Online Customer Service: How to Delight Your Customers

With improving technology, more detailed online customer analysis, and increasing consumer spending, online consumers are expecting more than ever from your website and the Customer Service that is part of it and attached to it. We’re past the point where your website can get away with being a clumsy mix of text, imagery and a shopping cart. Online retail has gone multi-channel, with multiple touch points and huge levels of competition as consumers shop around for the best prices and best Customer Service.

So how do you stay ahead of the game, exceed your target audience’s expectations and achieve the sale instead of your competitors? Follow these practical takeaways and examples, and you’ll be well on your way:

Avoid Generic Product/Service Descriptions and Images

If you go into a store or call up a service provider, you expect them to be able to tell you about the product or services on offer, to help you make the right choice, and to explain the benefits of buying from them (rather than a competitor). So why is this information so hard to find online?

There is a reliance on generic imagery and descriptions provided by brands, manufacturers and distributors, which is not only damaging your Conversion Rate, but also limiting your search engine rankings.

Top Tips:

Offer unique product and service descriptions, for example, as Tennisnuts.co.uk have done:

  • Technical Details: weight, string tension, head size etc
  • Suitability: the level and style of player the racket is suited to
  • Special Features: the benefits of each racket and why it is different to others
  • Multiple Images: various angles and with various levels of zoom
  • Sizing Guide: information on how to choose the correct grip size
  • Offers: discounts for multiple purchases or free gifts with multiple purchases
  • Key Information: postage costs and times, returns etc

Tennis Nuts Customer Service

In a physical store, even if you don’t provide every detail your customers can ask any questions they might have. Online it isn’t easy to ask questions, so you need to answer the questions before they’re asked. Ask yourself what your customers will want to know in order to buy a product and what their doubts or concerns could be – then provide the content to prevent the questions arising.

Another great example is Watch Shop’s use of video. Watches are a very personal item and often have very high price tags attached – but you can’t try them on online of course. Watch Shop’s videos cleverly do the next best thing, and show somebody else trying the watches on, so you can see how it will look and fit – therefore removing a lot more doubt from the purchase than 1 or 2 images would.

Watch Shop Customer Service

Make What’s Obvious In-Store Equally Obvious Online

When you purchase a product or service at a physical location, you know where to go back to if you have any problems, you know how to return a product or ask for a refund, you don’t have to worry about delivery times and costs, and there’s always a staff member you can speak to and ask questions. Offline, the situation is largely the same for all retailers, but online these details can vary hugely. Consumers need to know this basic information before they feel comfortable enough to make a purchase, especially if they are a new customer, if your brand isn’t well known, or if they are making a high value purchase.

Too many websites hide these details away and you have to trawl through a text-filled T&Cs page via a tiny footer link to find the information you need – and many consumers simple won’t make the effort and will look for the product or service elsewhere. Other websites wait until you have added a product to your basket, proceeded to the checkout, created an account and entered all your personal details before revealing the shipping costs. Remove doubt from the purchase process and clearly provide consumers with the staple information they need to make a purchase.

Surfdome Customer Service
Take Surfdome for example and the text in the top left corner, the text under the main banner, and the link in the top right hand corner that reads ‘Customer Service’. There’s free delivery, free UK returns and they clearly have a Customer Service department. Why wouldn’t you stay on their site and buy from them?

It isn’t always possible or viable, but free shipping, easy returns and clearly displayed customer service or contact details go a very long way – so if you can implement them, do.

Don’t Forget Tone, Politeness and Courtesy

What do you expect from a Shop Assistant or Waiter or Receptionist? You expect them to be friendly, polite, courteous and personal. So why can’t we have that online too?

Top Tips:

  • Thank You emails and Thank You Pages: when a customer has made a purchase, make them feel good about it and show your appreciation. Replace characterless ‘Your Order is Confirmed’ messages with more grateful and personal messages, e.g.

‘Thank you so much for your order, Paul. Your order of Product X has been confirmed and you will receive a confirmation email and your order will be shipping in 2-3 working days. If you have any questions in the meantime feel free to get in touch using the following contact details. Thanks again!’.

Which message might tempt you to return to make another purchase at a later date?

  • Special Gestures: Firebox.com are known for putting a little packet of sweets in with every order, Zappos are known for upgrading customers to next day delivery for free, and Pro-Direct Tennis often put a free T-Shirt in with first orders. As a result you’ll often spot the latter’s branding across someone’s chest at tennis clubs across the country, which is fantastic advertising for a low cost. Even a simple ‘5% off your next order’ voucher can feel like a bonus to a customer and can generate repeat business for you.

Show That You are Human

In physical outlets, effective training and recruitment can allow your business to ooze personality, to allow customers to enjoy the personal interactions they have with your staff, and give your business a face. This is much more difficult to achieve online, but it does it mean your website has to be impersonal, corporate, soulless, generic and faceless?

Customer Service ImageOf course not, and by this we don’t mean putting a stock image of a smiling woman wearing a call-centre headset on your homepage. But do write your website copy with personality and character, feature staff in product/service description videos, utilise and incorporate social media, and be creative rather than forgettable.

Take for example www.theumbrellashop.co.uk; if you order an umbrella from them it arrives wrapped in tissue paper that matches the umbrella colour and it will come with a handwritten note saying ‘thank you’ for you order and the name of the person who had packed it. A nice touch that shows that ecommerce can be personal.

Making Contact & Being Contactable

The credit crunch forced many businesses that hadn’t already moved their call centres abroad to relocate them internationally or scale them down significantly. This therefore saw the disappearance of company contact details from websites as businesses looked to limit the number of calls and therefore reduce the number of staff required to answer them. It would feel uncomfortable to walk into a shop with no staff in it and nobody to answer questions or offer help, and it feels the same when you visit a website with no contact details or customer service details present. Make your contact details clear and make the contact process simple, and again you will be reducing the doubt in the purchase process.

Tennis Nuts Customer Service

Top Tips:

  • If you want to have a limited team answering the phones, or if you can’t monitor the phones consistently, why not direct people to social media for help (as long as it is regularly monitored and responses are swift).
  • When customers are waiting in all day for their order to arrive, give the most specific delivery days and times you can, and if possible, engage a service whereby customers receive a text to let them know more precisely when their order will arrive.
  • Chat functions are increasingly popular on websites, allowing customers to have text-based discussions with customer service representatives. This allows the staff to easily direct customers to the resources they need, to provide considered answers, and to handle multiple queries at once.
  • Google+ Hangouts are brilliant for quick chats online, and Skype can be integrated into websites such as in the above example of TennisNuts.com

Stay ahead of the game by regularly asking yourself these 5 questions

In recent years we have gone full circle in terms of customer service and now online consumers are also expecting a high level of customer service, transparency and reachability from businesses online. With so much choice available, consumers are becoming unforgiving of websites that don’t do the basics well or offer a good deal more on top of this. Ask yourself these 5 questions regularly and implement any necessary changes to keep ahead of the game:

  • Are there any reasons a visitor to my website would buy from a competitor instead?
  • Are the any doubts or questions my website visitors could have when making a purchase, order or enquiry?
  • If there are any questions or doubts that do still come up, is it easy for visitors to find the answer or to get in touch?
  • Can I make my website more personal and add more personality (where suitable)?
  • Does my website go the extra mile to provide the best possible experience, or does it just do the job?


Paul Jackson

Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

With almost a decade of experience in digital marketing, both in-house and agency-side, Paul is a CIM qualified Chartered Marketer with expertise and a refreshing approach. Paul’s experience with a diverse mix of brands in a wide range of industries has allowed him to see first-hand the importance of a tailored and business-oriented approach to marketing.