Why Customer Service is Essential (Under Promise and Over Deliver)

Ecommerce is ridiculously competitive. It’s opened up retail opportunities to unprecedented numbers of businesses, driving up competition in the process. This trend is only going to continue. It is therefore essential when building any successful business to understand why customer service is essential and make customer satisfaction a core value of your company.

This is one of the biggest challenges in ecommerce, and it arises because there are very limited opportunities for personal interactions. Your first impression is a virtual one, which means that online transactions have the potential to seem very impersonal. Customers are going to judge you on the quality of experience that you can deliver.

The age-old mantra “under promise and over deliver” is really helpful to explore why customer service is essential for ecommerce success.

The usual aim for an ecommerce business is to sell a product, whether that be an item, service or process. You’re simultaneously trying to deliver something that is of a high enough quality to please the customer, while being priced to allow a profit margin. This tension means that we inevitably get it wrong from time to time.

Some businesses try and sell a mediocre product that helps them to generate impressive margins. The problem with this approach is that it increases the chance that the customer will not be satisfied with the product, and this sparks a chain reaction which will inevitably damage the business.

Others recognise the value of a high quality product that customers will pay a premium for. In this scenario you’re likely to be caught off guard by the standard of customer service that is expected of you.

Why Customer Service is Essential: How Negative Customer Experience Impacts Your Business

A negative customer experience can arise in various ways. The reason why customer service is essential is that it helps to prevent negative experiences from arising – and do something about it when customers aren’t happy with your products, service or administration.

If a buyer isn’t happy with your product then they’re likely to complain. You certainly haven’t lost business at this point, although you’re going to need to provide a refund or replacement. Unless your customer service is really outstanding there’s also the possibility that the customer will choose not to use your business again.

Bearing in mind the importance of customer loyalty and customer lifetime value (CLV) this should be enough to affirm the value of sorting out your customer service experience.

How does a negative customer experience impact your business? Well, a disgruntled customer is likely to tell others about what’s happened. They may well fill out online reviews and share their dissatisfaction via social media. In the longer term, a series of negative experiences is likely to create momentum, which is going to take some serious work to address.

The dangers of negative customer experience arising from faulty or unsatisfactory products are obvious enough. However, over promising and under delivering can be just as dangerous – and much harder to spot.

Under Promise and Over Deliver: How to Create a Positive Customer Experience

Customers expect to receive the product that they ordered, and for that product to be delivered in a relatively short amount of time. The best way to secure the long-term success of your ecommerce business is to under promise and over deliver.

If a buyer has a misleadingly high impression of the product they are purchasing, they are far more likely to express dissatisfaction when they receive an inferior product. The negative impact of being underwhelmed by a product will be very damaging.

Conversely, exceeding customers’ expectations – and the positive impact that this creates – will leave a much more powerful, lasting impression than any advert.

Similarly, quoting a delivery date that your business is unable to fulfill will frustrate customers. It is obviously far preferable to quote a slightly longer delivery time with a higher success rate of on-time deliveries.

Creating an overall positive experience is easier if you choose focus on improving one aspect of customer interaction. Nobody can be good at everything; investing energy and resources thinly across a broad spectrum of areas can simply result in maintaining mediocrity.

One of the best examples of under promising and over delivering comes from the UK ecommerce store Wiggle. For several years now their deliveries have included a small gift – typically a packet of Haribo sweets. This is a small, inexpensive gesture that has had a very positive impact on the company’s reputation.

Wiggle Example Under Promise and Over Deliver

Wiggle’s customers know that the company take their experience seriously, from running a great website with excellent prices through to delivery and after sale service. They don’t shout about it, but they deliver a consistently excellent experience that surpasses expectations.

Perhaps the best way to establish where you should spend your resources in order to achieve the greatest return is to use customer feedback. Listening to the buyer’s opinions and acting on their suggestions helps to convey your concern about customer service, and will help you to determine where improvements would be most noticed and appreciated.

Listening to your customers is so important that you should encourage every member of your team to do it regularly. The CEO of Groove has written a great piece explaining why he spends 20+ hours every week working on customer support. His conclusion is that he was spending too much time planning the growth of the business and not enough time listening closely to the customers who were the future of the business.

It is important to remember that customer service is essential for Ecommerce success. In the busyness of starting a new business it’s easily overlooked.

For a successful Ecommerce business to build credibility and maintain high levels of consumer satisfaction you should remember the golden rule: always under promise and over deliver.

Written by EcommerceRVW
EcommerceRVW is a dedicated Ecommerce Blog bringing you regular ecommerce articles, reviews, case studies and guides. We're passionate about helping ambitious store owners take their business to the next level.