Posted 04 April 2013

The importance of supporting your online customers

The importance of supporting your online customers

The internet has effectively eliminated the need for discussion before a purchase in a large percentage of cases. You can buy anything from an expensive sound system to a pizza online, and in the last year online retail sales have increased by 14% to nearly £50 billion in the UK and are only set to rise further over the coming years.

This is due to several leading factors: The higher number of people with Internet, and the increasing availability of the Internet on the move made possible by portable devices, WiFi and responsive web design; websites designed specifically for each medium including desktop, smartphone and tablet. Buying online is also more secure than ever with online banks such as PayPal and banks introducing greater security measures; there is an increasing acceptance that buying online is secure, possibly more so than in store when your details could potentially be copied.

With this many people buying online, the temptation for businesses might be to cut back on customer contact and focus completely on online sales. However, a multichannel sales approach with a number of different channels to buy through may be more effective, as there are still 22% of people who state they would never buy online. Even if you set that data aside and focus completely on online sales, you still need to consider how people will contact you for help whilst making an online purchase. The amount of technology knowledge that people have will vary, and even with the most responsive design and the most basic navigation, no technology is foolproof and some people will still need assistance. A recent study showed that 83% of consumers needed some kind of assistance before completing an online purchase and if you are failing to provide this support, will people continue to struggle with your site or simply move on to the next?

Three main options for providing direct support include:

  1. Email or online support form.
  2. Online live ‘chat’.
  3. Providing a telephone number.

People may consider email or online support a solution that takes too long; if they are ready to buy, credit card in hand, do you really want to make them wait? It is for this reason that many businesses prefer the faster person to person option of real time interaction.

Providing a telephone number for potential customers has infinitely more possibilities than live chat. Not only do people get the reassurance of talking to an actual person and a more personalised experience, but the call handler gets the opportunity to up and cross sell; potentially increasing the amount of revenue generated as the customer is talked through the online buying process.

If you are set on maintaining a purely online sales business, providing the right support is essential but it is also important to optimise your website to prevent your online customers from needing as much support. If you are providing a telephone number for support it would be invaluable to know the point at which a consumer was calling you for your help. By identifying key points at which help is required and the type of help needed, you can adapt your website to accommodate people’s needs. Using online call tracking integrated with web analytics enables you to pinpoint key ‘problem pages’ and using call recordings and feedback from call handlers you can further develop the parts of your online buying process that people are finding difficult to understand and/or operate.

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