Whether you’re just starting your business journey, or you’ve been in business for years, you’ll know how important keeping your customers happy is. If the worst should happen, being able to calmly communicate any delays or troubleshoot common issues is key to managing customer expectations, especially when you're selling online.
1. Stay one step ahead
You know your business better than anyone else, which means you also know the familiar issues that your customers come up against. Try to mitigate these and solve the problem before they approach you. This could include:
- Additional troubleshooting instructions if you've launched a new product range
- Setting up an FAQ section on your website to help customers find answers easily
- Including customer services contact information in delivery notes so people can contact your business for help
2. Consistent communication
As an online retailer, regular updates about order fulfillment are important to keeping customers happy. From transparency about delays to prompt dispatch emails, keeping an open channel with your customers is the secret to managing their expectations. If something unexpected happened that will cause delays, customers who you have apologised to are likely to be far more accepting than those who were surprised and disappointed as a result.
Don’t forget about replies. How long can someone expect to hear back from you? Be realistic: can you reply on the same day, or do you need to give a timeframe of a few working days? That way, someone who is waiting for a reply to an email doesn’t feel like they’re being ignored if you don’t reply straight away. Keep your social media and website updated with your contact information and opening times in a clear place, especially if you’re closed for a holiday, or if you're extending shipping times during a busy festive period.
3. Perfect your customer service
Many small businesses pride themselves on delivering great customer service, but if you’re expanding, hiring, or have an influx of orders, it can be tough to juggle it all. For example, do you need to take on temporary staff to ensure a seamless experience in busy periods?
Making customer service training a priority for new joiners will ensure the whole team is aligned with your business’ values. Your business plan should outline your values and mission as a business, which feeds back into the experience that customers can expect from you. This way, no matter who your customer is speaking to, they will have a seamless experience. If your business makes any significant changes, revisiting your business plan can help you to plan how you’ll stay up to speed.
If you stay on top of your online reviews, your customers will know what to expect from you. Timely responses and helpful replies can win over the most negative review if you know how to handle negative reviews.
4. Get it in black and white
You should include realistic expectations within this so that all parties are aware of what will be delivered. Our legal experts guide to e-commerce laws for online businesses outlines what you need to know about contracts for selling online.
You should consider:
- Timescales for order fulfillment and shipment, so customers know when they can expect the order
- Specifics of what you will be delivering, for example, if someone is ordering a customised product
- If your customer is expected to send you anything to fulfil the work, for example, brand assets, logos or photos
This way, if any issues arise, you can refer to the contract. Failing to manage expectations can sometimes lead to complaints or even a dispute. If the matter escalates to a contractual dispute, it’s always best to seek legal advice before taking any action.