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Christmas season: Give priority to your customers

As Christmas rapidly approaches and the number of delivery days to ensure that presents arrive in time reduces, it is a very important time for online retailers to ensure that the customer come first. If a single customer is forgotten or ignored it can impact the retailer for 2014.


In the run up to Christmas most online retailers will have in place everything that a customer needs to get their items as quickly as possible. Over the last couple of years this has largely been to do with the delivery channel; including Same day, Saturday and extended hours delivery. Also, with Click and Collect and In-Store Collection shoppers have more ways to get the items they wanted in the location that they want. But what happens when something goes wrong? With the number of delivery days until 24th December disappearing quickly, how can retailers ensure that the shopper is kept happy when something goes wrong?

Most retailers understand that there will always be issues in their eCommerce eco-system. These include issues with the carrier, shipping the incorrect product, damaged products and lost items. The run up to Christmas is where a retailer can shine in the customers eyes by providing the best customer service. For a customer when things goes wrong in the run up to Christmas it is the worst time for them; it can be extremely stressful as they will be purchasing lots of items from different retailers and having something go wrong with a single delivery just adds to their stress. If the retailer is not helpful or does not do what they promised then the customer is unlikely to shop with that retailer again. Furthermore, with the rise of social feedback on networking channels such as Facebook and Twitter the shopper is very likely to publicly complain about that retailer. Of course a negative feedback on a retailer, regardless of the channel, will have a negative knock on effect when future shoppers read any negative comments about the retailer.


Figure 1: The loyalty Loop

The loyalty loop is often forgotten by retailers, yet it is fundamental in all eCommerce transactions. A customer who has never shopped at a retailer before will evaluate the retailer on a number of factors, these include the product, availability, delivery time and if the retailer is trusted or not; this is where social networks come in. This happens as part of the evaluation of multiple retailers or in a quick buy decision. 

After a shopper has placed the order, the next part, the Post Purchase Experience(PPE) is the most important part to a shopper. The loyalty loop is also very important; this is where the shopper evaluates whether or not the retailer has delivered on their promise. Factors that effect the PPE are the time it has taken to deliver the item(crucial at Christmas time), whether or not the correct item was delivered, if it was damaged, when did the shopper call customer service, could they speak to someone, and did the person understand and resolve the issue quickly. Finally, did the retailer meet the promise that they made at point of purchase.

At this point if the shopper had a good experience then they could become a customer of the retailer, or in other words they would be prepared to shop again at this retailer.  However, if there have been any failures during the process then they are much less likely to return to the retailer and become a customer. In some cases they will also start to complain on social networks.


So how should a retailer prepare to put the customer first this Christmas?

The first thing is to deliver on what you promise.  What is a promise? A promise happens at the point of purchase for the customer. It is all information that they obtained for the item(s) and delivery when they purchased; this is what they are expecting the retailer to provide. So, for a retailer, careful planning and building in a delivery contingency before making a promise to a customer will help. If you have items in stock providing next day delivery can be in your promise to the customer, but if you have items on backorder or on consignment then add extra days contingency to the delivery date being displayed, that way the expectation will be set correctly with the customer. It does not matter how good your distribution channel is, it is always possible for something to break.

If you are eating into the contingency then inform the customers that there is a delay via email, it is easier to reset expectation before the customer is aware of a problem then setting expectation when they call into the call centre. When a customer does call up with a problem make sure that people are available to answer their call. Keep the call centres open in the evening during busy periods like Christmas, as most customer don’t have time to make calls in the day. Once a customer does get in contact with the call centre they need to acknowledge the issue and find a resolution that works for both parties.

Also, in order to ensure the customer stays a customer there needs to be some way to apologise to the customer; for example a 10% of their next purchase policy. Any promise that the call centre makes to the customer needs to be kept as any failure to meet further promises will only make the customer more stressed and increase their dissatisfaction with the retailer.

So put your customers first this Christmas and watch your eCommerce sites profitability soar. For more information about preparing your eCommerce store for the Christmas rush contact us now on +44 (0) 20 3011 5000

Happy Christmas trading retailers!