Great customer service still reigns supreme — the only thing that has changed is the location. People may not be going to the mall or department stores much anymore, but they’re definitely shopping online. You know this already, as you’re probably one of the 1 in 4 people on the planet that will buy something online in 2023. And that number will only increase: NASDAQ predicts that 95% of all shopping will be done online by 2040.
Good interactions mean repeat business. With the advent of the internet and e-commerce, great and memorable customer service interactions have become rarer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve stopped. In fact, they’ve become even more important.
Some companies really understand this. And those companies can teach the rest of us a lot about e-commerce.
Zappos Proves Customer Service Is Always a Great Fit
It’s hard to mention great customer service in e-commerce without mentioning Zappos. Ostensibly, it’s an online shoe store. In practice, it redefined the customer experience. Their formative CEO, the late Tony Hsieh, stated in a 2015 interview:
“Our philosophy has been that most of the money we might ordinarily have spent on advertising should be invested in customer service so that our customers will do the marketing for us through word of mouth.”
By publishing their customer service phone number prominently on their website, they basically asked customers to call them if they had any questions. This led to—you guessed it—great customer service interactions.
This is just one of the ways they grew Zappos from just over $800,000 in total sales in 1999 to over $1B in 2008 (for more, check out their fantastic tips on the best customer service practices and also this hugely enlightening 2010 article written by Tony Hsieh himself).
? Takeaway: Good vibes and great word of mouth are the best marketing you can buy. According to a Zendesk study, 87% of those polled say good customer service changed their buying behavior.
Started At the Bottom, Now They’re Here: How TUSHY Never Leaves the Customer Behind
You may remember that at the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic in early 2020, one of the major storylines in the news was a shortage of toilet paper. Few were prepared for this, but one company was uniquely positioned to take advantage of it. TUSHY, a low-cost installable bidet company founded in 2015, found itself in an entirely unique position as hundreds of thousands of people began searching for toilet paper alternatives.
TUSHY’s e-commerce went from strong if modest sales to stratospheric, quite literally overnight. The 25-person company suddenly experienced several million-dollar sales days. This was good news all around, but the CX team was inundated with more tickets than they’d ever seen before and a new, huge customer base with complex questions about personal hygiene and home plumbing.
Fortunately, Ren Fuller-Wasserman, the Director of Customer Experience at TUSHY, had a mindset that enabled TUSHY to capitalize on the moment. Speaking to us from Texas, Ren says:
“Good customer service is everything. It’s typically seen as entry-level, but I see it as the heart of every brand. More importantly, they’re the eyes and ears of your organization. Answering customers is one aspect, for sure, but if there’s anything you can glean from these interactions, it’s often extremely valuable information for the entire company.”
? Takeaway: Your CX team is the front-line between the brand and the buying public. Making a human connection with others can help bridge knowledge gaps and turn someone with a passing interest in your company into a customer.
A Prime Example: The Amazing Way Amazon Grew
Amazon bills itself as “the earth’s most customer-centric company” — and, to be fair, it certainly has lived up to that name. In 2020, Amazon accounted for a staggering 31.4% of all U.S. e-commerce transactions. While most companies will never operate on the same scale as Amazon, we can still learn some important lessons from the Seattle-based behemoth. Namely, think like your customers do, not how an employee would.
After Charlie Ward (former Amazon principal engineer; current Amazon VP of technology) got frustrated trying to make a one-click purchase with easy shipping options, he figured that Amazon’s customers must be, too. A small team began working on the special project, codenamed ‘Futurama’, and within a few months, it was eventually retitled Amazon Prime.
This moonshot idea of offering fast, easy-to-understand shipping flew in the face of existing, profitable Amazon protocol — which wasn’t even broken, just simply had room to be improved as it would make customers happier. But that turned out to be one of the most lucrative product decisions ever made. Prime has 200 million worldwide subscribers, and at roughly $10 a user per month, that’s $2B in monthly recurring revenue. All because an engineer thought like a customer.
Takeaway: View your customer service experience through the eyes of your customer. What can you improve?
Customer service changes as commerce itself changes
We may not be living in the golden age of in-person customer service anymore, but companies should still go the extra mile to make their customers happy. The best way to do that is by listening to their customers through their CX teams.
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