How to Put the Customer First (Online)

May 7, 2015

All businesses share at least one thing in common: They’re nothing without customers.

It’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day tasks of running a business and forget about what’s really important: the people buying your products. And who can blame you when there’s the retail outlet to maintain and the online business to run? Have you ticked off every task needed to keep your shop open? Is the warehouse working properly? Are all the listings live on eBay and Amazon and Rakuten and Tesco? You get the idea.

Each channel you sell on relies 100% on customers. They need to have the best product at the best price using the easiest and quickest method to get their purchase to them at home. But what about the post-sale experience? Would you expect your customer to leave a glowing review about your product and your service? If not, why not?

Customer feedback can make or break your business. You need to have customers positively and voluntarily advertise your business (for free). If they walk into your shop, do they feel welcome? Are they confident that they’re getting the best service? Do your employees really care? Would that customer come back and bring their friends? If not, why not?

Make the Most of Feedback

Online customer feedback is even harder to manage. Customers are more likely to leave a negative comment online, knowing that they don’t have to brave walking into your shop to do so. Online customers can pick holes in everything. Make sure your shipping time is better than promised and that your packaging is appropriate. If a customer had an issue, did you go above and beyond their expectations to resolve it? If not, why not?

Online marketplaces base how your products are displayed to customers partly on your account health and seller rating. Can you afford to have less visibility? Can you afford to have pages of poor reviews about your service and products?

Be sure to educate your buyers as they progress through the purchase and post-sale processes about how they can leave feedback and how they can contact you if there are any issues. Write a brief piece that explains how important feedback and five-star ratings are to you and that encourages customers to contact you first if they have any issues. You could instil this message in the following places:

  • Listing template
  • Checkout notification
  • Dispatch notification
  • Feedback request notification

By educating your customers on the steps to take to contacting you or leaving feedback, you are minimising the risk that buyers will leave feedback without contacting you first, which is frustrating for sellers that want the chance to rectify a situation as soon as possible. For positive transactions, you are reinforcing how important good reviews are to you and your business.

Sadly, even the most diligent seller will receive negative feedback at some point. The difference you can make here is how you handle it. It’s essential to always respond to negative feedback — publicly if you can. A simple apology and some genuine proof that you rectified the issue will go a long way towards winning back that customer. Also, potential customers are far more likely to give you a chance and understand that the poor feedback was unjust if you handle it correctly. If you get defensive or ignore feedback, you’re effectively turning your own customers away at the door.

All feedback, whether good or bad, is useful for your company. Any positive feedback reinforces what you do well, while any negative feedback sheds a light on aspects of the sales process that may need to be improved. Take the time to review all feedback and action it where necessary!

If you need help with boosting your feedback on eBay, check out our Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Feedback on EBay eBook.

Socialise with Your Audience

Moving away from post-sale feedback, you should also dedicate time and resources to both acquiring new customers and enticing repeat customers. How do you do this? Channels such as email marketing still hold value if they’re timed and targeted correctly, but it’s also time to embrace social media. If your business doesn’t have active Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram accounts, then you need to start now. There are far more social networking sites than this list suggests, as well as additional subsets that focus on specific age or interest groups. You need to know where your potential customers are networking and put yourself in front of them.

To do this, you need to add the international mix. Facebook is still hugely popular in the UK, but is it as popular in every country? The answer is no. If you’re selling in China, you need to be looking to channels such as Tencent. The lesson is that if you’re selling to an international region, know your customers.

At home, consider what new channels might be successful for your business Don’t overlook channels such as Pinterest. Although Pinterest has only been around since 2010, the channel is already one of the leading social media platforms, with an estimated 70 million users worldwide. Product-driven advertising has become a powerful tool for retailers on social media outlets, and Pinterest is a fundamental part of this strategy. It can be a prosperous way for retailers to generate exposure and interact with their consumer base. Because it’s a giant in the social arena, Pinterest should be an integral part of retail social strategy. It’s already second — behind Facebook — in providing referrals to websites, and it supplies at least four times the amount of referrals as Twitter. Once Pinterest users arrive on a website, they spend twice as much as shoppers who arrive via Facebook. As Pinterest continues its rapid growth, more consumers are trusting the network to recommend quality products. As a result, it’s an ideal channel for online retailers to understand and develop a strong presence on.

Whatever social channel you choose, it’s worth making sure that you follow these 6 quick social media tips:

Be captivating: Be amusing, creative and interesting with your social engagement. Speak in the tone of voice of your target audience to make yourself a relatable voice.

Encourage shoppers to share: Place social sharing buttons on your website and on each product page to make it easier for shoppers to share items via e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and more.

Keep them coming back for more: Reward your social fans and followers to encourage brand loyalty and spur repeat purchases.

Talk about it: Appoint a social media employee to participate in the conversations happening on social sites and directly influence how your brand is perceived.

Give them what they’re asking for: Integrate with social media sites to make it easier for shoppers to find the perfect birthday, holiday or anytime gifts for friends or family members.

Think beyond the billboard: If possible, advertise through social media to gain exposure beyond your competitors.

Summing It Up

To bring it all together, keep focusing on the mechanics of your business. Without them, you won’t have anything to offer your customers. But always have the customer in mind when you’re optimising these fundamentals. Does your mobile site appeal to all, or is it tricky to navigate? Do you have a team member looking at all the visible feedback on your business? Review your company’s website marketplaces and social media alike. Finally, ask your target audience where they go online, and make a point to be there, too.


Blog post by Gary Yeoell, account manager, EMEA, at ChannelAdvisor.