Customer Experience

How to Provide an Excellent Ecommerce Customer Experience (Even During Busy Periods)

December 18, 2022

No matter what type of online store you run, one fact remains: if you can’t provide an excellent ecommerce customer experience, your business won’t last long.

Customer experience is often the difference between one store and its competitors. Customers often remember those who gave them a great experience and return for more. If you’re lucky, they might even recommend your store to friends or write a positive review that can help draw in more customers.

Conversely, customers definitely remember stores that give them a poor experience. They’ll avoid those stores forever and probably tell others to avoid them too. Customers are more likely to share a bad experience than a good one.

One of the challenges for ecommerce stores is delivering a consistently good experience, even through busy periods such as seasonal rushes or holidays. As a dropshipping platform, we focus on dropshippers, but some of these tips apply to other types of ecommerce stores, too. 

Here’s our take on providing excellent customer experiences, even during busy times. 

Common Customer Experience Issues 

Customer experience issues can crop up from time to time for any business. If you’re aware of some more common issues, though, you can plan ahead and mitigate them. 

Sometimes in the dropshipping world, the problem may not even be on your end, but to the customer, all issues point to you as an ecommerce store. It’s important to take responsibility and manage the relationship with the customer.

Some common issues include:

Slow (or No) Responses to Queries

Customers expect a quick response. Several studies have found that the expectation of customer service response times has increased with the proliferation of communication technologies. Hubspot found that 90% of consumers rate an “immediate” response as important or very important when they have a customer service question. Their definition of “immediate?” Most expect a response in 10 minutes or less.

Busy periods can make a quick response difficult for your business, but you can set up systems to manage these (which we’ll get into later).

Unexpected Costs

This is a common reason given for shopping cart abandonment. Customers don’t like to be surprised by charges in the cart, such as shipping or taxes. Of course, you need to charge for these things somehow, but avoiding that surprise element is essential.

Slow Order Shipments

Shipping delays have been a significant issue for ecommerce store owners and their customers for a while now. Of course, if you’re dropshipping, you have nothing to do with the fulfillment and shipping side of the business, but you still need to be upfront with the customer. People get upset when items they order take longer than expected to arrive.

Preferred Items Out-of-Stock

Stock-outs can annoy customers and lead to losses for ecommerce businesses. They’re a common issue during busy periods, but some companies also struggle with inventory management at other times.

Items Damaged During Shipment

When orders arrive damaged, customers expect something to be done. They’re already frustrated that their items arrived damaged, and this annoyance worsens if they can’t find help or their support requests go unanswered.

Tips for Managing the Customer Experience

While you can’t prevent every possible issue from happening, you can take a few steps to mitigate them. See below for tips on providing an excellent customer experience, even during busy periods.

Set Up Automated Communication

While you probably can’t personally respond quickly to all queries, you can set up systems, so the customer knows their message has been received. Automated emails can be a solution to reply quickly to customers while letting them know how soon they can expect a direct response from your business.

Another valuable automation can be to tie in your knowledge base. Sometimes the customer has a simple question easily answered if you have a good knowledge base. This process usually utilizes a system to pick out key themes or topics from the customer’s message, then pulls some knowledge-based articles that may help. See the screenshot below as an example from a subscription service.

Avoid Surprises

Surprises in the shopping cart, especially shipping costs, are a major cause of cart abandonment. How do you avoid them when you have to charge for shipping? Some tips include:

  • Make shipping costs clear elsewhere on your site (including product pages or your home page). For example, you might state, “$7 flat rate shipping,” or even just say, “shipping cost calculated at checkout,” so people know it’s still coming.

  • Build shipping costs into the cost of the product. Maybe you can’t outright offer free shipping, but you could build it into the overall price.

  • Offer free shipping on all orders over a certain amount. This policy can also encourage customers to add more to their cart to qualify for free shipping.

Communicate Often

Customers can become frustrated when they feel out of the loop with the status of their order. If shipping faces delays or any other issues, communicate early and often. People are less likely to feel they’ve had a poor experience if you are open with them. If possible, set up automated shipping notifications, so they know the exact status of any delayed orders. 

Manage Inventory

Stock-outs can be a significant cause of losses for online retailers. When customers can’t get their preferred product from you, they often look elsewhere. If your customer goes to a competitor, there’s a good chance you won’t get them back later.

What can you do? Plan for busy periods by monitoring your inventory data and building an understanding of what your needs may be. Inventory forecasting can be very helpful for avoiding stock-outs. You’ll want to work with any dropshipping suppliers on this to mitigate the problems.

If a product stock-out is unavoidable, offer a backorder solution to the customer if possible. Doing so can also be helpful for your suppliers - backorders give them some concrete numbers to work with when ordering stock.

Have a Clear Return Policy

As the ecommerce store owner, even if you use dropshipping, you need to be upfront with the customer if there are ever any issues with their order. You should have a clear returns policy that’s easy for the customer to find and follow.

Returns are a critical issue to discuss with your suppliers, too. How will they work? Will you receive the items and then forward them to the supplier, or will you use a supplier address for returns with your business name as the addressee? How will refunds work?

Communicating With Your Suppliers

Your suppliers play a massive role in the customer’s experience of your business, so it’s critical to choose the correct suppliers and ensure they can meet the standard you expect. You should determine how quickly they will fulfill your orders, how they package the product, and what you will do about returns before you sign any paperwork.

Aiming to build a good relationship with your suppliers will help. You want to be able to come to them anytime you need to and have an honest conversation. Building a great relationship starts with solid communication, paying invoices promptly, being personable and easy to do business with, and finding systems and processes to help make their lives easier. 

If you’re expecting a busy period, talk to your suppliers about it and discuss the availability of inventory and the ETA on shipping. For example, if you know the supplier has a surplus of an item, you might promote that more than anything with limited availability. Or, you could state on your website that certain products are subject to limited availability; this can work to entice customers to buy quickly. You can ensure your customers know if shipping is likely to be delayed.

The bottom line is if you have specific customer experience goals for your business, ensure you’re working with suppliers who can accommodate them.

Mothership is a software solution so ecommerce owners can set up dropshipping arrangements with suppliers, while vendors can set up with sellers. It’s a simple, effective way to manage dropshipping and growing your revenue. Check out our site here and click to book your free demo.

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