Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Home / Commentary / Tips for online retailers in turbulent times

Tips for online retailers in turbulent times

Keeping your online business in order while maintaining a pleasant customer experience can be difficult, especially when variables outside of your control are affecting the operation of your establishment. In 2021, many businesses struggled with supply chain and hiring issues, thus increasing the number of customer complaints. 

Online shopping had more Better Business Bureau (BBB) “F” rated companies than any other type of business. The most common concerns were related to delivery delays, product quality, customer service and refunds — all significantly fueled by supply chain, shipping and hiring issues due to COVID-19.  

Unfortunately, it is highly likely these issues will continue into 2022. What’s important to remember is what you can control as a business owner, despite the external circumstances that are affecting your customers’ experience. Being transparent with your customers from the beginning and equipping your customer service department will significantly help your business get through these challenges.  

The following tips will help online businesses maintain a positive customer experience. 

Facing supply chain delays? Communicate. 

Be transparent from the get-go. If you’ve been facing significant delays, communicate those issues with your customer. Provide a realistic window of when their merchandise will be processed and shipped to prevent setting false expectations — preferably in the form of a disclaimer before they purchase the item(s). Also, provide clear instructions on how to cancel orders in case you can’t ship items in the promised timeframe. Lastly, keep in mind the Federal Trade Commission’s Mail Order Rule. 

Look into setting up pending charges. 

Setting up your orders to not process payments until the item has been shipped or delivered takes your customer service to the next level. It gives your customers peace of mind to know they won’t be charged for an item until it’s officially on its way or even once it’s delivered. It’ll also significantly reduce the number of inquiries to your customer service department from people asking for a refund. 

Have a clear return/exchange policy. 

Consumers want to know what their options are in case they need to return an item before committing to a purchase. Outline the number of days you’ll accept a return after the purchase date. Be clear whether you process refunds to their card or only offer store credit/exchanges. Setting up a separate email for all your return requests will help streamline the process. 

Strongly equip your customer service department. 

If you have a small customer service team, be transparent about your limited bandwidth and set realistic expectations. Building an FAQ page on your website can help your customers find an answer on their own for those moments your queue is running behind. Provide multiple methods of contact including email, phone calls, direct messages on social media or a built-in chat service to your website. It’s vital to have a customer service department that is accessible and responds within a reasonable timeframe. 

Rebecca Barr is a PR and communications manager for the Better Business Bureau.  

About admin