Most companies have a reasonably good idea of how to organize good customer service in a brick and mortar store. Adequate staffing, good inventory control, high quality training, and systems that work well for the customer segment.

When transitioning into online sales, it can feel a bit harder to get all the working parts in place to provide a truly exceptional customer experience online. The theories are all the same – get the customer what they need, quickly and efficiently – but the execution can be a little different.

1. Detailed Product Pages and FAQs

Customer service starts the moment a potential customer lands on your website. Is the design visually appealing and well laid out? Is it easy to find what they’re looking for? Once they have found it, can they get the information they need?

Product pages should have all the information a customer could reasonably ask for. Dimensions of the product, color swatches, and product reviews are just the beginning. Clothing should have sizing charts specific to the brand, for example.

Also important is a well written FAQ page. Customers tend to ask the same questions over and over. How long until it ships? What’s the return policy? Customers appreciate having this information available so they don’t have to call someone to ask it.

2. Easy Access

Don’t make your customers bend over backwards to get in touch with you. Your contact information should either be in a header or footer that appears on every single page, as well as a specific contact page. Never assume that customers will see how to contact you because you put the information in a single place on your site. The frustration of trying to find the information will often cause customer bounce and lose your potential sale.

3. Multiple Access Points

Customers have many different preferred methods for reaching customer service agents, when their regular browsing has failed. Some customers would vastly prefer to chat with a representative, and will shop with another company rather than call a rep. Others would vastly prefer that national companies have a reliable toll free number and will consider as a trust factor when it comes to an online business. Most customers are okay with email, as long as you let them know your email is received, offer them a timeframe in which to expect your response, and then meet that deadline with appropriate information.

4. Exceptional Training

Many companies contract out their live chat services, which makes sense; only the largest companies can afford to have a round-the-clock customer service staff available at their computers. But if you contract these services out, it’s important to make sure that the staff have enough information to answer customer questions. If all they can do is to repeat what’s on the website, customers are going to be dissatisfied with the service, and you will lose sales.

5. Adequate Account Access

In many chat windows, before you can open the chat, you input information like your customer information and your order number. It is incredibly frustrating, then, when the customer service rep asks for that information over again. This can be a systems issue or a training issue, but either way, it must be avoided. In generall, customers are already frustrated when they’re reaching out; you need to make their journey as smooth as possible.

6. Improve Your Search Options

Some companies have great search options that give them high accurate results across their page. Other companies have search options which are essentially non-functional. Make sure that your search engine is well designed, and test it multiple ways to make sure it functions.

Include misspellings, homonyms, inappropriate spacing, and every other mistake you can think of to make sure your customers are getting good results.

7. Ask Your Customers

Ultimately, your customers are the experts on what they need. Ask them directly, but also track the reasons for their calls and concerns. If customers are regularly asking about a particular policy, or have a specific question about a product, you should add that information to the website to simplify their shopping.

It’s also a good idea for businesses to track their social media accounts and look for places where customers are expressing frustration over experiences or products. Sometimes by stepping in on Twitter or Facebook, companies can turn around a negative customer reaction and end up getting some attention for being a business that does the right thing.

This seems to work best when the national branch of a local chain gets involved, but there’s no reason a smaller business can’t use the technique. Make sure to be apologetic and helpful on social media; starting an argument about what the customer did wrong is not going to be productive.