How online retailers are cutting the crap out of shopping

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Customer service is stale. There’s this preconception that it’s all defined by pleases and thankyous, standing there politely, and making sure to ask ‘Is there anything I can help you with?’. Don’t get us wrong: it is those things. But the world has moved on. That’s not the gold standard anymore; it’s the baseline, and as consumers, we’re more demanding than ever.

So, if a store isn’t captivatingly good at what it does, it’ll inevitably start blending in to the background; another one of those homogenous franchises that you can only commend for their yawnworthy consistency.

Let’s not beat around the bush: the High Street’s not in a golden age. (We’re only saying that because we love it, and we’re 100% working on it!) And we wonder… Is it because many brands are too busy looking at each other to see the light?

We took some time to look at the online brands who were excelling in customer service, just to see if the above question holds any weight, and more importantly, to see if there were any lessons to be learned. (HINT: there were!)

Cards Against Humanity: Treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen

If there’s one thing that needs to be stressed, it’s this: understand your customer, and they’ll be yours forever. That’s what makes Cards Against Humanity’s customer service so outrageously on point.

For those of you who haven’t played the card game, it’s essentially a test of how politically incorrect you can be. And, knowing that this is what attracted their audience, they infused their customer interactions with the same spirit.

Disclaimer: This isn’t a call for anyone to behave like Cards Against Humanity, this is a call to understand your customers to the letter.

Exhibit A: CAH’s email support

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Exhibit B: CAH’s Phone Support

If you’re Stateside and you dial 312-756-0834, you'll be greeted with a recording of a voice who assists you with CAH support. What follows is a long, convoluted phone tree full of silly requests, a long list of candy from the Harry Potter universe, and several insults.

For any audience but theirs, this kind of service would be infuriating. But they’ve gone the extra mile in learning what makes their tribe tick, and used that knowledge to push their customer service to outside of the box. Thoughts on how to challenge this for your own audience? Head down to the comments.

AO.com: AOvercommuniation is key

If you’ve ever ordered something big or expensive online, you know that the waiting is the hardest part. Will it arrive on time? Will it arrive safely? Will it be the product right for me? While Cards Against Humanity spend a great deal of energy delving into what their customers love, AO.com spend their time delving into what their customers hate.

There’s a bit of a collective distaste for online electronics and appliance delivery; you’ve got to wait in for God knows how long, they tap lightly on the door and then leave you a little red slip as though you weren’t in… AO totally turned all that on its head.

By overcommunicating at every step of the journey, their customers are left with total, uncompromising peace of mind. They’ll drop you a quick line on the day of delivery to remind you, they’ll give you a reasonable window to wait in for (which updates live based on their delivery schedule in the app). And if you’re not sure you’ve made the right choice, their customer service team (unlike the customer service team above) are refreshingly helpful and friendly. They’ll go completely out of their way to make sure you’re happy and confident in your purchase.

Screen Grab Order Confirmation

Zappos: The pusuit of Zappiness.

When we say ‘going out of their way’, what do we mean exactly? Zappos, a US retailer that’s now part of Amazon, takes the definition to extraordinary new heights. They’ve been described as ‘fanatical’ about customer service; they’re a company who make absolutely zero compromises when it comes to customer happiness.

Not only does every customer service rep on their team get seven weeks of happiness training, they each get a per-customer budget to make the experience an unforgettable one. That’s good for the customer, for obvious reasons, and good for in-house morale, as everybody has the power to make a positive difference in their own way.

This is a bloody amazing business model – staff feel trusted and empowered, and are therefore happier and better at their jobs, and customers return again and again because they love the brand. Zappos is an online store, but imagine how this kind of customer connection and interaction would be taken to the next level if it were face to face.

So, what about the High Street?

These examples are all very different. With Cards Against Humanity, it was about understanding their audience’s sense of humour. With AO, it was all about taking the unknowns out of delivery. And Zappos just wanted to inject a little bit of happiness into their customers’ lives.

These approaches all worked so well because they authentically connected with an element of their audience’s personality that was ready to be engaged with. Not just an profound understanding, but a timely one too.

On the High Street, the opportunity is now. Everyone in the UK is feeling like bricks and mortar retail could use a certain je ne sais quois. So, what could yours be? What quirks, pains, ambitions, and emotions could you tap into as a business to spark a new lease for life in your visitors?  We’ve got a few ideas of our own, of course. If you’d like to strike up a conversation about how we could re-engage your audience together, get in touch here.

Thanks for reading!