clients prefer services that emphasize and adapt to personal writing styles over generic by-the-book critiques.
Meeting these expectations by adapting to current and prospective clients goes a long way in improving the position of a company on the market, so excellent customer support is appealing to customers who want something more unique.
The takeaway: Internet customers seek out businesses who will adapt to the needs of individual clients, and to attract leads, your business should make every effort to accommodate unique needs.
Reason #4: effective customer support reduces issues
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to do online business without experiencing problems with customers. No matter how hard you try to make them happy, some problems are always going to arise. But this hard truth of business should not stop you from continuing to raise the bar. Here’s why:
While you can’t guarantee a lack of problems, you can ensure that they never become serious enough to damage the reputation of your company. If customers know that potential issues will be handled properly even before they make a purchase, they will feel more confident and comfortable. And, by mitigating the chance of a social media crisis, you take a solid precaution that bad publicity will not tank your business over a simple mistake.
The takeaway: good customer support is a way to reduce and prevent problems, making potential customers feel more confident. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and your business should be as focused on preventing hard feelings as much as it is on resolving them.
If these reasons have successfully demonstrated the importance of customer support for online businesses, here are some ways your customer support can be improved right now.
- Go the extra mile. If you want customer support to become a tool for retaining existing customers and getting new ones, you could begin by exceeding their expectations. For example, once in a while, provide a free gift in addition to the effective solution to the customer’s problem. This will make them very happy.
- Ensure immediate answers. When a customer is experiencing an issue, they are looking for immediate fixes. Because of this reason, they will try to contact support using various ways, such as website inquiry, email, or phone call. To ensure that they are getting what they need, keep your support running 24/7. The problems can occur at any time, so it’s better to be well-prepared.
- Use the latest technology. There is a wide variety of tools available for companies that want to make their customer support excellent:
Sales Force – all-in-one customer service tool that provides multi-channel support, mobile support, case management, and productivity tools.
FreshDesk – a cloud-based platform that features powerful solutions, including self-service, reporting, and multi-channel support.
Vision Helpdesk – a software package that includes a number of effective customer support tools and allows to manage different channels, such as calls, social media, website forms, and email.
AnswerHub – a great option for creating customer self-service platforms and knowledge bases that allow them to answer their own questions when they need. It utilizes Q&A format, which enables a single place for finding answers.
When examined closely, it becomes obvious that the cost of maintaining good customer support is justified and well worth it. Whether you already have a customer service effort that needs improvement, or whether you’ve never created one, there’s no time like the present to start. Dive into one of the tips listed above to start preparing your business for the future!
Lucy Benton is a marketing specialist, a business consultant who finds her passion in expressing own thoughts as a blogger, and currently works at Awriter. She is constantly looking for the ways to improve her skills and expertise. If you’re interested in working with Lucy, you can find her on FaceBook and Twitter.
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