Archive for March 29, 2016

Amazon’s Return Policy: Over the Top, or Okay?

amazon return

 

Return policies can help or hurt a business. Amazon has been making news lately with theirs – it seems as though they have been known to cancel Amazon accounts that meet the criteria for “account abuse.” But what does that mean exactly?

Just from reading reports, it’s difficult to know for sure. Users have reported having their accounts deleted for 7% return rates up to 11%. Return rates depend on the number of items purchased through Amazon vs. how many have been returned.

Amazon’s return policy does not say anything specific about this issue; it simply states: Items shipped from Amazon.com, including Warehouse Deals, can be returned within 30 days of receipt of shipment in most cases. Some products have different policies or requirements associated with them.

There have been reports circulating of people’s accounts being canceled, along with any gift card balances and/or Prime memberships. It is unclear as to whether these customers received a warning from Amazon before their accounts were closed. At any rate, is this excessive?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Retailers try to offer a liberal return policy where possible to improve the customer experience. It’s typically a few bad eggs that ruin it for the majority, and is the reason that other retails do track returns to look for patterns. This is what the retailers are up against:

  • Those who borrow, not buy: most often in clothing stores, people will make purchases of clothing items with the intent to return once worn for a special event or similar situation.
  • Returning to replace: need a new electronic item? Is yours not working properly, or just old? Some consumers have been caught purchasing a new item, and then using the receipt to return their old item, essentially making the purchase free.
  • Shoplifting at its finest: consumers have also made legitimate purchases, and later returned to the store, found the items on the receipt, and proceeded to the customer service desk to make a “return” on these not purchased items, essentially shoplifting.

Retailers are in a tough spot – how do they prevent fraudulent returns while not placing the burden on the majority of consumers who are not engaged in any type of shady behavior? Some, many are big box or electronics stores where this type of behavior happens most often, have turned to requiring identification for all returns, regardless of having a receipt or not. This information is housed in a database to look for patterns that might signal an issue. Other retailers have a more liberal return policy.

It’s a fine line for retailers to protect themselves while ensuring customers have a great experience from beginning to end; however, I believe that retailers do need to be more forthcoming with their policies regarding potential return abuse and work closely with customers who may find themselves in this situation. Being more transparent on these policies will give customers an understanding of the “why” behind it and may make them less wary to make a truly needed return.

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Customers Feel They Aren’t Being Heard – Here’s What You Can Do

 

The 2016 Customer Experience report was released recently, and many of the findings highlight how customer service is failing. One highlight focused on customer feedback and a potential reason as to why customers do not provide it when asked.

Respondents shared their thoughts on whether or not companies took action based on feedback provided. As you can see from the slide below, the overall thought that companies did react to feedback declined since 2013, from 49% saying that it was extremely likely or very likely that companies respond to 31% in this study. Similarly, the perception that it was very unlikely or extremely unlikely that companies would react rose 12 percentage points between 2013 and now.

 

 

Do companies react to feedback provided by customers?

 

This may or may not be true; companies could be taking in the feedback and making actionable changes, even if it’s not apparent to customers. But, if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

 

When customers take the time to give a company feedback, they want to feel that their voice is heard. There are some ways that companies can send the message to their customers that will likely improve satisfaction and encourage customers to continue to share their thoughts.

 

Close the loop: this is likely the most time consuming way to show that a customer’s voice is heard, but it can be very effective. When a customer has an issue, follow up with the customer once it’s resolved. It’s important to do a few things here: 1) Make sure the issue is actually resolved; if not, make sure it happens ASAP, 2) find out how the customer perceived the resolution process and ask for suggestions on improving it, and 3) follow up with a note of thanks for their feedback and let them know the ways that you are working to make a better experience in the future.

 

Share feedback findings with your customers: whether it’s on your website, on your social media sites, or in email marketing campaigns, it’s wise to incorporate a “We hear you” message. Let customers know that you DO listen to feedback, and share some of the ways you’re making improvements. Even if they are minor changes or updates, it will send customers a positive message.

 

Highlight the negative feedback: this may seem counter intuitive, but it can be an effective means of letting customers know you listen. Similar to sharing findings, you can highlight a customer issue and directly show how you’ve worked to make improvements. Include customer information, such as a first name and even a photo (with their permission), and follow up with them to get their thoughts on your plan to improve. It’s personal and sends a strong message to your customer base.

 

Get your customers involved: are you seeing a trend in a particular issue that seems to be a pain point for many customers? Get them involved in making change. When customers leave contact information, it’s easier to reach out to ask them if they’d take part in a focus group or online survey that digs deeper into that particular issue. It’s a double win – you are making customers be part of the process while gaining even deeper insight into customer perception. Additionally, it can create increased loyalty, as you are turning dissatisfied customers who may be on the verge of walking away into part of the solution.

 

Consumers are inundated with feedback requests constantly; it’s no wonder the response rates have dropped and customers feel like it’s just one more thing to do. Make the most of your program and stand out by utilizing some of the ideas above.

 

Have you found success in creating an effective feedback program? How do YOUR customers know you’re listening? Please share your thoughts in the comment section and let us know!

 

 

 

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Does Your Company Have a Blog? Why Not?

 

Customers are always seeking information about products and services online. They now have a wealth of information to choose from, between online searches, social media sites, forums, and blogs. Blogging is one area that companies need to pay attention to – like social media marketing, it’s an excellent way to increase your company’s visibility online. There are also added benefits that you can’t get simply from online advertising and social media marketing.

 

If your first reaction is “A blog? Why?” you’re not alone. Blogs came before social media, and it’s intuitive to think that consumers want the “sounds bytes” of information and no longer want to spend time reading blog posts. You may have other concerns about blog writing for your company, including:

 

  • It doesn’t seem like a good fit
  • It’s too time consuming to find content & blog consistently
  • You don’t have the staff to dedicate to blog writing

 

These are common concerns, but if you take a look at the benefits, you’ll see that this can be a vital part of your online presence.

 

Increased visibility/better SEO – if you have a strong online presence, blogging will only help. It will also help with SEO, getting your company closer to the top of the search engine results.

 

Think of it this way – your website has great information about your company. Blogging can give you the opportunity to provide deeper information on your products and services, as well as other relevant industry information. Research shows that companies who have blogs have a 67% increase in leads – there’s a reason for that.

 

Here’s a great example. Our company offers a range of mystery shopping services. One blog post from some time ago focused on B2B mystery shopping. The post was written and published on our company blog. As time passed, because the blog post title was so specific, it has reached first page status for a google search for B2B mystery shopping. While website pages have proper meta tags and are SEO friendly, the addition of a focused blog post on this topic has helped gain traction and reach more people who are searching for this service. We have gotten new clients from people who came across the blog post, looked at our services closer because of it, and contacted us.

 

Serve as an industry expert – current statistics indicate that 81% of consumers trust blog posts over other content found online. So, it seems to be that customers may start with an online search or looking at a company’s website or social media sites, but having a wealth of information in the form of a blog can go a long way.

 

Additionally, because your company provides deeper information about products and services on a blog, you will have the unique opportunity to find solutions to customer’s problems, which is why they’re seeking your products/services in the first place. If they are deciding between a basic website and a website that offers a blog filled with product information, tips, and other relevant information, they will likely choose your company since you have built that trust factor before the consumer even does business with you.

 

Give your social media marketing team a hand (cross promotion) – once you create blog posts, the content (or even a portion of it) can be easily repurposed for maximum effort. Highlighting content from a blog post on your social media sites, or including a recent blog post when a customer asks a question on Facebook can be invaluable. The additional benefit is that you are continuing to link to your blog from other sites, which in turn links to your website. We all know that inbound links play an important role in SEO and how well you do in the search engines. This content is not only helping with SEO, but gives your social media marketing team more content to work with. They will thank you for this!

 

Here are some tips if you are considering starting a company blog:

 

Use a simple platform and subdomain: using a simple platform, such as WordPress, will make life easier. They offer a simple interface and tools to ease the process. By placing your blog as a subdomain (ie blog.yourwebsite.com or yourwebsite.com/blog), it will help your site with SEO as your blog builds strength.

 

Join forces across departments: blogging will be more effective and less of a burden if it is a shared experience. Blog writing should incorporate those from marketing, sales, customer service, and even upper management. Why? This will provide a better range of information that is written, as each department has its own message and experience in the industry. Additionally, it will take the burden off of one or two people and get more of a buy in from your company.

 

Content creation: start with your customers: this is another reason why it’s important to pull a variety of departments into this task. By talking with each department and learning more about customers, creating content will be much easier. For example, your customer care department knows the “pain points” for customers and what the most frequently asked questions are. Customers are telling you what they want to know – turn that into blog posts and it’s a win-win situation for customers and your staff.

 

Outsource blog writing services: if this sounds great, but you still think it will be more effort that your company can give (or afford), outsourcing this component is definitely an option. Blogging services can take the burden off of you but still give you all of the benefits that come with blog writing. Our company offers a variety of writers who come from all walks of life to easily match up to your industry. We work in the same way your own company would to create an engaging, informative blog. You may be surprised to find that blog writing services are inexpensive and can save you time as well.

 

Blog writing is an overlooked resource for companies, but as they start to see the value, more and more are turning to incorporating a blog into their website. It’s something to consider when discussing your marketing strategy – hopefully the tips above can be helpful in making a decision and putting this into motion.

 

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