Earlier this year on the cleverbridge Ecommerce Blog, Elan Sherbill discussed the impact of customer experience on customer acquisition and retention. He listed the key components for ecommerce sites: an easy checkout process, expert customer support, clear refund policies, comprehensive subscription management, and a broad vision of the customer lifecycle.
While improving checkout processes, quality of support and refund policies is intuitive to an extent, there are some details worth mentioning if your goal is to leave a positive, memorable impression on your customers.
In short: Your customers want a fast, simple process that leaves them feeling confident and not anxious about their purchase.
In general, major obstacles to completing checkout include too many clicks/pages/steps, mandatory registration, security concerns, surprise shipping costs/delays, and the inability to get a quick and easy answer to “one last question.” You’ll need to resolve these (though shipping should be irrelevant for software vendors) before you can turn your attention to creating a remarkable customer experience.
Live chat is your best option for moving the needle here (full disclosure: I work for a live chat vendor). It makes help immediately available, and it offers the flexibility and problem-solving of an actual human rather than a pre-generated FAQ that may or may not actually address this customer’s issue. You don’t want a customer with “money in hand” navigating away from checkout in the first place — and you definitely don’t want them getting increasingly frustrated and impatient as they struggle to find the simple and obvious information that makes them feel comfortable completing their purchase.
Additionally, putting in the time and effort to craft a purchase confirmation email that reflects some personality is just good marketing.
In short: Your customers are bleeding patience and good will towards your company, so treat what’s ailing them as quickly and as painlessly (from their perspective) as possible.
Elan nailed the solution to support on the head: quick response times and self-service options. I’ll get into a little bit more detail on those, but the only thing I want to add to what Elan already covered is authenticity. Empowering your customer service agents to personalize their interactions can make a huge difference in the customer experience. Be careful though, because if this isn’t done right, it comes off as unprofessional, rather than as authentic. If you’re interested you can read more from me on authenticity here.
But how do you optimize quick response times and self-service options?
The three metrics your support team cares the most about (apart from volume of support sessions) are most likely time to response, time to resolution, and the percent of contacts resolved in the first session with support.
Self-service reduces the time to response to practically zero, but if the self-service tool isn’t designed well, it may actually exacerbate the time to resolution and the percentage of contacts resolved in the first session. You may argue that in the instance of self-service, these metrics don’t apply as the customer isn’t actually engaging an agent — such a response is a great indicator that you have missed the point. These metrics are designed to measure team effectiveness and efficiency, yes, but ultimately they are designed to help you improve the customer experience. From the customer’s perspective, they are still struggling for answers. You can read more about how to do self-service well here (registration required).
Your second best option for a quick response time is live chat software. With pre-chat surveys, tiered systems and premade messages, live chat software makes it very easy to direct customers to the agent who can best help them and prepare that chat agent/support rep for whatever it is they’re about to assist with, improving your time to resolution and the percentage of contacts resolved in the first session. Some chat vendors will also provide reporting that can help you improve this process, integrate with your ticket system, and provide other benefits that makes things easy for you and for the customer.
In short: Your customers should leave with the impression that you care more about serving them well than you do about making a buck off of them.
Graham Charlton of Econsultancy put together an article late last year that covers some key points about improving refund policies. The article is geared towards online retail vendors but some of the principles apply to software vendors as well, namely:
- Make your refund policy easy to find and understand
- Offer free trials and free refunds (though, obviously, you’ll want to place a time/usage limitation on free refunds, especially if you offered a free trial)
- Provide user reviews
- Discover why customers seek refunds
I would add to this last bullet point that you should also document why customers seek refunds. Over time, that data offers valuable intelligence about your target market and informs your product roadmap.
In addition to appreciating transparency from vendors, customers have also come to appreciate companies that would rather “release” a customer who isn’t satisfied with their purchase rather than “trap” a customer who feels swindled and leave them stuck with their bad decision. This gets a little bit more nuanced with software, as bugs will always be an issue and customers can sometimes overreact. Ultimately, you want to convey to your customers that it is more important to you that they are satisfied rather than feeling that you exploit them for as much money as you can get from them.
By offering a free trial, being transparent about how customers can get a refund if they aren’t satisfied and offering unbiased user reviews, you are letting your customers know that you care about quality and about providing value to them.
A positive customer experience means fast, simple and convenient (from the customer’s perspective) processes. Checkout should increase confidence and decrease anxiety. Support should be painless. Refund policies should be easy to find, and your language should convey more about satisfying customers than protecting yourself.
Chris Frascella is the Content Director at Velaro Live Chat, where he is responsible for promoting the improved performance and advancements of live chat software. Before joining the Velaro team, Chris was integral in the continued advancement and marketing of outcomes-oriented, case management software at Social Solutions Global.