How can you better answer your customers’ questions online?

Most ecommerce professionals will admit that there are ways in which their website user experience can be improved, and in many cases there are some easy wins – perhaps the checkout process is in a mess, or the site takes a long time to load.

While not trivial these are the kind of problems that can be largely fixed by adhering to best practice and employing a freelancer or agency if the organisation doesn’t have the expertise or time in house to fix the issue.

However once you have a checkout that performs well (although there is of course always room for improvement and testing), your site is loading well, you have good high quality images – where do you go next?

In this post I’ll be looking at ways that your organisation – and only your organisation – can improve.

How do we do this? By trying to close the gap between the information the customer is looking for (or in some cases doesn’t even know they need) and what the website is providing.

Unless you are extremely well-resourced there will be times that your website is manning the fort on its own, with no fall-back channels for customers to enquire further – and it’s at these times where the website needs to be able to answer all a customer’s questions to make the sale there and then. But how do we identify the gap in order to close it?

Talk to your telephone sales colleagues

If your organisation takes orders over the telephone then these are the people who will most likely be hearing the question that your website isn’t answering – and if it’s a potential deal-breaker you can beat they’ll have heard them a few times.

Make some time to speak to them and note down the most common issues – then re-work your website to make sure these questions are addressed.

Are people asking about delivery? Ensure the delivery process, timescale and costs are explained clearly – consider offering a delivery date selection method.

It’s worth noting that like any kind of research of this sort the views of your colleagues could be skewed for one reason or another. One potential way around this would be to record all the calls coming in to your organisation then select a sample and highlight issues that you directly observe being raised.

Analyse live chat transcripts

Live chat can be a great tool to enable people to get in touch who cannot or do not wish to pick up the phone – and who judge email as having too long a response time. Luckily most live chat tools keep logs, many will allow you to export chat records and some even have an API to play with.

web chat

First off, live chat transcripts can be read through much more quickly than call recordings can be listened to, so you’ll potentially be able to highlight any trends much faster.

Often the main question will be in the first line so if you have a lot of chat records to go through this is one potential way to thin down the reading involved. If you have API access or a good export tool you should be able to select just the first line of chats.

If you want to get very granular and have your live chat tool tied in to your analytics suite you could select only live chat sessions that resulted in a conversion – the assumption being that the question being asked could be answered to the customer’s satisfaction such that an order was placed.

This is actually an important point as, at least in the short term, there may be only certain answers you can provide on the website that will help the customer. If they are looking for next day delivery and this isn’t a service you provide, then for now all the website content in the world won’t convert someone who needs something delivered the next day. In the medium term however you can look at switching couriers to someone who can provide next day.

Back to the live chat briefly – a bonus tip here is if you now have a list of questions asked try dumping these into a tag-cloud generator to quickly highlight the most important areas to address. These can also potentially help in putting together a case to a decision maker – especially if they aren’t terribly numeric.

live chat 2

Forums / Google / social media

Your organisation may not be the only place where discussions regarding your products are taking place.

Forums catering to your vertical, social media and even some affiliate sites (such as voucher code sites) are all places where people may ask questions about your products and also speculate as to the answers if no authoritative source can be found.

This is an opportunity to not only engage with communities already interested in your product, but also to ensure that your content is updated to answer these questions on your site.

Product reviews / Q&A

If your site has product reviews and / or product Q&A sections then these can also be useful sources of information.

Has the same question been asked several times? Perhaps this piece of information is useful to users and not present / hidden in the product listing. In this case it might be an idea to insert / make more prominent that particular piece of information in the product listing.

If you sell the same or similar products to your competitors then there is also the opportunity to look at their reviews / Q&As to see if there is anything there that you can use to improve your listings. This can be particularly useful if you are launching a new product line.

Conclusion

As with many things testing is important in all aspects when dealing with more qualitative information sources.

It may be that more than one person has asked the same question about a product that wasn’t answered on the website but until we can prove through testing that answering these questions has a positive impact on conversions then it may be the case that we are potentially wasting our time dealing with some outlying customers when our resources could be better expended elsewhere.

However that said in the never-ending challenge to make our websites more unique and more authoritative than the competition every different source of data give us an edge in adding to the quality of our sites, helping our customers and generating more sales.

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