It's becoming increasingly common for customer experience to be a key imperative for small business owners and c-suite executives alike. That's in part because it can have a significant impact on the bottom line.
According to one recent survey by Esteban Kolsky, the founder and principal of thinkJar, 67 percent of consumers cite bad experiences as reason for churn. Not to mention they are just as likely to tell people about their experiences, which can spread like wildfire online. For budding ecommerce businesses with a half dozen people taking customer service calls, you may be wondering how to best approach your voice communication channel while also keeping your team streamlined and efficient. Customers may not always need to talk to someone; however, in commerce, there are times where a customer may need to reach an actual human being such as if their issue has escalated, or they have a special need or inquiry.
Here are four tips for small ecommerce businesses working on establishing an effective voice presence for customer support:
Craft professional, brand-friendly phone touchpoints
When you have a small business, it's tempting to use your personal cell phone number for the few calls you may receive. However, as soon as your start promoting that number, you may get stuck with it being the customer-facing business line. This makes it difficult to expand your voice presence, such as adding team members to help with support issues, billing, sales, etc. It also puts your personal information out in the limelight, which may not be something you want in the long term. Not to mention that you have to create a business-friendly voicemail greeting that you may not want for your personal voicemail. This is why it's best to think ahead and leverage virtual numbers for your business.
A virtual number is a number that is not connected to a specific calling device; instead, it's a number that can be programmed to forward incoming calls to any of your existing calling devices, whether fixed, mobile or voice over IP (VoIP). If you start out with a virtual number, especially one that allows you to later add extensions for new departments and team members, then you have flexibility as your business grows. Virtual numbers are often features of cloud-based phone systems that are hosted by the phone services vendor and can be managed from anywhere through an online portal.
Pick the right numbers for your business
Should you have a toll free number or a catchy vanity number? Or is it better to promote a local phone number? The answer isn't always so simple, it really depends on your staffing needs, business goals and geographical considerations. While a vanity number may make it easy for current and potential customers to remember your number when they need it, there is a downside.
Vanity numbers cost significantly more, and the chronic short supply is making it more and more difficult to find one that matches your brand or value proposition. If you're targeting a large geographic area-such as an entire state or multiple states-consider getting a local number for each market within that area. Those can help attract consumers and businesses that prefer to work with a company that has a local presence. On the other hand by choosing one or more toll-free numbers, a small business can create the impression that it's a larger company, a perception that can help sway customers who believe that larger businesses are better able to meet their needs.
Reflect your ecommerce brand in your voice communications
Consistency in branding is critical, so make sure that your messaging is getting across to your voice channel. Whether strictly professional, casual, or goofy fun, your tone that's on your online channels should be reflected in your voice presence. Your voicemail, auto-attendant messages, and prompts in your phone system can all benefit from brand alignment, while at the same time being effective in addressing the customer's needs quickly. Consider also the depth, tone, and gender of your greeting, which can say different things about your brand, as well as resonate with callers differently. Finally, use hold messages to educate callers about offers, products, and services, or to reinforce your branding in a way that's helpful (as opposed to irritating).
Be prepared to scale up (and down) to meet changing demands
If your ecommerce business has seasonal or business fluctuations, it's important to be ready and able to scale up (or down) your customer service programs, both online and for call volume. Make sure you select tools that can easily adjust for your level of activity throughout the year. Hosted phone solutions could provide the additional flexibility and cost-savings when a calling campaign ensues or there's rapid employee growth. With on-premise PBXs and other systems, businesses risk overpaying for too much capacity or buying an undersized system that can't keep up when a campaign lights up the phones more than expected. With hosted solutions, they pay for only what they need, when they need it. And when money isn't wasted on unneeded phone capacity, it can mean a bigger budget for marketing.
Today's modern economy has opened up the door for new ecommerce businesses to enter the market more and more quickly. The types of products and services available are changing, and so too are the ways in which ecommerce companies interact with their customers. Your voice channel, even if that simply means a handful of employees who handle customer inquiries, is a key area where you have a real opportunity to make meaningful difference in the way shoppers perceive your ecommerce brand.
About the Author
Tad Nikolich is the SVP of Business Sales at Voxox. A proven salesperson, Tad has successfully built and led several top-performing sales teams. Tad understands and enjoys the technology nuances that underpin this rapidly evolving telecommunication industry. He worked at Pac-West, TelePacific Communications and Express Tel. Tad and his teams have successfully grown their markets and have repeatedly won high profile account competitions. Tad holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from California State University, Sacramento.