7 Ways to Improve Your Website’s Customer Experience

  •    Michelle Goodman is a freelance business writer based in Seattle. She’s also author of The Anti 9-to-5 Guide and My So-Called Freelance Life.

Customer service is a major aspect of any successful business, and getting it right is critical for eCommerce. When your customer interactions are virtual, you have to go the extra mile to show that there’s a person behind the screen who cares.

Customers who have a positive shopping experience will not only buy more products but also recommend that store to their friends and followers and leave glowing reviews.

Many small business owners skimp on customer service due to time and financial constraints. This is a mistake, says Blake Morgan, author More is More: How the Best Companies Work Harder and Go Farther to Create Knock-Your-Socks-Off Customer Experiences. “In reality, those ‘extra’ costs make all the difference in great customer experience and what will really build satisfied, loyal customers,” she says.

The good news is that a majority of customers are willing to pay more for better customer experience, and 72% of customers who have a positive shopping experience will tell at least six people about it.

Here are seven ways to improve your customer service:

Focus on customer relationships

According to Forrester, 66% of customers say the most important thing a company can do is value their time. Morgan agrees. “When customers feel appreciated, they’re more likely to stay loyal,” she says.

Lauren Lutchna, co-owner of Farmstead Apothecary, which sells all-natural and organic fruit-scented skincare products, places a premium on nurturing customer connections. “We’re always getting emails about our scent choices and love to get the chance to help our customers choose the best scent for them,” she says. “We treat others the way we want to be treated when we have to contact customer service about a product or issue.”

Answer inquiries fast

Responding to customers promptly can lead to positive experiences and return visits. “Customers move quickly, so if they have to wait around for a response, they’re more likely to take their business elsewhere,” Morgan says. “People know they’re contacting a small business with limited resources, but they also expect prompt service.”

Amanda Sides, owner of The Calligraphy Bar, which offers wedding calligraphy services, responds to inquiries within 48 hours. “Brides are impatient and sometimes choose who responded first,” she says.

Offering customers multiple ways to contact you is also important. Taking advantage of Weebly's Contact Form builder can help. That's what Farmstead Apothecary has done. Besides encouraging customers to get in touch via social media, email, and phone, “we make contacting us more convenient by having a Contact Us page with a comment box for any questions,” Lutchna says.

contact-form-builder

Use templates and forms to save time

Responding to customer messages can be standardized for a faster process. Rather than reinvent the wheel each time, Morgan suggests using an email template for frequently received questions and comments, which you can customize as needed. “You can still personalize customer interactions without having to script an entirely new response every time,” she explains.

Using web forms can cut down on excess email, too. Sides, who’s been running her business since 2015, features a price quote form on her website to simplify the process of quoting estimates on semi-custom wedding invitations. “Quotes are time-consuming as it is, as they depend on so many variables, such as type and weight of paper, printing type, quantity, number of pieces, and envelope type,” she says. “So it’s frustrating to write three or more emails back and forth with someone before you can even quote them.”

Give shipping and loyalty rewards

Today’s customers have come to expect two-day shipping, but most realize shipping may take longer with a smaller company, Morgan says. Free shipping is another story. “Shipping costs can be a major turn-off for customers, so offering free shipping on orders above a certain amount is a great way to encourage larger orders,” Morgan says.

If absorbing shipping costs on large orders sounds too steep, consider giving your products a slight price bump to compensate. Or look into offering free shipping for a limited time, like during certain holidays. “Once we launched free shipping above $39.99, we noticed a huge spike in order size,” Lutchna says.

Rewards programs also can help you retain customers. “One of the easiest ways to do this is to offer a small discount of 10% to 15% when customers sign up for your email list,” Morgan says. “The cost is minimal and it expands your email contacts.” Using your email list to notify customers of upcoming sales or new products can help boost revenue, as can offering referral bonuses to customers who recommend your company to their friends.

Post shipping and return policies clearly

Always post shipping and return policies on your website, and make sure they’re straightforward and easy to find. “If something happens and a customer isn’t satisfied with the shipping, you can stand behind your policy,” Morgan says. “It also helps customers know when to expect their orders.” Most customers also expect an email letting them know their order has shipped, she says.

Morgan warns against granting customers a no-questions-asked product guarantee, which can be costly. Accepting returns for items that arrive damaged or the incorrect order is a reasonable practice. “Most customers understand that taking returns is difficult for a small business, so they are more understanding of a strict return policy,” Morgan says.

Offer FAQs, tips, and other self-service options

faq

Take advantage of product FAQs, tutorials, and video demos. The more information your website includes about product ingredients, specifications, set up, care, and maintenance, the fewer incoming questions you’ll have to field.

Sides used to receive numerous questions from brides wondering about wedding invitation etiquette. Think address formatting, abbreviations, name prefixes, and whether to invite plus-ones and children. Often the inquiries weren’t even from clients or potential clients. To cut down on these messages, Sides posted an etiquette page on her website. “I've received very few questions like this since I posted that information,” she says.

Be authentic on social media

Social media is a great tool for sharing product tips, updates, photos, and promotions. But remember to think beyond the sale. “One of the biggest reasons customers shop small businesses is that they know there’s a person behind the brand who celebrates every order,” Morgan says. Let your social media accounts reflect this. Pull back the veil on your personal life a bit so customers can see who they’re supporting.

“I try to use social media daily,” Sides says. “I can tell when I've been more consistent because I'll see a steady stream of leads.”

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