Build Ecomerce Store 2017
How Build Ecomerce Store 2017
If you missed How to build an ecomerce store part 3 then click HERE .
Our store’s up and running, we’ve got orders coming in… And that means one thing above all.
We’ve now got actual customers.
For a lot of people, dealing with the customer service side of ecommerce can be one of the most intimidating parts of the process, particularly if you’re used to something like conventional affiliate marketing where you don’t normally talk to the people viewing your ads.
But it’s not just a hassle, or something that can go wrong. Having direct communication with the people clicking on your images and buying your products is one of the most powerful advantages that eCommerce gives us.
Your customers are your biggest asset
Customer service looks like a cost center: something that you have to do, but that is really annoying and unproductive, and only has potential downsides (angry customers, chargebacks, etc). But that’s absolutely not the case.
For starters, customers are often thrilled by even moderately competent customer service. If you stay in touch, don’t get angry with people, and try to fix problems promptly – not a high bar – you’ll attract fanatically loyal fans who will generate free sales for your store. This is how brands like Zappos have grown so fast.
(True story – just the other day a customer on one of my products announced that he was going to buy another dozen of the product he’d acquired and give it out to friends and family. That happened largely because my customer service was decent – not amazing, just decent.)
And secondly, customers are the best analytics tool you could possibly have access to. If you’re an affiliate, you’ll remember the days and days of testing landing page designs, images, and so on to attract the best conversion rates – guessing at what your viewers would respond to.
Now that you’re running a store, you can just ask them. And the information they’ll give you will be far more in-depth, and far more unexpected, than you’d ever get from the best tracker in the world.
So how do you take best advantage of this opportunity? You’ve got a live store now, so this and the next part of the Cookbook will cover all the stages of customer service, from startup to megastore.
In this part, Part 1, we’ll cover the early stages: how to cover your bases and enthuse customers when you’ve just got a profitable product off the ground, as well as why you shouldn’t outsource customer service too early, and some tips for making your store stand out a mile compared to other ecommerce vendors.
Part 2 of this customer service guide will follow – that’ll include “recipes” for common customer service situations and how to resolve them to turn disgruntled customers into fanatical brand enthusiasts, as well as guidelines for handing your customer service off to outsourcers or employees.
Stage 1: Just Launched
As soon as you’ve got a product that’s making a profit, you should go through these steps.
Set up Gmail Canned Responses
Gmail has a feature to let you save and auto-paste responses or entire emails. These will save you months of time over the lifetime of a successful store.
Set them up ASAP. We’ll refer back to them over the course of this tutorial.
If you’re not using Gmail, you can achieve much the same effect with an Evernote file of canned responses and copy-paste.
Do a test order
I didn’t list this in an earlier part of the tutorial to avoid overload, but you can do this as soon as you’ve set up your store, even before you start running ads.
Place an order on the store yourself – or even better, have someone else place it whilst you watch over their shoulder.
Go through the entire process on the back end of the store. As you’re using Oberlo, you can follow their shipping and fulfilment tutorialswhich will take you through the process. The first time you fulfil an order it can be pretty confusing, so don’t worry if you get lost at some point – and feel free to post below if you hit any problems!
At the same time, watch how the process feels from the point of view of your customer. Make a note of any and all problems they hit, and fix them if at all possible – you may find that initial order confirmation emails are confusing, for example, in which case you’ll want to go into Oberlo or shopify and fix that.
Make sure the money makes it into your account, make sure that the tracking info arrives, and make sure that the actual product turns up, a couple of weeks later!
(Once you have the product in hand, you can then use that to do more marketing! We’ll cover that in Part 6.)
Once something starts selling, grab a few yourself.
Many, many problems can be solved very easily if you’ve got a few spare units of what you’re selling sitting in a cupboard. So once you have a product that’s making you money, grab 3-5 units of the product yourself from AliExpress.
Unbox one and test it out: you’ll be amazed how many customer questions are much easier to answer if you have one of the product you’re selling sitting around, and you’ve tried it yourself.
Stick the others in a cupboard. If you have complaints about things not arriving, your suppliers screw up an order, or something similar, you can quickly ship one out and probably turn an angry customer into a lifelong fan (particularly if you mention that it’s one of a few you have in the office, and you’re personally shipping it out). Don’t use this as a first go-to, but it’s a great emergency save.
Post-sale info pack
Once you’ve got a product that’s selling well, spend an hour or so putting together an email about it. Include anything you can think of that could be useful to the customer once it arrives, from usage tips to estimated shipping time.
For example, using the example of the coffee kettle that I mentioned in Part 3, my post-sale info pack would include:
- Basic instructions on using it to make pour-over coffee.
- Links to some videos of top baristas using a similar kettle.
- Basic, short “Quick Start” tips including obvious things like “wash the kettle out before using it for the first time” and “pre-heat the kettle before pouring water into it”.
- Reiteration of expected shipping times (a few weeks), what to do if it doesn’t turn up (email me) and when to do that (if it hasn’t arrived after a month).
Send this email out to anyone who purchases the product – you can start out doing that manually, as it shouldn’t take more than a minute per customer, using Gmail’s Canned Responses. If that becomes too much of an overhead, you can then automate the process using an app like Follow Up Email.
Get in touch a few weeks/months after sale.
Most store owners don’t do this, and it’s a huge waste.
Once the order has arrived and your customer has had a few days to use it, send out a quick email asking them how the experience has been.
Keep it very informal and non-corporate – you want this to sound like it’s coming from a real human, not a robot or a PR firm. One or two lines is best – for the kettle, for example, I’d go with:
Hiya! Hugh from Fanatical Coffee here – just checking in to see how you’re finding the gooseneck kettle you bought from us. How is it working out for you? Any comments or thoughts on the kettle or the order process you’d like to share?
Thanks for buying from us, and enjoy your caffinated beverages!
Take careful note of any and all responses, and make sure to thank people for their feedback.
(A guide on when to do something about customer responses: if only one person has complained about something, you can probably put it on the “to deal with later” list. If two or more people complain about the same thing, fix it.)
If they’re happy with the product, now’s the time to ask them for a short testimonial, or ask them if they mind you using their words on the store if they’ve already said effusive things about the product. Put these up on your store ASAP.
Stage 2: Steady Orders
Once you’re past the “just launched” stage but aren’t at 5 figures a month or more yet, here’s how to keep the customer service under control.
Handle it yourself
You might be saying “what? No! Scaling! Outsourcing! Replace yourself! E-Myth!”.
It’s a huge mistake to outsource customer service too early.
Customer service is your best source of conversion rate optimisation in the early stages of a store. If you outsource, it’s very, very easy to miss problems that you should be fixing, because they’re not a source of pain to you personally.
However, if you’re the one writing
“yes, I’m sorry the shipping options aren’t clear: here’s what you should do to get your order”
six times a day, the damn shipping options will get fixed much sooner.
Handle customer service yourself until you really can’t, and make copious notes on the process. Fix anything that recurs time and time again, and you’ll end up with a much leaner, more efficient store. When you finally have to outsource, you’ll spend a lot less money, because you’ve already fixed all the leaks in your customer pipeline rather than just plastered them over, and you’ll have a much better customer experience – meaning more repeat customers and higher conversion rates – to boot.
Don’t stress out. Complaints happen
Particularly if you’re an overachieving A-type personality, it’s easy to get super-stressed by complaints.
Complaints will happen. I’m not sure there’s a moderately successful business in the world that has ever avoided all complaints. You absolutely will end up getting angry emails: that’s normal, not a sign that anything’s wrong.
Don’t take them as a comment on your personal competence or performance. Don’t try to avoid them. And don’t worry if someone’s angry over email – they’re probably just having a bad day. The odds of any one complaint having any significant long-term effects, provided you take reasonable steps to address them, are around zero.
If you can think of every single complaint as a big step in either gaining loyal customers or improving your store’s conversion rates, you’ll find customer service much easier to deal with.
Always accept the blame
Any email you’re writing to a customer who is complaining should almost always start with “I’m sorry about that”.
Even if it’s definitely their fault, and they’ve screwed something up completely, apologise for their trouble before setting out how to fix it.
Never, ever get into an argument with a customer about whose fault a problem is, and never lay it off on a third party. For example, if your supplier has screwed up, you should say “I’m sorry about this. We’ve had a supply problem, and I’ll fix it by doing…” rather than “This isn’t our fault. Our supplier messed up. I’m doing….”.
Don’t keep your complaints email open
Affiliates will recognise this as a variant of the “don’t hammer F5 on your stats” rule. Don’t keep checking your complaints email: they’re a prime source of task-switching and can really reduce your productivity.
The best way to handle customer service is to batch it: check twice a day, if possible, and respond immediately to all emails. You don’t need to check more often than that.
Respond to all emails as soon as you see them
Even if you’re not sure what you’re going to do, or need to take some steps that will take a while, get back to the customer as soon as you possibly can. Even a holding email saying
“Really sorry to hear about this. I need to look into this matter as soon as possible. I’ll be in touch with you by X point in time.”
will do wonders to calm angry customers. Then always set a further agreed action date and always keep your promises until the matter’s as closed as it’s going to get.
A customer will cut you a lot more slack if you keep your promises scrupulously, and if you always agree a next step and timescale rather than keeping them hanging, not knowing what’s happening.
Keep a clipping file of all frequent responses
The same questions and complaints will come in over and over again.
So, the first time you have a complaint, spend time on writing a detailed, thoughtful response. (We’ll cover specific situations in the next part of the cookbook, including some boilerplate responses you can adapt.)
The second time you get that complaint, find the email you wrote the first time. Adapt it for the new complaint if needed, and then save it in your Gmail canned responses.
The third time, use the canned response.
Over time, these canned responses will become your customer service bible. They’ll also form the basis of a really efficient outsourced customer service department later.
Happy customer > refund costs.
Be prepared to spend a bit of money on unhappy customers if you need to. It might feel painful to spend on express shipping out a new unit of a product, or refunding something that you’re reasonably sure is fine, but if it’s the only way to make the customer happy, do it.
Unless something is going very wrong, it’ll end up being a tiny fraction of the profit of your store, and will massively reduce your hassle levels as well as potentially gathering you valuable social proof and, often, a high-value lifetime customer.
And that’s it for now! In the next part, we’ll cover specific customer service situations, from missing goods to injuries, and also cover how to go about outsourcing when you finally decide the time is right.