You’ve just successfully launched your third product online and you’re feeling great. Your checkout page is converting well above the industry standard. You’ve refined your sales funnel down to a single page. But there’s an issue starting to creep into your daily routine. Your newfound position as an expert in the community has customers reaching out to you at an alarming rate. Before you know it, customer service is steadily creeping into product development time.

This scenario plays itself out time and time again, and the daily inbox of customer inquiries can quickly suck the creative energy out of an entrepreneur. The easy thing to do is to let those emails slip through the cracks.

We’ve seen a single SamCart checkout page double our users customer bases overnight, and we’ve seen some of them make the popular mistake of hitting the snooze button on the corresponding influx of customer interactions. Below, we’ll break down six ways to alleviate that big scary triple-digit number staring at you in your inbox. We’ll discuss:  

  1. Treating problems as opportunities to leave an impression
  2. Putting customer feedback into practice
  3. Anticipating customer questions and creating a self-service resource
  4. Automating low-value customer service functions
  5. Setting reasonable expectations
  6. Turning satisfied customers into brand advocates
  7. Final Thoughts

1. Treat Each Problem as an Opportunity to Leave an Impression:

Basking in the glory of a positive review is addicting. Everyone selling products online knows the feeling of hearing that your product made an impact on someone across the globe; that high we get from making a positive impact is why we do what we do. As critical as these reviews are, however, it’s the negative ones that are the most worthy of your time.

In 2018, businesses live and die on reputation. Thankfully, most customers will write in to you to discuss an issue before they leave a poor rating for your business as a whole, so if you’re going to only respond to certain customer inquiries, go with the angry ones.

If a dissatisfied customer writes in with an issue:

  1. It’s imperative you get back to them in a timely fashion to alleviate it. This one is a no-brainer.
  2. If you under-delivered to a customer, one of the easiest ways to cheer them up is with bonuses. As a SamCart user, it’s important to have a few low-cost digital products you can give to someone who’s had a less than favorable experience. Products that you’re using as an Order Bump often make excellent gifts to dissatisfied customers. As part of your response, try using Add to Order to deliver the customer a free product. You can even extend the customer’s billing date out into the future directly in SamCart. I can guarantee their reaction after receiving a bonus will be more pleasant than the initial inquiry!
  3. If a customer threatens a nasty public-facing review and a freebie isn’t going to cut it, your best bet is to let your ego go and pick up the phone. If something didn’t go as planned for them and you take a few minutes to chat, the chances of that bad review surfacing all but disappear. An apology is the obvious way to start this conversation, but getting to know them as a person and making a genuine connection can turn a potentially bad review into a willingness to sing your praises to the public. This person paid for something you’ve poured your heart and soul into. You’re probably not too different from your customer, and remedying their situation while building rapport will have this customer leaving you a five-star review and coming back for your next launch.

2. Put Customer Feedback Into Practice:

With success comes ego. After you’ve had a few impactful product launches, it’s remarkably easy to get drunk on success and think that you’ve got your market figured out. It’s your creativity that got you here, after all! While that’s true, the worst mistake you can make is to stop listening to your customers.

There’s no better way to improve your products — and, by extension, profits — than by having your customers do the work for you. Business owners will pay thousands of dollars for focus-group data, and data-mine endlessly to find the next trend, but too often they ignore the feedback that’s delivered right to them by their own customers.

If a specific criticism or request is popping up repeatedly, it’s probably a good idea to address it before your next product launch.

SamCart’s Support team logs every product recommendation that comes in. We then sit down with our developers, break down each bit of information we have, and make decisions on how to make a better product. Logging each recommendation you get is something every business owner should do.

Logging and implementing each request you get leads to better customer service.

Keep a log of every customer recommendation you get!

Writing everything down serves two important roles. It helps you identify trends, and it keeps the loudest voices from having an inflated role in your decision-making process. If a sizable portion of your customers all have the same feedback, it’s a no-brainer to take that criticism seriously and give your customers what they want. Alternatively, it’s easy to fall into the trap of tailoring your output to meet the needs of your most vocal customers. Just because someone makes a lot of noise doesn’t mean that they know what your audience-at-large wants. Logging your customer feedback is critical for separating noise from the product development equation, and delivering products that your customers are legitimately hungry for will keep them out of your inbox every morning

3. Anticipate Customer Questions and Create A Self-Service Resource:

Your customers want to interact with you if they have a problem or a question, but if you find yourself having low-value conversations and answering the same questions day in and day out, getting ahead of those questions with a self-service resource becomes essential. This is where an FAQ page or Knowledge Base comes in. While these resources are often associated with large companies, having a place on your website that’s filled with educational videos, images, and articles is a great way for every digital entrepreneur to cut down on customer service inquiries.

A well presented self-service resource has marketing value as well. If a number of your customers have general questions that can help serve your audience as a whole, making a Knowledge Base with videos and articles covering these questions not only helps your current customers, but also shows prospective customers that they’re investing in someone who cares about their success.

SamCart’s own Knowledge Base houses content such as our Getting Started Guide, which answers our new users’ most frequently asked questions in a series of five videos and helps them get their Marketplaces off the ground in as little time as possible. Instead of having to handhold our new users in live chat and email, the Getting Started Guide does the heavy lifting. Almost every entrepreneur has questions they’re answering repetitively, and an accessible Knowledge Base, or at the very least FAQ page, can free up a surprising amount of time.

Because these resources are so valuable, make sure not bury them in the footer of your website! Too often self-service resources go undiscovered by both customers and prospects alike as they’re hidden in small text.

4. Automate Low-Value Customer Service Functions:

You want to spend your customer service time having high-value conversations with customers. If you’re finding that your low-value customer interactions are unmanageable after setting up your self-service resource, it’s worth looking into automating some of your customer service functions.

  1. After a certain point it becomes impossible to speak with every customer who wants to cancel their subscription. SamCart’s Self-Cancellation feature keeps cancellation requests out of your inbox by letting your customers cancel their own subscriptions. Just make sure you have an automated follow-up email that goes attempts to save the sale after they’re cancelled!
  2. Having a clear and defined refund process can take a huge weight off your shoulders. Make sure your refund process is clearly defined on your checkout page’s Terms & Conditions. This keeps customers from having to write to you about refund policies.
  3. Try setting up an automated chatbot on your website and checkout page. While customers obviously prefer talking to a human, paying a customer support agent likely isn’t a viable option, and we’ve seen too many horror stories with outsourced customer service to comfortably recommend them.

Chatbots can help you qualify and follow-up with leads, automatically recommend Knowledge Base media to customers, and even answer basic questions. Once they’re properly configured, chatbots do a tremendous job of filtering out unqualified leads who are likely to ask for a refund and escalating high-value customer inquiries to your inbox.

While chatbot algorithms can’t automate everything, they can replace the need for email as long as you’re upfront about not using the application as a live chat. You can control what information is required for your customers to write in, and you can set realistic expectations regarding response time in a way that’s difficult to do with email. There are plenty of options available, so do some research and choose the tool that’s right for your business.

5. Set Reasonable Expectations for a Response:

Expectation setting and transparency are critical to customer service. Even if your customers should expect a wait to hear back from you, the psychology of waiting lines shows that a known wait feels shorter than an unknown wait. Try setting up an email autoresponder that specifies you’ll respond within 24 hours. That sets a reasonable expectation for your customers, ensures they don’t feel left hanging, and allows you plenty of time to over-deliver on that promise. If you get back in three hours, they’ll feel like they hardly waited at all!

Auto-responses are also opportunities to let your customers into your world, which instantly goes a long way. If you’re selling surfing guides and are going to be away on a weeklong surf trip with limited Internet access, let your customers know that in your auto-responses. As long as they know what you’re up to, they aren’t going to be upset if they have to wait a couple of days for you to check into an Internet cafe and answer. You’d be amazed at how much this helps you establish a personal rapport with your customers. The same psychology of waiting lines study also proves that explained waits feel much shorter than unexplained ones. Remember, your customers paid money for your expertise and creativity. If they bought a surfing course from you, they likely won’t mind if you take a few days off to surf and make new content for them!

6. Turn Happy Customers Into Advocates:

Having world-class customer service takes commitment and hard work. All that hard work is meaningless to you if nobody knows about it. Turning customers who you’ve gotten to know into advocates who are willing to go to bat for you is essential to success. You’re likely not the only business in your space, and with more than 80% of customers doing research online before making a purchase, you need to prove your reputation to others.

Every time you hang up with a happy customer, ask for them to email you a quick testimonial. If this isn’t something you’re routinely doing, you’ll be shocked at how willing people are to do this for you if your products or customer service left a positive impact on them.

At the end of every positive email correspondence, paste in a pre-written prompt for a Facebook review. If you have a customer who has bought multiple products from you, it’s worth asking for a short view review. A Nielsen report from 2015 found that 66% of people trusted the consumer opinions they found online. This number has almost certainly risen in the years since, making reviews a necessary part of your marketing efforts.

Every SamCart template allows you to display testimonials, and we’ve found that a checkout page featuring testimonials sees a 22% increase in conversions over those without them! That’s a substantial amount of extra money in your pocket for such a simple tweak.  

We cannot stress enough how important curating brand advocacy is. Once you have customers spreading the word about you and your business, consider making them affiliates who are willing to do a chunk of your marketing for you. Having an army of affiliates spreading your products around the web provides avenues of growth you hadn’t previously thought possible!

 

Effective customer service = more affiliates!

Great customer service leads to more affiliates!

Final Thoughts: 

A bad reputation is one of the hardest things to shake online. There are expensive consultancies and applications dedicated to remedying a poor standing with the public, but with an hour a day and some strategic thinking, none of that will ever be necessary.

The key for an up-and-coming entrepreneur is thinking less about customer service and more about customer success. Customer service implies checking a box — a one-off conversation that only seeks to put out an immediate fire. Customer success focuses on your customer’s overall health and attitude to your product. While it’s a discipline traditionally reserved for the Business-to-Enterprise world, you should absolutely adopt it into your business’ identity, especially if you’re just starting out.

Every time a customer writes in with a question or a problem, if you have some time, take a moment to connect with them and learn about how your product or service is working for them. Find out what their pain points were, and work on remedies. If you invest time in your customers’ success, they’ll not only keep coming back for more, but they’ll go out of their way to share your products with friends, peers, and the Internet at large!