As an ecommerce business owner with increasing revenue each year, you know that exceptional customer service is a cornerstone of success. You didn't get to where you are today by providing subpar service to your customers - it's your commitment to their satisfaction that has fueled your growth.
But in the ever-evolving world of ecommerce, even the most seasoned business owners need to stay on top of their customer service game.
It's better to think of customer service as a part of your marketing strategy, instead of a department on its own island. Doing this can turn what many retailers think is something they have to do into a competitive advantage for your ecommerce store.
That's why we've compiled these best practices to help you optimize your ecommerce customer service interactions and continue to elevate your business.
Why Customer Service Is The Ultimate CRO Strategy
You can talk about conversion rate hacks, retargeting campaigns, and copywriting fixes until you're blue in the face, but if you're losing business because of poor customer service, all your CRO efforts will be for naught.
On the flip side, crushing your ecommerce shop's customer service as part of your marketing strategy can increase customer retention and drive word of mouth, all in one fell swoop.
This is because the perception gap between how a company thinks they're doing with customer service is usually far different from their customers' experiences.
To close that gap, the best brands in the business go to great lengths to offer impeccable service to every customer. For example, every Amazon employee (including CEO Jeff Bezos) is required to answer customer support calls for two full days every two years.
The bottom line is: all the conversion gains of your CRO efforts will be short-lived if your customers jump ship because of poor experiences.
7 Best Practices For E-commerce Customer Service
Effective ecommerce customer service encompasses a whole spectrum of things in today’s advanced world. Not only do you need to be present across multiple channels, you need to be responding quickly and arming your customer support team with the necessary tools for success. Here’s how to do that.
Manage Customer Support On All Channels
Your customers obviously don't think about "channels" when they're seeking help — they just want a solution to their problem. But with the plethora of communication methods available, it’s important to be mindful of your presence and meet customers where they’re at. That's the start of omnichannel customer service.
Companies that have multichannel customer support strategies retain 89% of their customers on average. Compare this to those without omnichannel customer service, who only retain 33% of their customers.
Omnichannel customer service allows your customers to start a customer service query on one channel and then switch to another seamlessly if needed.
Keep these tips in mind when developing a solid omnichannel customer service strategy:
- Be consistent across all of your channels
- Steer clear of standard replies on public forums
- Focus on optimizing the customer journey
- Learn your target audience’s preferred communication channels
- Ensure your website has multiple customer service avenues
You should be prepared to offer customer service wherever your brand is available. If you have social media accounts, expect to receive complaints, suggestions, and questions there.
This doesn’t just apply to complaints, though. Your brand can be proactive in your customer service by answering questions before your customers even ask them.
Disney is an excellent example of a brand with omnichannel customer service. They empower their customers to drive discovery and selection through multiple channels. Their mobile app offers plenty of information in real-time — wait times for rides, the ability to order food, a gallery for pictures taken at the park.
Offer Self-Service Options
Most digital shoppers view contacting a customer support agent as a last-ditch attempt to fix their problem. According to the Fifth Edition of the State of Service Report, 59% of customers prefer self-service over speaking to a customer service representative when they have a simple question or issue. Empower your customers to find answers to their questions by setting up the necessary resources.
Self-service options can look like any of the following:
- A chatbot on your site: Artificial intelligence chatbots are becoming increasingly popular. 74% of internet users actually prefer using chatbots over a human agent when looking for answers to simple questions.
- Community forums: Allow customers to help one another by creating a space for discourse. Not only will this let other people help customers for you, it can help you grow your brand loyalty and increase consumer engagement.
- FAQ section on your ecommerce website: Compile all of the common questions your team is asked and create a page that addresses them all. Continue to monitor frequent questions and update accordingly.
- An extensive knowledge base: Similar to an FAQ page, a robust knowledge base can offer more detailed information on whatever information is relevant to your products/services. Include a list of help categories that customers can visit to find the solutions to their problems or concerns.
You may choose to implement a few — or all — of these helpful assets depending on your product/service and how frequent your customer service inquiries are.
Princess Polly is a great example of what a helpful knowledge base should look like, if that’s the route you choose to go. Their topics are organized accordingly, making it easy for consumers to help themselves rather than contact a support agent:
If you’re going to set up a chatbot, make sure that it’s knowledgeable enough to be able to help customers with a variety of problems.
Mint Mobile’s chatbot, “Mint Fox'' is prepared to answer 100+ commonly asked questions, meaning it should be able to solve all of the common questions that customers may have.
Improve Response Time
Don’t leave your customers hanging. A quick response time is crucial to an excellent customer service experience. But what exactly is a “quick” response time? Hubspot found that customers expect their customer service questions to be answered in 10 minutes or less. 90% of customers found this immediate response time to be important or very important.
When you don’t respond in an efficient manner, you risk making your customers feel unimportant, which reflects poorly on your brand. Combat this problem by setting up a love, 24/7 chat on your website and implementing automated responses to email requests.
Use automated email responders so you can at the very least acknowledge a customer’s request, even if you’re not around to respond immediately. And consider your audience. Here’s some advice: if your target audience is mainly millennials, you’ll be interested to know that they prefer live chat for customer service over any other communication channel. Live chat makes your brand accessible, convenient, and offers quicker response times.
Here’s an example of Spanx’s automated customer service email reply:
They direct the customer to their online store’s knowledge base — in case that can answer their question — and acknowledge that they’ve received the help request. Spanx also makes it clear that they value improving the customer experience, by letting the customer know they’ll be sent a short survey after the interaction. We’ll talk more about collecting (and encouraging) feedback from customers later.
Add A Personal Touch To All Your Communications
After a pleasant customer service interaction, the customer should come away feeling important, valued, and helped. Make the customer feel special when the situation calls for it. There are some instances where customers are looking for a quick solution — why a chatbot or FAQ section is useful — but other times they want a personalized interaction. Be prepared for both situations if you want to increase customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.
Both customers and brands agree that personalization boosts loyalty. 61% of customers are prepared to stop using a brand if personalization is lacking.
Our recommendation? Segment your customers accordingly and you can easily create a more personalized customer experience.
You can create more personal interactions by:
- Reaching out to customers based on their purchase history
- Sending exclusive offers
- Keeping track of milestones
- Inviting them to join loyalty programs
- Making product recommendations
- Addressing customers by name in all interactions
Personalized interactions with customers also increases customer engagement, which goes a long way towards improving brand awareness and convincing new customers to become loyal customers.
Jenny Bird keeps track of customers’ birthdays and sends them a personal discount when that special day approaches. This is a great way for an ecommerce business to show that they care about their customers, and want to reward them for being loyal.
Implement Ecommerce Customer Service Software
It’s a lot to keep up with all of these best practices. Investing in help desk software for your customer service team to handle client queries more efficiently is a good first step. Ecommerce customer service software allows your team to organize tickets, keep track of customer feedback, and make life easier for customer service agents.
When looking for the perfect help desk software, keep an eye out for these features:
- Ticketing management
- Lifetime conversation history
- Automation for predictable/repetitive queries
- Unified communications
The biggest obstacle that organizations face when delivering exceptional customer service is updating and modernizing their systems, according to Sitecore. Equipping your ecommerce customer service team with software allows them to see the bigger picture and identify any recurring problems or ticket trends.
Tools Of The Ecommerce Customer Service Ninja
There seem to be a million tools and metrics out there to kill 'em with customer service kindness. So we've decided to cut through the clutter and simplify all of it for you with the best software options and metrics to make your ecommerce customer service a secret weapon for your store.
- Zendesk: The foundation of your customer service system starts with your help desk software and Zendesk simply delivers. With customers like Shopify, ModCloth, and Everlane, Zendesk is the way to go for ecommerce shops and they're pricing starts at just $1 per agent per month.
- Hootsuite: This will help you stay on point on social media. Hootsuite is the industry leading social media management software that will alert you whenever people are talking about your brand so you can engage them immediately.
- LiveChat: Online retailers like Warby Parker, Dollar Shave Club, and Wine.com all use Live Chat to message instantly with their customers online. Instead of picking up the phone or waiting for an email response, you can keep customers on your side and guide them through their shopping experience.
- Grasshopper: Phone support may seem outdated, but retailers like Zappos consider it essential to their customer service strategy. Enter Grasshopper, which is the industry leading phone support provider. With a single phone number you can run your entire phone support system through Grasshopper – you don't even need a landline!
- Friendbuy: Turn your outstanding customer service experiences into referrals for your business. The business reality is that investments in wow-worthy customer service often need to show ROI – and companies like MeUndies, NatureBox and Warby Parker use Friendbuy to get exactly that.
Collect Customer Feedback And Act On It
Being mindful about how you listen to customer feedback is a great way to create more loyal customers. Many ecommerce customers feel like their voices go unheard when they leave negative feedback. You can stand out among your competitors by reaching out to customers who had a bad experience and offering to make it right.
If you notice a common theme in any poor feedback you’re getting, take it into account when you evaluate your products/services. Releasing a new item that addresses these concerns will make online shoppers happy to see that you listen and offer good ecommerce customer service.
Keep in mind that customers won’t always offer feedback unless you ask them for it.
Collect it in whichever way works best for your online business:
- Have customers fill out a customer satisfaction survey
- Direct customers to leave a review on your feedback
- Promote and answer comments on social media channels
- Ask ecommerce customers to leave feedback on directories, like Yelp or TripAdvisor
Make sure your ecommerce customer service team follows up on conversations to make sure repeat problems don’t happen. Check in on customers during all stages of the customer journey and practice a proactive customer service approach by following up with customers even after their issues have been resolved.
Ilia encourages customers to leave feedback — and rewards it, too. If customers share a picture of themselves alongside a review, they get 10% off their next order. Not only does this allow them to collect helpful feedback, it makes their brand stand out and encourages new customers to turn into loyal ones.
Measure Results, Optimize, And Continuously Improve
You should always be analyzing your ecommerce customer support to optimize, improve, and enhance the customer experience. Let's talk about how to measure your customer service outcomes:
- Net Promoter Score: This metric asks the question on a scale of 1-10 “How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?" It's a great indicator of how satisfied a customer is with your brand, and it helps you identify your loyal customers.
- Response Time: This metric measures how long it takes for a customer to hear from you. As mentioned above, customers are happy if their inquiry is addressed within 10 minutes. And maintaining customer loyalty requires you to resolve these complaints — 83% of customers feel loyal to brands that solve their issues.
- First Contact Resolution Rate: This goes to the whole idea of omnichannel service because it measures how many customer service queries are solved during first contact with an employee. It turns out 33% of customers consider getting their issue solved in one interaction to be the most important aspect of effective customer service.
- Total Volume by Channel: This metric shows you how many service requests you receive by channel. Use it to continually adjust where you send your customer service resources to remain as efficient as possible. If you’re resolving issues via phone support, make sure customers are being given the right number. 68% of customers are annoyed when a customer service agent transfers their phone calls between departments.
- Churn: How many customers are coming back and purchasing from you again? Customer loyalty is a tough game these days, and companies that have repeat customers typically have great customer service. If your churn rate is high, odds are you need to work harder to provide excellent customer service.
- Cost to Resolution: This metric measures how much it costs you to fix customer service problems. By tracking this, you can figure out how to most cost-effectively solve your customers' issues and target any areas where you might be spending too much money.
Consider trying out a customer service platform to better analyze your data and improve your ecommerce customer service efforts.
Platforms like Segment unify your customers’ touch points across all customer service channels and give you a complete data toolkit of valuable customer data. (Plus, they’re integrated with Friendbuy!)
Improve Your E-Commerce Customer Service With Friendbuy
If you want to create loyal customers, you need to offer top-tier customer service solutions. Three out of five consumers report that good customer service is vital for them to feel loyal to a brand. Want to generate more customers, improve your ecommerce customer service, and enhance your brand awareness? Reach out to FriendBuy and set up a referral or loyalty program that will take your ecommerce business’ customer service to the next level.