Selling Online, Are You Communicating Enough With Your Customers?


Selling Online, Are You Communicating Enough With Your Customers?

We’ve all got so used to email confirmations when we buy something, text messages to remind us about an appointment, a phone call the day before a booking to make sure we are still coming.

But when an order is placed over the phone or online, and there is no further communication until the product arrives. It makes you wonder, did it really happen? I had this experience recently when I purchased something online.  After entering my payment details and clicking ‘confirm purchase’, I was taken to a download page for the digital part of the order but nothing else. There was no email with an order confirmation; no follow up to say the item had been shipped, nothing from the shipping company so I could track the progress of my parcel. Nothing at all, except a charge on my credit card.

I started to question whether I had actually ordered the physical product and perhaps it was an optional extra, and I hadn’t ticked the right box to receive it. All my questions were answered when my order showed up in my mailbox. No fanfare, no invoice receipt, no company literature or branding, just what I ordered in a postbag and nothing else. And of course, that’s the way it used to be before the world of digital became normal. It makes me marvel at the way customer service has transformed into a process where we need the constant reassurances and confirmations of what we’re doing and when it’s happening.

My local chiropractor doesn’t confirm any bookings. You make a booking directly with him (no receptionist or admin staff) and then it’s agreed that you’ll show up. He doesn’t charge if you don’t but given he’s quite hard to get into he rarely has people forgetting. That system works for him. He doesn’t need messages that ask you to respond with ‘Y’ or ‘A’ to confirm your booking, he trusts (old school) that you’ll do what you said you would. Makes sense given most people’s reliance on a digital calendar that can easily include reminder notifications.

So, what is acceptable and what is overkill?

If you’re selling online at a minimum you need to provide:

1. Immediate order confirmation.

Order confirmation by email for products ordered online seems to be the bare minimum, particularly reassuring when there is a risk of being scammed from websites that can look legitimate. This is also a way to provide an immediate receipt which can state the billing name so that the customer can match up the credit card billing name with the order.

2. Receipt with the parcel.

Providing confirmation of a postal order within the parcel or on the outside is also essential, that way it’s easy for the customer to match up what they received with what was ordered and any discrepancies can be handled quickly.

Extras that are not necessary but nice to have with online orders:

  •  A handwritten note or compliments slip with the delivery.

I’ve received a few of these with different deliveries, and it is a nice touch. Some companies even send treats like small chocolates or a fortune cookie which can also work well depending on their brand.

  • Thoughtful packaging.

Some packages are wrapped in a way that shows they have been handled with care, nice to know when you’ve already paid for an item that the company still treats it with respect until it’s in your hands.

  •  Shipping notifications.

This is standard for some businesses and not for others. Sometimes it can feel like overkill when there are several emails in one day. One to say the order has been received, another to say it’s been packed and another to confirm that the parcel has been shipped. While it can get a little overwhelming, on the other hand, there is a strong feeling of trust that the order is being well handled and delivery is a few sleeps away.

The exact steps you need to take to service your customers depends on your business. Technology has made it easier to automate many steps along the way but don’t forget to add a human touch where you can to really connect with your customers.

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  • Linda

    Hi Jill,
    thanks for the article and I agree the confirmation that something has actually been done, registered and actioned ‘somewhere’ is reassuring. Automation is very good at this but something small business can find hard to impliment initially and does also lack some of the lovely personal touches you mentioned.

    • Jill Brennan

      Thanks Linda. A mix of personal touches and automation is likely the best option for small businesses that want to be memorable and stand out from the competition.

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