It’s ten to nine on a Friday evening and Ashutosh Agarwal is sitting in his living room, fuming. His friends have called three times to check if he’s going to join them for a fun night out and three times he’s told them he doesn’t know when he can. He has also tried and failed several times to get through to the number of the online seller whose delivery he is angrily waiting for.
Ashutosh isn’t a real person. We made him up. However, his fictional persona has helped us identify a very real problem that real people face when they buy products online – delayed deliveries.
As one person we spoke to (a real person this time), said: “I understand that deliveries are delayed due to traffic jams, or unavoidable detours along the way. What I don’t get is that nobody informs me about the situation, so I just keep waiting and waiting. When I try calling the phone number on their website, it rings with no answer. So frustrating!”
Yes, it is frustrating. Especially since more and more customers are choosing to shop online because it is supposed to be convenient and hassle-free. It defeats their purpose, if their virtual transaction increases their stress levels instead. If you have an e-commerce business, you’ve probably come across a few upset customers too. Read on to discover a few ways to help prevent this.
The many opportunities and challenges of the e-commerce industry
According to a joint report of KPMG and the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the size of India’s e-commerce market in 2013 was around $13 billion. Flipkart’s co-founder and chief executive officer Sachin Bansal has also projected that the e-commerce business in India is expected to reach around $50-70 billion by 2020. This isn’t surprising, considering the extended reach of Internet services across the country and the growing number of smartphone users. Did you know that 5% of online transactions are carried out through mobiles and tablet devices?
The stats prove that there are multiple opportunities for those who wish to venture into online selling. Unfortunately, with every opportunity, come multiple challenges. This article will not deal with the hurdles that well-funded e-commerce giants like Flipkart and Amazon face. We will instead focus on smaller online sellers who encounter logistical nightmares, the lack of capital to scale up their operations, and other tough business barriers.
We’re talking about the online sellers of homemade jewelry, or perhaps, a small adventure travel company that encourages customers to book packages online. Whatever your e-commerce business, cloud telephony services can help you overcome many of the challenges you face, quickly and cost-effectively. Here’s how.
Enabling free phone communication builds confidence and trust
Remember that when people transact online, they have no actual contact with you. Their virtual interaction with your business is based on trust – a trust that can easily be broken by a bad experience. Since there is no physical outlet where customers can meet with you face to face, many opt to resolve their issues or make inquiries over the phone. Giving customers access to your company is an excellent way to build their confidence.
When customers voice their issues, you can personally apologize and make it up to them. This kind of personalized customer service paves the way for them to give you a second chance. Also, let customers talk to you without bearing the cost of the call. You can do this by associating a toll free number with your business. You can easily and affordably get a number one from a cloud telephony company, so there’s really no excuse for not implementing this mode of communication. Whether customers call in to complain, or to apply for a product replacement, or to offer a word of appreciation, they must always be able to reach you without having to pay.
Provide anytime, anywhere information via IVR
The great thing about e-commerce is that you can sell to people across the country or even across the world, 24/7. The downside to this is that people can access your online store anytime, anywhere via their computers or mobile phones. Some of them may expect you to be available to answer their questions at 3am in the morning, when it suddenly takes their fancy to check out your product; yes it can happen.
You’re only human, so instead of trying to make do without sleep for the rest of your professional life, here’s what we suggest. Implement a good IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system that politely greets callers, informs them about your work timings, and gives them the option to listen to recorded information about common queries such as shipping costs. Also implement a voicemail feature that lets them leave a number for you to call back. Problem solved!
Battle logistical issues, with SMS or voice updates
For any e-commerce business, managing logistics can be frightfully difficult. Some of the more common problems include stock not being available when a customer wants to purchase, delivery delays from your supplier, and late deliveries to your customer. No matter what the issue is, make sure that your customer is updated about it. Believe it or not, most customers are willing to forgive delays, if they know why they are being made to wait long hours for their doorbell to ring. Silence in this instance is not golden, so check with your cloud telephony company about the possibility of sending your customers SMS or voice-recorded updates such as purchase verification, incoming stock information, or delivery status.
Save time by forwarding customers to the right person
If a customer receives the wrong product, or a faulty product, and your business has a person who handles exchanges, do configure your IVR system to forward the call to the concerned person when the customer selects an option. This is a great way to save time for you and your customer and also helps you resolve the problem quickly.
Improve your customer relationship management with call recording
It doesn’t matter if your business is small, medium, or large sized. You need to start building and maintaining customer relationships from day one. It’s five times more expensive to attract a new customer, than to retain an existing one, so improve your customer interactions by opting for a handy little feature called call recording. Play back your recorded conversations later and define what worked and what didn’t. Act on that knowledge.
Your cloud telephony company should also let you integrate your phone records with the CRM package you use, so that you have a comprehensive, history of your customer, in one place.
Send your customers SMS notifications on sales and security issues
Are your customers missing out on a cool sale or promotion you’re hosting online? If your cloud telephony company has the facility to send bulk SMS notifications out, you could simply inform all your customers about a sale and benefit from an increased number of purchases.
You can also use SMS services to thwart cyber crime and prevent identity theft. If you are aware of an online threat, such a phishing site, or fraudulent emails, you can either send SMS warnings to your customers, or recorded voice alerts.
Monitor your marketing campaign ROI with call tracking
If you’re not sure which online and offline promotional campaigns are working best for your business, use call tracking and virtual numbers to find out. You can assign a different number to each marketing campaign (outdoor, web, print, and so on), and track which number gets the most calls. All the incoming calls will be routed to your business phone, so you don’t need multiple staff to manage different numbers. Your cloud telephony company will be able to tell you more about this feature.
Do you run a small or medium-sized e-commerce business? Do you face many of the challenges we have listed above? If yes, you now know how you can overcome them. Remember, that the huge advantage of availing services in the cloud is that your provider can scale up to meet your growing business needs, when you start expanding your business scope. So go ahead, think big and confidently plan for a brighter online business future.
Photo credit: ardentinc.com