In an e-commerce world, customer service is not a desk that you can park at the back of the store with sitting on their hands waiting for returns and layaway.
Instead, customer service takes the front seat online where word of both good and bad experiences can spread virally and customer retention is the surest route to profitability.
Nuvango, an e-commerce brand that creates prints and products based on uploaded art, takes an “old-fashioned” approach to customer service according to Solveig Carney, Manager, Sales and Service at the Toronto-based company.
Talking to real people
Customers are pleasantly surprised to talk to a real person when they call the 1-888 customer service line. Nuvango doesn’t use voice prompts, and it trains its customer service team to fix problems, rather than pass a customer on to another agent.
“You don’t let something snowball, you just fix it.”
“The person that answers the phone is knowledgeable and empowered,” Carney said, adding that “the human factor” is what makes a difference.
Social media, the forum for both brand fans and critics, is another focus for Carney. When someone has a poor experience “they’re going to let the world know about it,” she said.
Well-trained employees who can take action is key to preventing the nightmare viral-complaint scenario. Carney’s philosophy for those scenarios is simple: “You don’t let something snowball, you just fix it.”
Nuvango, formerly known as Gelaskins, took on a full rebranding in May and Carney said it’s been a smooth transition as customers have dealt with the familiarizing themselves with the new name. Transparency has been a large part of the transition,
“We’ve been working hard for over two years to create a sustainable platform and continue to be a partner that artists can trust with their masterpieces,” Nuvango co-founder Jamie Pichora wrote in a blog coinciding with the rebranding. “Artists have more choices than ever for selling their work and I’d be lying if I said that we don’t sometimes feel that we’re a little late to the table. However, if we hadn’t taken the time to do it right, we wouldn’t have clarified our mission and created a roadmap that sets us apart,”
“This way, they don’t have to think about shopping elsewhere.”
Bringing customers back for repeat purchases can be challenging, but it’s the backbone of any sustainable e-commerce business. Of course, it costs less to retain an existing customer than to recruit a new one.
While customer loyalty is a concept that might be the least concern for a company simply hoping to get their word out, but some companies have built a business model around return customers.
“The way we look at loyalty is a little bit the same thing as a ski hill: How you can get the customer to buy a season’s pass [instead of] buying a single ticket,” Ethan Song, CEO of online men’s clothing retailer Frank & Oak.
Frank & Oak’s Hunt Club members have the ability to try on up to four pieces of clothing each month, shipped to their home for free. In exchange, they are charged a $45 membership fee each month that can be put toward future purchases.
Keep them coming back
“Making shopping easier, providing more personalized service and obviously offer free shipping for a customer that like a brand, it’s a tremendous benefit and it keeps them coming back,” Song explained. “This way, they don’t have to think about shopping elsewhere. But in order to get them, you also have to give them a lot of benefits.”
Frank & Oak offers a personalized touch with some of its orders, such as a handwritten message of thanks from an employee of the company.
Bringing your customer service to the fore of your company helps spread positive messages about a company and keeps the bad reviews at bay. When all their concerns are addressed, there’s no reason why a customer wouldn’t make another purchase.
See the finalists for the Best Customer/Community Outreach category in the Canada Post E-commerce Innovation Awards.