Reactive and Proactive Online Customer Service

My dry cleaner recently did NOT have my shirts ready on time. So, I had to come back another day to pick them up. I was less than pleased and was prepared to ask for a discount when I returned. The next day when I was rung-up, I said, “How about a discount for it being late?” “Already applied sir.”, he responded. It wasn’t much. He discounted one shirt, but it was a pleasant surprise to not have to fight for it. They took ownership over their mistake.

On the flipside, I received some stellar customer service on the frontend of a purchase. The retail rep when out of the way to give me a brand new, in the box version of a leather binder I wanted (I had picked up one that was sitting on the shelf), gave me a 10% discount without me asking, and when I realized I forgot one item and returned to the store to buy it, he gave it to me for free.

Creating positive reactive and proactive customer service experiences is key to any business. And it is something that has to be thought about and executed online, just as it is offline. Perhaps even more so.

The Internet has largely made goods and services about price. Consumers now regularly comparison shop via the clicks of a mouse, often heavily influenced by the bottom line. If your website keeps customers focused on price, then it is on price that they will make their decision. Your customer service may be the distinction that keeps them selecting you over your competitors.

How do you incorporate reactive and proactive customer service into your online operations? It’s actually easier than offline transactions. It is likely you know more about online than offline customers. Here’s some tips to start:

1) Analyze your online purchasing process, online purchasing data, and purchasing related web analytics.
What sort of yearly/monthly/weekly trends do you see? Are visitors abandoning their shopping carts during a certain part of the checkout process? Is most of your business through one-time purchases or do you have significant repeat business?

2) Identify areas for improvement.
Based on your analysis, find the problems or places you think you can add more value to your customers experience.

3) Prioritize your changes. Maybe you only have a couple of areas you need to re-work. But in the case of a laundry list of necessary changes, prioritize your changes. Criteria for prioritization might include eliminating what’s most frustrating to your customers or tackling the item where you are losing most of your potential sales.

The final step is to create that new reactive/proactive customer service experience. Maybe you offer first-time buyers discounts or have a mitigation plan for dealing with oversold products. The point is that you should wow your customers. Give them something they don’t expect and you should likely expect them to either return to your virtual doors again or share their experience with others.