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Shake hand  of two 3d stylized people of green colorHow many times has this happened to you: you order something off the Internet, it arrives at your home, and it feels like you've just been taken to the cleaners? You bought because of the marketing - but that marketing didn't match up to the reality of what you got. It's sad, but it happens a lot. Attracting a new customer is like going on a first date. Yet, many businesses treat the experience like speed dating (or a one night stand) rather than relationship building.

Every successful business relies on a set of touch points to get customers and keep them coming back.

Shopping

The shopping experience is a very important first step. How does your company handle it? Do you have consistency across your product line in terms of pricing, the color of any virtual "price tags," product descriptions, and "buy now" buttons?

Companies that utilize a shopping cart have a lot to consider. Some of the easiest shopping experiences come in the form of a full-page shopping cart, rather than a mini-cart. Long-form shopping carts outline product details, allow customers to add and remove items as well as make edits to their order without visiting another page.

During the checkout process, it's also often a good idea to use "breadcrumbs" and a "step-by-step" method that is easily recognizable to the user. This will reduce shopping cart abandonment since the user understands what's going on and what to expect. It also lowers the annoyance factor (i.e. "where am I? Did this transaction go through or not?").

Sometimes, it's not obvious where the checkout buttons are. Don't make this mistake. Make them obvious. That doesn't mean they have to be huge. It just means that they should not be confused with other buttons on the site. For example, when you visit Wish.co.uk, it's pretty obvious where the order buttons are. Nothing is left to chance.

Customer Service

A lot of companies screw this one up. Customer service is where the strength or weakness of your company will show up. A strong customer service department doesn't blame the customer first when things go wrong, then apologize later. This is probably the biggest mistake that businesses make. They think that customer service isn't important - it's almost an afterthought. Big mistake. Huge.

There's a reason why companies like Zappos have such a loyal following. It's their customer service - and that's not controversial. They're well-known for this. In fact, more people know them for their customer service than for their shoes (or anything else they sell).

Ordering

The ordering process should be straightforward. Think about what happens when you order from a site like Amazon.com. You get a confirmation - immediately. Then, you receive a confirmation email. Next, you get updates about your order if there are any problems or shipping delays. Amazon has its ordering process down so good, that you can buy anything on its site with just one click.

Not every business can do this, but companies that cater to repeat customers (hint: all e-commerce sites) would do well to follow that model.

It practically eliminates customer frustration during the order process, eliminates the need to retype billing, shipping, and credit card info, and allows users to get instant gratification. Follow up an "instant order" option with a user-friendly thank you page, and it's almost like they've won something even though they actually paid you.

Using Your Product

It's never fun to get a product that doesn't work as advertised. Even if the business doesn't expect anything more than a one-off sale, bad word of mouth can crush future sales. A company will never know the sales it never receives because one person told a few friends who shared the news on Facebook with hundreds of friends who, in turn, had thousands of friends, and so on.

Jack Harding is a new business researcher and business writer in training. His articles mainly appear on upstart and entrepreneur blogs.

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