Ecommerce merchants often spend too little attention on customer service. Focused on getting the right sale, resources are focused on acquisition through sales, marketing, and checkout software. But what happens when a customer gets a wrong, late, or damaged order?
That customer is far from lost. If they receive fast, effective, and personal help, the merchant can turn a negative experience into a lifelong customer. But too often, customer service becomes an afterthought, and that unhappy customer ends up frustrated on hold with an offshore call center after wading through a 5-step phone tree.
Fortunately, a number of retailers are recognizing the importance of customer service as it relates to their bottom line. Without a great experience after the sale, retention efforts can suffer significantly, resulting in acute opportunity costs. Not coincidentally, retailers who are recognizing this problem are experiencing rapid growth - and no example may be better than the men's fashion retailer Bonobos.
How Bonobos Approaches Customer Service
If something goes wrong when you buy apparel from Bonobos.com, you deal with Ninjas. That's what the company calls its customer service representatives, in a clear effort to personalize and prioritize post-purchase conversations.
The company's ninjas have their own Twitter account to answer customer concerns and follow up on potential problems. After recognizing a common problem for its core audience, CEO Andy Dunn implemented a unifying vision:
"Everything from our customer service ninjas to our Guideshops is built around the idea that it's not always easy for men to buy clothes."
As Econsultancy points out, Bonobos' Ninja model is built on the idea that "customer service isn’t an operational expense, but rather a business investment." Instead of being treated as a nuisance, problems are treated as an opportunity to turn negative customer experienced into more positive brand perception.
Bonobos, in other words, prioritizes customer service as a core part of a larger customer experience. And that matters immensely in its business growth; in fact, customer experience is a core part in improving both acquisition and retention efforts.
No less than 87 percent of consumers believe the companies they interact with should deliver a better and more consistent customer experience. That's exactly why 89 percent of companies expect to compete on experience alone in the near future.
With its Ninja sales model, Bonobos has recognized that fact and adjusted accordingly. Now, it's on the forefront of innovative and comprehensive customer service, offering lessons for other e-commerce retailers in fashion and elsewhere.
Digital Opportunities for Experience Improvements
How can you make sure that your audience has a positive experience during and after they complete a purchase from you? How can you turn even negative attitudes into positive perceptions? Looking at Bonobos, the answer is both ubiquitous and simple: attention and personalization.
Through paying attention to your customers, you can catch an issue before it turns into a problem. If a customer complains, you can answer quickly and comprehensively to address the issue and satisfy the unhappy stakeholder.
Personalization, in the meantime, matters just as much. Rather than relying on your customer to explain the entire issue, the intelligence you have gathered about that customer prior to the problem should inform your communication and solution.
Fortunately, a number of digital opportunities have aided in the achievement of both of these goals. Live chat, for example, can increase the ability for your customers to contact you quickly and effectively. Meanwhile, CRM software allows you to gather data about each of your contacts in a centralized manner.
It is not surprising, then, that most customer service tips suggested by experts rely on these digital opportunities. Through your website and curation of technology solutions, you can follow Bonobos' example and turn unhappy customers from a nuisance into an investment with the potential for significant ROI.
What's Next for Bonobos and Ecommerce?
Should you take these steps? The success of Bonobos suggests that it's worth it. The apparel company was valued at $500 million last November, and reached $100 million in revenue just a few months before that. Last month, news broke that retail giant Walmart was in advanced talks to add the company to its online portfolio.
As the Entrepreneur blog The Hustle points out, of course, customer service is only part of the equation. Bonobos excels specifically because it recognized a core need for its audience of male shoppers, and delivered an innovative and intuitive solution.
At the same time, its customer experience efforts fit perfectly within that model. By treating each complaint as a valuable opportunity, its business model has begun to emphasize that for an audience not necessarily used to or comfortable with shopping for clothes, personalized and prompt help is absolutely essential.
The case study of Bonobos shows that in the near future, customer experience will only become more important. Our attention spans online continue to sink, inversely to our rising expectations for online shopping.
It's no surprise, then, that many of the future trends Forbes expects to shape the future of customer service are directly related to digital opportunities to make this function central to your online operations. If, like Bonobos, you treat unhappy customers as an important opportunity, you can set yourself apart from your competition.
You might not experience quite the same explosive growth as Bonobos. At the same time, a similarly personalized and prioritized customer service model can be the differentiator your business needs to amplify your growth.