With a company name that sounds more like a purebred, high-performance sports car than an IT consulting firm, eMazzanti Technologies is all about delivering powerful solutions in the most efficient manner possible. The Hoboken, N.J., firm is located in one of the most densely populated - and competitive - regions in the U.S. It provides IT consulting services for businesses ranging from home offices to multinational corporations throughout the New York metropolitan area and abroad.
Web consumers have different requirements, motivations, and concerns than those of bricks and mortar shoppers. The news is flooded with stories of credit card fraud, identity theft, spoofing, hacking, and other forms of tampering and theft of information derived from online sales transactions, making many consumers wary of purchasing online. With online sales, you don’t have the luxury of meeting the customer face to face to attend to their needs. There are a few things you can do to improve your small business’ customer service online and instill trust and confidence in consumers—and make your business stand out from your online competitors.
Smooth customer service
On the Web, customer service means more than pleasant apologies when an order falls through; it means proactively ensuring the ordering process works smoothly from beginning to end. The nature of the Internet is instantaneous, self-serve, and competitive. That means your interaction and focus on customers will differ from offline retail. Online consumers can take their business to virtually any company on the Internet. You can make your company stand out from the competition by earning a good reputation for customer satisfaction and prompt delivery.
Small businesses have specific challenges when taking customer service into consideration. You may not have the resources to provide a fully staffed call center or 24-hour support. However, you can overcome this challenge by understanding what you can do within the online medium.
Intuitive site design — A well-designed Web site results in fewer unhappy customers. Your site should be organized, up to date, and easy to navigate. If customers can find the answers to their own questions, they won’t need to ask you for assistance. Few things drive customers away as quickly as not being able to find what they’re looking for or running into a "404 Page Not Found" error.
Key functionality and features to have on your site:
A thorough Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page can answer basic questions that might otherwise result in a time-consuming phone call or email request.
Provide real-time availability information, so customers know if a product is in stock before they have gone through the ordering process.
A significant challenge of online shopping is the shopper’s inability to see a product firsthand. Your site can bridge this gap by providing detailed product descriptions, including specs, requirements, and high-quality images where appropriate.
Especially during the holiday season, customers want the ability to designate an order as a gift. Gift options may include separate shipping and billing addresses, a packing slip without prices, and even a personalized note for the recipient.
Email is a quick and cost-effective method of communicating with your customers about their order. Confirmations put the customer at ease that their order was received and is being processed. To save time using email, you can create a general confirmation letter that is sent to all customers, personalizing it with their name.
Display the lock of security
Customers that submit their credit card information to you online will want to know their sensitive information will remain safe. If they are not comfortable with the security your site offers, they will probably not buy products from you. A good way to alleviate your customers’ concerns is to secure your site using SSL (Secure Sockets Layer). SSL is a protocol that transmits your communications over the Internet in an encrypted form. SSL ensures that information submitted through your Web site is secure and cannot be accessed by unauthorized users. This is very important, especially when you have consumers submitting highly sensitive information (like credit card numbers) to you. SSL means their private information will be encrypted using a special "certificate key," and then decrypted with another key after it has been transmitted.
Trusted third parties called Certification Authorities (CA) issue SSL Certificates, sometimes called digital certificates. There are many organizations that issue SSL Certificates, VeriSign being the most widely recognized CA. When your site is secured with SSL, visitors will see a lock symbol will display in the bottom corner of their browser window. Customers recognize that as a "trusted" version and will see it as the Visitors can also tell that your site is secured with SSL by looking at the URL. A secure page’s URL begins with the letters "https://" instead of "http://."
Thankfully for small businesses like yours, the Internet offers boundless opportunities. Spend some time proactively thinking about your customers’ needs and concerns, and it will go a long way. You should bolster both security and customer confidence through encryption and identity authentication—it will ease the mind of everyone concerned. Repeat customers are the best, and if they have a good online experience with you the first time, they’ll keep coming back.
Learn how to improve your small business’ customer service online and instill trust and confidence in consumers—and make your business stand out from your online competitors.