Today’s connected customers have no trouble finding retailers that deliver what they want, when they want it. A recent survey reported over 82 percent of consumers said they will stop doing business with a company following a negative experience—and more than 50 percent of these consumers will go on to complain to their networks. A lot must happen behind the scenes in order for a customer to have a positive experience from the time they discover your brand to the moment they receive an order. Here are several ways to ensure your customers don’t get spooked by their experience with your brand.

Hire the Right People

Communication is an extension of your brand. Proveen Kapelle, a marketing professor at Dartmouth who analyzes companies with top rated customer service, said, “Customers get their service by interacting with the employees, and so for the employees to provide better service, they have to take ownership of what they are selling. If you have employees who are motivated, who take ownership, who take pride in what they do, that translates to customer satisfaction right away.” Hire for support and service roles with this in mind, and make sure employees who regularly speak with customers share your mission and can communicate it effectively.

Set Clear Expectations

Customer expectations have never been higher. In fact, a recent Aberdeen survey shows that elevated customer expectations are the highest source of external pressure faced by mid-market retailers. So how does this impact your business? If you fail to set clear expectations, the customer experience crumbles. It’s important to get ahead of issues before they have a chance to arise. Athletic brand NOBULL, for example, created a returns and exchange guide that they plan to send out with each order confirmation. Since most people making purchases in the coming months are purchasing gifts for others, they’ve clearly explained that the guide can be printed and inserted in the gift box so the recipient knows exactly what to do should they want to return or exchange their NOBULL product. While they understand that this won’t eliminate returns, they hope that making it as simple as possible, and communicating their policies as clearly as they can, will make it easier both for their company and their customers.

Optimize your Operations

We don’t often think of a business’s back-end operations as the cornerstone of a positive customer experience, but it’s the ease of the buyer’s journey—from adding an item to a cart on your eCommerce site to physically receiving their purchased item—that can really make or break a customer’s opinion about your brand. Currently, over 68% of shoppers abandon their shopping cart without making a purchase. Many factors can contribute to this number, including an arduous login process, surprise fees at checkout such as expensive shipping, and of course, stockouts. Here are three operational best practices to consider that can help provide a seamless shopping experience for your customers:

  • Shipping Options: Providing several shipping options has become the norm, and customers expect to get what they want, when they want it. Whether they want an item shipped free (93% of customers will take action for free shipping), shipped fast, or giftwrapped and personalized, a lot of work needs to happen behind the scenes to keep your customers satisfied. Make sure you only offer shipping options you can realistically fulfill, and consider partnering with a shipping or fulfillment solution like ShipStation or NRI Distribution if you don’t have the bandwidth to keep these operations in-house.
  • Understand Buying Habits: Make it as easy as possible for return customers to shop. Saving billing and delivery addresses as well as order history ensures no customer can exit the purchasing process because they didn’t have time to complete an order. Knowing what people want to buy and when can help you increase email click-through rates and improve on-site conversions.
  • Centralize Your Inventory & Operations: There’s nothing that will get a customer to leave your site faster than seeing that the item they’ve selected is out-of-stock (and the more out-of-stock items shoppers see, the faster they will leave your site). In order to avoid stockouts as much as possible, consider an inventory management solution that syncs inventory from all your retail and wholesale channels, allows you to set low stock alerts, and connects with your eCommerce store(s) and shipping solutions so you always have the right inventory, in the right place, at the right time.

Especially with the holidays around the corner, running a retail business can be scary. It doesn’t have to be, and by considering these tips you’re well on your way to creating a seamless customer experience.