Ecommerce thrives on technological advancement. Without forward progress, the category we now call “eCommerce” would still feature carnival barkers yelling into megaphones from the back of horse-drawn carriages.
But each new advance comes with its own challenges. Using updated platforms and innovative ways of communicating with clients requires a delicate balancing act. As you implement each new tech, you have to weigh the gains in efficiency with the potential loss of personal contact.
Go too far in the direction of automation, and every client gets treated the same. You lose any chance at a close individual connection and diminish your ability to deliver the special treatment that encourages repeat business. The lack of customization leaves you vulnerable to rivals with a more boutique approach, competition that focuses on individual customer relationships.
However, lean too heavily on one-on-one interaction, and you won’t have time to service your current clients effectively, much less find new ones or develop products for future growth. An unswerving commitment to individual service keeps you from getting the most out of your resources. Ultimately, your bottom line will suffer.
But there are ways to take advantage of technological progress, while still maintaining the proper balance. Here are seven ways to leverage technology to develop long-term customer relationships and grow your eCommerce business:
Customer Service Chatbots
The key to customer service is making your clients feel heard. Unending phone menus and delayed email responses can frustrate clients and exacerbate tense situations. They can turn simple complaints into deal-breaking scenarios.
Chatbots help avoid that frustration. They provide a sense of back-and-forth interaction. They represent an excellent customer-service gateway, allowing you to gather feedback, to troubleshoot simple problems instantly, and to provide immediate timelines for answering more complicated queries.
Face-to-Face Video Chats
The issue with automated systems, like chatbots, is that they feel impersonal. An overreliance on them could foster a sense that you don’t care about individual clients. As such, you need to supplement them with more direct communication.
Unfortunately, the one-on-one approach gets complicated. With a business that spans multiple geographies, it’s difficult to schedule true face-to-face meetings. However, video calls offer the next best thing. You can catch up with clients, build personal relationships, and deepen your business ties…all without leaving your office.
Sales is, in part, a process of education. You need to update clients on new launches and let them know about improved features on legacy products. You also want to provide opportunities to stay relevant and on your customers’ radars.
Webinars fulfill those goals. You can educate customers about new developments, while relieving the burden on your sales staff’s schedule. They don’t have to give the same speech over and over to different customers. You can also maximize your clients’ experience by teaching them about higher-level features and helping them get the most out of your products.
Interactions with your clients are supposed to lead in one direction: toward sales. Punchout catalogs help drive that goal by streamlining the sales process.
This technology improves your eCommerce site by allowing institutional buyers to purchase directly through their electronic procurement system. It’s like a direct connection into your customers’ procurement hub, a dedicated line right to their decision-making nexus.
Punchout catalogs also provide better flexibility for you, tighter control over inventory, and increased billing options. In addition, punchout catalogs yield significant benefits for your clients. Using them will improve your customer relations and make purchasing more efficient.
Customer feedback is key to staying relevant. You have to know what the market demands and how to serve your clients best. However, the process of gathering information can become haphazard. It can veer toward a confusing muddle of different salespeople fielding uncollected suggestions from a wide variety of customer types.
To avoid this, you need a system to optimize data collection. Using periodic automated customer surveys accomplishes this goal. It formalizes the process and allows you to acquire actionable information. Meanwhile, the automated nature of the programs keeps your resource costs low.
Keep Your Employees Connected
The suggestions we’ve pointed out so far all focus on connecting with your customers. However, that’s not the only communication you need to encourage. You also need to promote the exchange of information and ideas among your employees.
It’s easy for data to get bottled up in one particular area of the company. Sales people might have information that the product development staff could use. Or one of your branches overcomes a particular problem that everyone else could learn from. Whatever the case, you need to have a process for disseminating information.
Develop a robust, company-wide communication platform. That way, different parts of your organization can share information with each other. This should feed into your customer relationship management solution, forming an all-encompassing process for attacking problems and driving growth.
Blog and Vlog Content
Yes, we’re about to suggest that your website could be a useful technology to connect with your customers. And no, it isn’t 1997.
We know the advice comes off as somewhat basic. After all, the Internet provides a baseline form of communication for most businesses. Still, it’s surprising how many companies underutilize this core opportunity to build their brands.
Use your website to provide a constant stream of information about your company. It acts as a conduit to customers (and potential customers) who want to know more about your company’s core values. Keep an updated blog on your site. Or, better yet, spice things up with regular vlogs. These allow you to cement your brand and improve your communication with the outside world.
About the Author:
Samantha Wallace is a veteran tech writer and editor who has worked in several eCommerce companies. She has been covering technology online for over five years. She is the Content Advocate for Greenwingtechnology.com.