How To Offer Customer Service Through Your Order Fulfillment

June 15th, 2016 Comments off

sdc_ShippingStrategyCustomerServiceTo run a successful business, you need to have great customer service. While brick-and-mortar stores capitalize on the face-to-face communication we often associate with customer service, online businesses can still master the art of communicating with their customers – namely, through their shipping process. Here are five ways to master customer service by improving your shipping strategy.

1. Be clear about shipping expectations
Negative feedback is overwhelmingly related to issues associated with shipping. To hedge your bets and negate this, provide very realistic expectations for when an item should arrive. Be transparent, and explain the difference between shipping (when an item leaves your possession or warehouse to begin its journey to the customer) and delivery (when the package arrives on the buyer’s doorstep). During high-volume times like the holidays, provide a shipping time table that lets buyers see how soon they need to order packages to expect them by Christmas. Always try to get items to the Post Office the day the order was placed or within 24 hours, if possible. If and when packages show up early, buyers will be pleasantly surprised and more likely to leave positive feedback.

2. Include a custom packing slip
Marketplaces like Amazon have strict rules on how you can contact and interact with a buyer. The packing slip is a safe way to connect, and can help personalize the buying experience. Write a brief note within the packing slips thanking buyers for their patronage, letting them know that they are welcome to contact you, if necessary, and leaving the best method of contacting you. This will reassure buyers that you care, and that you’re just a phone call or email away should they need to reach out. The best packing slips I’ve seen also include a handwritten thanks with the signature of the employee that packaged my item. A reported 68% of customers will stop supporting a business if they feel that the company is indifferent towards them. Bring some humanity to the shipping experience and let buyers know you care.

3. Offer a discount for their next purchase
Discounts and coupons encourage repeat salesand demonstrate that you appreciate a customer’s business. As always, you must abide by each marketplace’s rules when offering discounts or coupons. It is legal to extend a discounted offer, but you cannot do so in exchange for positive feedback. A coupon for their next purchase may encourage feedback organically, but you can’t use it an as incentive.

4. Brand your packaging
The more you can make your buyers’ shopping experience stand out, the better. A 10-year study found that brands that can evoke an emotional connection with buyers can effectively charge up to 200% more than competitors. Branding your packaging will contribute to this. If you sell on your own website, you have free rein to package as creatively as you like. That said, you can still offer a unique experience on stricter marketplaces. After you have the appropriate packing materials, like bubble mailers or sturdy boxes, what can you add to set yourself apart from competitors and create a fun experience for customers? What unique addition would make sense with your brand persona? I recently ordered balloons from a small, party supplies seller on Etsy. When the package arrived, I opened the bubble mailer and confetti came out. It was fun, surprising, and totally consistent with the brand. Creating a genuinely fun shipping experience for me set this seller apart from her competitors, and demonstrated to me that she thinks about her customers from start to finish. I loved it, and I will definitely purchase from her again.

5. Make all returns free
We know not every seller is able to make free shipping work with their budget. Free, unconditional returns is a great alternative to offering unlimited free shipping, and benefits the customer and retailer alike. Here’s why:  a reported 49% of consumers believe shipping costs to be the most exasperating aspect of returning an item. Another 88% of consumers would rate free return shipping as either “important” or “very important” when making purchase decisions, and 82% of another test group affirm that they would complete an online purchase if the seller offers free return shipping. Making returns easy and free for the buyer is a great way to nail customer service and promote buyer trust. And if a buyer does make a return, they are more than likely going to shop from you again in the future, if your return shipping is free.

Offering exceptional customer service through your shipping process doesn’t just impress customers – it encourages future purchases, stewards repeat buyers and helps you win out over competitors. Get creative with branding, be generous with returns and communicate with buyers that you’re a reliable and considerate retailer. If you can nail this, you will reap the benefits. Happy selling!

ecomdash_logo_smallEcomdash is an award-winning multichannel inventory software for e-commerce retailers. It offers an end-to-end e-commerce solution to complete workflow, including inventory and sales order management, product listing, dropshipping and fulfillment management, reporting and more.

5 Ways to Make Your Freelance Business Look More Professional

July 9th, 2013 Comments off

blog_freelancerIf you have a specific, marketable skill, you can build a business by doing freelance work for businesses and individuals. Getting your freelance business off the ground takes a lot of networking, personal marketing, and chutzpah. You can increase your credibility to potential clients by adding these professional elements to your business communications.

#1 Upgrade Your Phone System

Your clients need several different ways to get in contact with you. Even if you complete your work entirely online, clients will want to contact you by telephone. Instead of directing them to your home phone line, install a separate line specifically for your business. Having a business phone number that differs from your mobile and home phone lines gives your business an air of professionalism that can be difficult to attain as a freelance worker.

  • VoIP small business phone systems can be very affordable while offering you big-business features like caller ID and directories, conference and multiparty calls, and call parking, transfer, forwarding, and hold.

#2 Hire a Virtual Assistant

Companies may outsource projects to your consulting business – and you, in turn, can outsource some of your own administrative functions. Hire a virtual assistant to handle your business calls, take messages, and divert calls to your mobile phone as needed.

  • Since your virtual assistant may work for several clients at once, you only pay for the work they do for you – a much cheaper option than having an in-house receptionist to handle your low volume of incoming calls.

#3 Use Your Website Email Address

Are you emailing your customers and business associates from a free email client? Don’t. For just a few dollars, purchase a domain for your business and set up an email address and website. Not only is this more professional, but it also is good preparation for the future, as many free email clients begin to shut down their services.

If you run your freelance business from home, consider renting a PO Box for your business  instead of using your residential address. Or, you can take advantage of new mail services that enable you to use an actual street address (“105 Main Street,” for example) in place of a PO Box number.

#4 Change How You Send Your Postal Mail

Speaking of mail – how many pieces of mail do you send out per day, week, or month? If you find yourself repeatedly running to the post office, hand-addressing envelopes until you get a cramp, or using the latest novelty stamps plastered with images of characters from “The Simpsons,” you may benefit from using custom online postage instead.

  • Print your postage online or order custom stamps to be delivered straight to your door.

#5 Your Website & Social Profiles

The first thing a potential client or customer will do when looking for your business is search for your online presence. Fill your website and social media profiles with relevant content, company information, and, most importantly, contact information. They don’t have to be fancy – but they have to be current, functional, and informative.

When you run a freelance business, the most important thing you do is communicate. If your communications – online, over the phone, and through the mail – are unprofessional, that will have a negative effect on your ability to attract and keep clients. Make your communications more professional, and watch your business grow.

blog_272x77_resource-nationMegan Webb-Morgan is a business blogger, focusing on a variety of topics ranging from social technology to online marketing. She writes for ResourceNation.com, a B2B lead generation company. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Image: Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Successful Small Businesses Use Twitter – Part 2

May 28th, 2013 Comments off

blog_twitter-for-small-business-3In the part one of this Twitter marketing for small business series, we covered how to choose a username, how to write your bio and the one tip that will guarantee your success. In part two, we’re getting more in-depth with eight suggestions for tweets, how to gain more followers, how to handle customer complaints, and how to measure success.

What to tweet
The most important strategy for Twitter content is to vary your content. Avoid too much self-promotion to the exclusion of being helpful to your customers. Also, keep in mind that tweets under 120 characters are the most effective (they allow for retweets and comments).

Here are eight suggested topics:

  • A coupon code or special discount for your followers
  • A look behind the scenes of your operation
  • Tips for your customers (drawing on your subject matter expertise)
  • Positive press or news stories
  • The human side of your team/employees
  • Customer spotlights
  • Industry news
  • Best practices for your industry

How to gain more followers
Remember that Twitter is not all about you – it’s about community. The Twitter accounts with the most followers commit to a regular schedule and post at least once a day. Think about what you’re tweeting and ask yourself if it’s “share worthy.” Consider when your customers are most likely to be online as you time your posts. Finally, don’t forget to follow your customers, your employees, and industry leaders. Following often (but not always) means that users will follow you back.


Troubleshooting: How to handle complaints
Businesses can use Twitter as a customer retention tool, spotting unhappy customers and solving their problems. Sometimes customers take to Twitter to complain about a negative customer service experience. You’ll want to respond to those people. Think of it as an opportunity. When responding, express concern and offer a solution. Most customers just want to be heard, and may even tweet about how you rectified the problem (which is good press for you).

How to measure success
A good way to start is by using social media tools like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to help with tracking, engagement, and marketing on Twitter. Then, decide what your goals are. If your goal is to increase brand awareness and build buzz about your offerings, you’ll want to pay attention to your interaction count (@ replies and retweets). If your goal is to drive traffic to your website or store, you’ll want to pay attention to click-thru rates.

Consider these metrics to measure your success:

  • Number of quality interactions (retweets, favorites, @ mentions, lists)
  • Number of clicks (and clicks that convert to customers)
  • Tracking your hashtag

There’s never been a better time to integrate Twitter into your marketing strategy for your small business. Now that you have the tools, start brainstorming potential tweets, following your customers, resolving customer complaints, and tracking your Twitter success!

Monitoring Your Web Presence With Google Local Business Center

December 17th, 2009 Comments off

To find local businesses or services, consumers used to open a phone book or look in a newspaper. However, the Internet has changed the way that people search for local products. Now consumers visit a search engine and type in keywords to find whatever they want, including local companies or products.

Google’s New Free Tool for Local Business Owners
Google recently created a free online tool for local business owners to find out how and where their customers are finding their site in Google. This monitoring tool, called the Google Local Business Center, lets you track the top search queries that came up with your company information, how many times people visited your website after seeing the link and how often customers sought out more information or directions to your location. The information is collected anonymously, which protects the privacy of Google users and your potential customers.

Try searching for your local business right now in Google. The search results should come back with a geographical listing of your company and its competitors from Google’s database of local businesses. Also included in the results should be the business address, phone number and the company locations plotted on a local map. For example, if you were to search for “Kansas City pizza,” Google would return a list of pizza restaurants in the Kansas City area with their locations plotted on a local map.

Google has given the name “local search” to these types of geographical product searches. Local search is very beneficial for small businesses because it creates a highly visible advertisement for your business that doesn’t look like an ad to an extremely targeted audience. Best of all, Google will let you list and/or modify your business in local search for free. You just have to sign-up for an account in the new Google Local Business Center and claim your business.

Adjust Your Business Description Based on Customer Behavior
Google’s data may inspire you to make a change at your business. For example, if more people looking for your coffee house search for tea instead of coffee, you might consider expanding your tea selection. If you have a lot of customers looking for directions to your store from a faraway town, you might want to change your marketing or expansion strategy to include that region.

Right now, Google is collecting daily information about businesses that are already listed in its local search in the United States. The online company plans to add more historical information and add gather information about businesses in other countries.

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