Alex Knight explains software for soliciting feedback and reviews, customer support tools and customer outsourcing services
When you purchase an item from a bricks-and-mortar store for the first time, there’s plenty of things you might look out for. Is the shop busy? Do the other customers look happy? Do the products look authentic? Do the staff appear trustworthy?
On marketplaces, buyers can’t make those checks, as they can only see the information that the seller has provided. So, buying decisions are based largely on feedback and reviews. For sellers, this means getting feedback from buyers is crucial and reducing negative feedback is a must, if they are to establish the kind of reputation that buyers look for.
This can be achieved through soliciting more reviews from buyers, improving your customer support system or even outsourcing customer service to a third party, who you feel could handle it more efficiently.
In this post I will walk you through the Feedback, Reviews & Support category of the Web Retailer software directory. It covers eBay and Amazon feedback software, message management tools and customer service outsourcing.
Feedback and Review Solicitation
When you sell anything online, your reputation is largely based on the feedback and reviews that you receive. If your product has little or no feedback it is likely to be viewed with suspicion, and buyers will purchase from someone else.
Getting feedback online can be difficult, as buyers have high expectations and – even when they are met – they rarely give feedback for the seller. Using solicitation tools can help you maximize the feedback you receive, by sending automated emails to buyers, with a link to your product, asking them to leave a product review or seller feedback.
The way that feedback and review solicitation works is very different on Amazon and eBay, largely due to the marketplaces’ very different origins.
On eBay, seller feedback has always been important as buyers use is it to vet who they are buying from. But, the community feel has meant that asking customers for reviews has traditionally been frowned upon, and can be seen as bad etiquette.
Amazon on the other hand, has no real history of feedback etiquette because it’s never had a direct consumer-to-consumer feel. But, feedback and review solicitation on Amazon is still governed by a strict policy. For example, sellers can’t ask buyers to only leave positive reviews and can’t offer discounts or free products in exchange for feedback, as incentivized reviews are banned.
Amazon also now lets buyers to opt out of unsolicited messages from sellers. If buyers choose to do this, they will only receive messages that Amazon deem to be critical. This would include messages arranging the delivery of an item, highlighting a problem with a delivery address, or asking about the specification of custom items. If you try to mark feedback requests as critical in an attempt to trick the system, Amazon may warn you or suspend your account.
This makes getting feedback from buyers who haven’t opted out even more important. The feedback levels on Amazon are notoriously low, so if you can boost the percentage of buyers that are leaving feedback, it softens the blow when you get the odd piece of bad feedback, and helps to better reflect your true performance.
In turn, receiving more product reviews on Amazon, or seller feedback on eBay, is going to have a positive impact on your search ranking. This can be due to your product having a higher conversion rate and gaining more sales, or through the role that feedback and reviews play in the search rank algorithms on both marketplaces.
When it comes to choosing a tool to solicit feedback and reviews, the concept is the same for all of them – they send automated feedback requests after buyers have made a purchase. The tools vary, however, in the marketplaces they are compatible with and the features they include.
In the Web Retailer directory, there are feedback and review solicitation tools that are compatible with eBay and compatible with Amazon. Only xSellco Feedback, ZonGuru and Ki Feedback Pro are compatible with both, at the time of writing.
In terms of features, the main things to look out for are templates and sequences. You ideally want your tool to have built-in message templates that are so well-written you can use them straight out of the box with no editing. These templates will have differing support for data-driven fields. For example, you will probably want a tool that makes it easy to insert the name of the product ordered, and a link for the buyer to leave seller feedback or a product review. You also need to make sure that the content of the templates is compliant with the rules of each marketplace – it’s your account on the line, so don’t take the software provider’s word for it.
Sequences are the automated schedule of when messages are sent to buyers. You may choose to only send one only when the item has been received, or you may send one at every stage of the order process, plus another one a month after the buyer received the item.
Some tools will come with rigid message sequences, while others will allow you to set custom schedules that you can apply to specific product categories or individual products, or automatically change at busier times of the year.
Some tools go beyond this, and can use even more intelligent rules for when, and when not, to send messages. This might mean not asking for feedback if the item was delivered late, or if the buyer has contacted you. Tools with these features allow you to act tactically and protect your seller rating from negative feedback.
Browse the directory for Feedback and Review Solicitation tools including reviews, news, related discussions, compatibility information and pricing.
Customer Support Tools
When you start selling on multiple channels, dealing with messages from customers can become difficult, as you have requests coming in from a number of different places.
There might be a customer from eBay asking about a product’s compatibility, another from Amazon asking if they can change their delivery address, and a customer from your web store asking to return an item. This becomes time consuming, as you have to go to each of these channels individually to answer queries.
Message management tools are designed to alleviate the confusion and save time, by collating all of your messages from customers in one place. You can also save a significant amount of time, by using pre-written responses for common questions.
These tools integrate with marketplaces and shopping carts, or sometimes through direct access to your customer support email account. So for instance, if you sell through Weebly but the tool doesn’t have a direct integration, you can instead connect the email account that you use to receive Weebly customer messages.
Choose a tool that has a good range of templates, as these make replying to customers quicker and easier. A template could be an entire response, which you might create for your most common customer queries, or for more complex requests, you may use snippets of different replies to address all the individual parts of a customer’s question.
Using templates can also help you sell more because you can reply quicker, and with a more helpful response, to pre-sales questions. For instance, if someone asks you whether a camera tripod is lightweight, you can have a detailed template reply that briefly explains the features of each tripod that you sell. By doing this, the customer is more likely to buy from you because you’ve explained which products would suit their needs best.
Some customer support tools integrate with a selection of inventory management systems. This allows your reply templates to automatically pre-fill information such as the order number, product details, purchase date and more. Not only does this save you time, it allows you to respond in more detail, because you have all of the order information right there in front of you.
Team working features are useful to have, as they allow you to assign messages, either automatically or manually, to different customer support reps. Most tools also have collision alerts, which let your reps know if someone else is already working on a customer query, to avoid the risk of sending two replies.
Some of the tools have a reporting function, that provides an overview of how well your customer service team are doing. This includes the average time that reps are taking to respond to customers, how long it takes to compose a response, and the number of customer support cases currently open.
While most of the customer support tools listed are completely standalone, ChannelReply acts as a connector between your Amazon and eBay accounts to general-purpose helpdesk systems Zendesk, Desk.com or Freshdesk. This can make it an easy transition for businesses already using one of those systems to handle customer service requests.
Some order management and multi-channel management tools also include customer support features. If you are already using a system with those features, it’s worth checking out before considering a more specialized tool.
Customer service is a time consuming part of any ecommerce business, so the pay-off from using a tool can be relatively large and easy to calculate. If, for example, you receive 20 messages a day and can cut your average response time from ten minutes down to five, you could save more than eight hours each week.
Browse the directory for Customer Support Tools, including reviews, news, related discussions, compatibility information and pricing.
Customer Service Outsourcing
There is a common misconception that outsourcing your customer support is only an option if you’re selling overseas. This isn’t the case, as people who sell domestically also often decide to offload their customer support. They might feel it could be done better by a third party, who can respond to customers more efficiently.
Alternatively, it could simply be because they run a very lean business, with just the bare minimum of staff, and whilst they can’t afford to hire someone locally to handle customer support, they can afford to outsource it abroad.
These services are often based in the Philippines or India. Reps there can cover more of the day, for instance overnight, at weekends or during holidays, than you would want to cover yourself, for a much lower price than workers in your own country.
Outsourcing your customer support when you’re selling internationally is a different story. Foreign marketplaces often require local-language customer service, so it’s a necessity for most sellers to outsource it, unless you are lucky enough to have staff who speak every language and work in every timezone that you sell to!
When choosing a company to outsource your customer service to, it’s really important that they have at least a basic understanding of the mechanics of marketplaces and ecommerce as a whole. In the directory you will only find specialized ecommerce outsourcing companies. Yes, there are many general-purpose outsourcing companies around, but it will take much longer to explain what you want them to do for you, if they aren’t already handling similar customer service tasks for other clients.
This doesn’t mean that there is no level of training involved in dealing with these outsourcing companies. They will be familiar with the industry, but there will almost certainly be tasks specific to your business, or different processes that you use, which they won’t be familiar with.
It is also important to realize that outsourcing customer service doesn’t mean you can let them handle every customer interaction. You need to make sure that the tasks they are responsible for are appropriate, as things can easily go wrong if a task was too complex and they misunderstood the process.
A great example is product queries. You probably have a level of specialist product knowledge that you’ve developed over time and that’s not easy to impart to staff overseas. So, you’ll need a system of escalation, where your reps can either pass the inquiry on to you, or can ask for your input behind the scenes before replying to the customer themselves.
Browse the directory for Customer Service Outsourcing, including reviews, news, related discussions, compatibility information and pricing.
The Feedback, Reviews & Support category is an important one, as if your product has few product reviews and your customer service is poor, it’s going to be a tough battle to entice customers and make sales. It’s going to be even harder to keep those customers coming back
By using the tools in this section of the directory you can improve your reputation without selling more products each month. If you are simply more efficient at soliciting product reviews or seller feedback from your customers, that could improve your search ranking over time.
Similarly, by handling your customer service more efficiently you’re going to improve a customer’s experience of dealing with you, and have the chance to turn pre-sale queries into sales.
Finally, for very lean businesses who want to improve their customer service, or cross-border sellers who need to meet language requirements, outsourcing customer support is a cost-effective solution. This not only opens the door to new markets, but allows domestic sellers to free up more of their time to spend on sourcing products and growing the business.