Consumers have really come to revel in the convenience of online shopping.

Thanks to e-commerce, we can make purchases from the comfort of our own homes (or anywhere else) with a few clicks or taps.

With this new normal for retail, many aspects of the shopping experience have evolved. Customers are more informed, have more choices, and expect more from retailers than ever before.

Shopping has become less about the purchase itself and more about the customer’s interaction with the brand. In the simplest terms, it has become about customer service.

It’s a cycle: Trust—in you as a company, in your brand, in your team, in your product or service—is the foundation of a delightful customer experience, and customers have already declared that customer service is the most important factor in winning their trust:

Not only that, but in a survey sponsored by Zendesk, 62 percent of B2B customers and 42 percent of B2C customers reported making repeat purchases after a good customer service experience. Even more respondents said that they had ceased buying from a company altogether after a bad customer service experience.

Remember, customer service doesn’t begin when someone clicks on your website, and it doesn’t end when they receive their parcel in the mail. You have to create a great experience for your customers while they’re still just potential buyers, and then retain their trust post-purchase.

And with that, here are six surefire ways to delight your customers and keep them coming back for more:

1. Go The Extra Mile With Your Product Delivery

Despite the impact of e-commerce, this sector still only represents 11.9 percent of the global retail industry.

This low penetration makes way for promising growth predictions through 2021 and beyond! Do you want to be a part of it?

If your answer is yes, you’ve got to distinguish yourself from your competition. One way to do that is by exceeding expectations.

You’ve got to delight your customers and provide them with added value.

An employee at Rackspace, a cloud solutions company, made a really good impression on a client during a service call. The employee overheard the client tell someone in the background that they were getting hungry. Thirty minutes later, a pizza was delivered to their door—while they were still on the phone!

Buffer, the social media management company, uses customer service as their best marketing tool. Leo Widrich, Buffer co-founder, once said that making customer service his team’s No. 1 priority leads to customers sharing their positive experiences with their networks (very effective word-of-mouth marketing), and allows Buffer to learn directly from their customers to improve their product. Oh, and their support team is called the Happiness Team!

Getting creative and thinking a little unconventionally is how you WOW your customers. And as the pizza story shows, delighting your customers is something any company can do.

2. Deliver Surprise Promotions For Key Dates (e.g., Birthdays)

A lot of businesses offer special discounts or gifts on a customer’s birthday, but what about a half-birthday?

When Ask Italian surprised a customer with a special gift on her half-birthday, she turned around and blogged about how special it made her feel. That’s some effective marketing!

A simple gesture can still inspire people to share their experience with others.

Mercedes Benz USA got into the spirit of the 2015 holiday season by sending out 1,000 Secret Santa gifts to their customers’ loved ones. The company direct messaged their social media followers, offered to send a free gift to someone on their shopping list, and asked for the recipient’s name and address—no data collection attached. This promotion had nothing to do with cars and everything to do with positive impact.

Whether it’s a customer’s birthday, their anniversary with your brand, or an unconventional occasion like National Cheese Day, there are many opportunities to reach out and surprise your customers.

Put your customer data to good use and determine what’s important or special to them. Then work some magic!

3. Make Your Return & Exchange Experience Frictionless

Eighty-three percent of customers review a merchant’s return policy before making a purchase.

Returns can seem like a nuisance, but they’re an important consideration for your business—even though e-commerce is the norm, online shopping is still a gamble, for both the buyer and the seller.

For the customer, there’s a risk that the item delivered to their door may not be what they expected. And given that 30 percent of products bought online are returned (compared to just 8.89 percent from brick-and-mortar stores), the e-commerce merchant risks losing a sale and spending time and money processing the return.

Keep your customers happy by taking the guesswork out of returns and providing them with simple, stress-free options upfront.

One strategy for streamlining the returns process is to use a return platform like ours. With our tool, online stores can manage returns from a user-friendly dashboard, and customers can request a return or exchange right on their phones. (The app even generates mailing labels.)

4. Prioritize Speedy Customer Support

 

A survey by The Social Habit found that 42 percent of people who contact a brand expect a response within an hour. One hour. When it’s for a customer support issue, they expect the company to respond as quickly on the weekends and at night as they would during regular working hours.

When Zendesk survey respondents were asked what made them rate a customer service experience as good, the top response was a quick resolution of their problem.

That’s why it’s so important to have a team dedicated solely to customer service and problem resolution.

A fast response time is important to avoid losing customers, yet it’s not always so easy to execute. Depending on the size of your business, responding to customer inquiries can take a lot of time. To enable your team to act swiftly, you need to make the process as efficient as possible.

Chatbots can help with this. Some benefits are immediate responses, re-routing to self-service options, fewer departmental transfers, and overall quicker resolutions. Chatbots can also be more cost-effective as they require less manpower. This, in combination with live chatting, can allow your team to respond to inquiries and nip issues in the bud as they arise. With services like LiveChat or Olark, customers are free to ask questions while surfing your website and receive responses in real time.

5. Listen & Act On Customer Feedback

More customers admit to sharing a bad customer service experience with others than a good one. Why do you think that is?

When someone has a bad customer service experience, they feel as if they were treated wrongly, and they want to be heard.

The key words here are “be heard.” When a customer complains, what they are really looking for is for someone to listen and acknowledge their issue. They want to know that you recognize the poor treatment they received, and they expect you to do something about it, even if that is just a simple (yet sincere) apology.

While automated solutions, like the chatbots we mentioned above, can be great in certain instances, people still really value a human touch. Customers want to know they’re talking to a real person when they take the time to reach out to a brand. Responding respectfully and in a timely manner is the best approach. Sending automated emails from a “noreply” account is a surefire way to leave a sour taste in the mouths of your customers. Instead, personalize your responses and add a bit of charm.

Sainsbury hit the nail on the head when they responded to a letter from a 3½-year-old girl who suggested they rename their tiger bread “giraffe bread,” as she felt the pattern on it looked more like giraffe spots. The customer service rep who responded to her note had some fun, but also took the letter quite seriously—so seriously, in fact, that the company decided to go ahead with the girl’s recommended change.

Remember, when a customer has an inquiry, feedback or a complaint, you want to be the first to respond, not a stirred-up Twitter mob. Direct people to the contact page on your website, ask them to fill out an after-sale survey, or send a follow-up email. These are much better options than discovering a customer’s public rant on social media.

6. Surprise Your Customers By Addressing Potential Risks

The best to way to circumvent many of the issues your customers could face is to be proactive. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and try to understand what they want. It is about them, after all.

As mentioned earlier, some purchases come with risks, especially online purchases.

Beauty Bakerie obviously understands that finding makeup to match your skin tone is tough to do online. As you can see below, the cosmetics company anticipated that a customer might choose the wrong shade of foundation, so they found a way to avoid that problem. The customer was so impressed with the gesture that she shared her positive response on social media:

Other considerations include giving customers important notices about their orders. Advise them to order by a certain date if they want their items to arrive by Christmas. Be upfront about shipping costs. Tell them how many of an item are left. Look for ways to eliminate undesirable surprises at every point in the customer experience.

7. Fix Your Mistakes Without Burdening The Customers

The worst possible response to a customer issue is no response. The second worst is not taking ownership of the problem. This only compounds the issue.

Instead, focus on righting any wrongs straightaway. If a parcel gets lost in the mail, give the customer their money back or send a replacement immediately. If a product becomes unavailable after a customer has made their purchase, stay on top of it and delight them like Nike did this customer:

One positive interaction can result in a loyal customer who endorses your brand and continues to buy from you for years to come. It’s invaluable.

Conclusion

Customer service, whether good or bad, has a profound effect on an individual’s long-term buying behavior. How someone feels after engaging with your brand could mean the difference between a loyal customer who recommends your store to family and friends and one who blasts their bad reviews to the masses and never buys from you again.

You want to be on the right side of the customer service coin.

Get together with your team today and begin brainstorming ways to impress and delight your customers. Some opportunities you just can’t plan for, but having basic procedures on hand and a workplace culture that is centered on positive client impact is a great place to start!