As in physical commerce, customer service is a key aspect of ecommerce. However, as online shopping changes and grows, determining the optimal approach for supporting one's customers can be tricky.
In this article, we'll go over exactly what customer service is, reasons to make it a priority for your ecommerce venture, and the best practices to follow.
What is ecommerce customer service?
Ecommerce customer service is the support that online stores provide to shoppers who purchase products and services on the internet. This support encompasses a wide range of topics, including pre-purchase queries, order problems, and post-purchase issues, for example, exchanges and returns.
Online businesses have the ability to offer customer service on various channels, such as email, live chat on the website, phone, and social media. To help ensure the most enjoyable customer journey possible, companies should aim to give consumers a positive, consistent experience across all platforms where they provide customer support.
A customer service team may assist shoppers in resolving a variety of challenges, but there are generally three main types of services handled by online business when it comes to the support they provide to current, new, and potential customers alike.
Taking care of technical issues on the website
No matter how amazing your ecommerce site is, technical issues are bound to come up at some point. Big or small, these challenges can be frustrating for people visiting your website. Whether there's a bug with your search bar or a glitch with your checkout, part of your customer service will entail fixing these technical problems so that customers can complete their purchases in peace.
Providing answers to customer queries
Despite the many advantages of online shopping, one major drawback is that shoppers can't talk to a salesperson face to face when they have a question about a product or service. Having a solid customer service strategy in place means ensuring that your customer support agents have the knowledge to answer any questions your customers have in a timely fashion, whether they occur on social media, through emails, or via live chat on your website.
Assisting with after-sales service
Customer service teams must also routinely handle return requests and manage customer queries that occur after a purchase has been made. This can involve, for example, helping a shopper to complete a request for a refund or to exchange an item. It can also entail answering post-sale questions concerning the function or care of a product.
Why is high-quality customer service important in ecommerce?
As ecommerce trends evolve, supplying good customer service will never go out of style. Why do internet companies place so much importance on this key element?
Here are some of the benefits that high-quality customer service can bring to your ecommerce business.
Increases customer loyalty
When customers have a wonderful experience with your brand, they’re much more apt to want to stick with you for the long haul. Providing high-quality customer service can help to boost loyalty to your company and improve customer lifetime value by encouraging the different ecommerce shopper types to engage with your brand and return for additional purchases time and time again.
Brings in new customers
The better the experience that consumers have with your company, the more likely they are to tell others all about it. Positive word of mouth can be a powerful tool for attracting new customers to your brand and increasing product sales.
Boosts conversion rates
Shoppers can often be hesitant to buy from brands with whom they're unfamiliar. If somebody visiting your site for the first time has a positive experience with your customer support, it can be just what they need to decide to make a purchase, boosting your conversion rate and revenue.
Best practices to improve customer service for your ecommerce business
1. Meet your customers where they are
Regardless of your target market, the people you're hoping to attract to your ecommerce business won't all have the same predilections when it comes to how they wish to communicate. For example, some may prefer getting in touch via email, while others favor talking on the phone or using a live chat service on your site.
In addition, as technology continues to evolve, the number of ways that consumers and brands can communicate with one another is growing as well. In fact, as determined in a study by Microsoft examining how shoppers around the world and their preferences for interacting with customer service, 66% of respondents stated that they use at least three channels.
There's no doubt that there are all kinds of communication channels available today. However, if you only have a small customer service team or are handling this aspect of your business on your own, it may be difficult to be present on every channel and still provide excellent customer service. It's therefore essential to have a good idea of what communication channels your audience is most comfortable with using and optimize the customer support you offer there.
Whichever support channels you decide to take advantage of, be sure that you create a seamless experience across the board in order to best meet customer expectations. This means using consistent language on every means of support and keeping every member of your customer service team up to date with your policies.
2. Create an FAQ page and a comprehensive help center
In this digital age, the majority of consumers have relatively short attention spans and low levels of patience. The desire for instant gratification is higher than ever, and online shoppers won’t hesitate to exit an ecommerce website if a page takes too long to load or they can’t find what they’re looking for in a small amount of time.
When it comes to the people visiting your online store, although some may be happy to simply browse and see what you have to offer, there’s a good chance that many of them will be in a hurry. Should they happen to have a question, they may not want to take the time to reach out to a customer service representative and wait for a response.
Enabling self-service options and allowing visitors to easily find answers to simple queries on your site is a good way to improve the overall ecommerce customer experience they have with your brand. Take note of what questions your customer support team most frequently encounters and what shoppers' most common pain points seem to work on developing a thorough knowledge base on hand to assist them.
You can then design an easy-to-understand FAQ page and a help center with more in-depth answers to these questions, allowing visitors to find solutions to basic problems on their own. Also make sure that these parts of your site are not difficult to locate from your homepage. Self-service options for solving simple issues should require as little effort as possible on the customer's end.
3. Personalize your customer support
As you may have discovered, most things in ecommerce don't involve a one-size-fits-all strategy, and this includes your customer service approach. With the countless options that people shopping online have at their fingertips today, they demand more from brands than they did in the past. They want to feel seen and understand by the companies from which they purchase products and services.
One great way to improve customer satisfaction and encourage your customers to return to your online store for future purchases is to use personalization in your customer support. Keep in mind that personalization can involve different strategies for different businesses.
It can entail, for instance, using specific customer service terminology and phrases when communicating with a shopper, adding personalized thank-you notes in customers' orders or via a post-purchase email, and making recommendations based on a customer's previous orders or history on your site.
Thanks to the many analytics tools and data that online companies have at their disposal, they can obtain valuable information pertaining to a customer's purchase history, buying behavior, and preferences in order to supply a better level of service concerning customer support.
4. Respond to customer reviews
Positive or negative, customer reviews are key tools for helping you to improve your business. Through them, you can learn what your company is doing well and where your weaknesses lie. Furthermore, many of today’s shoppers often turn to customer reviews before buying a product or service themselves.
To harness the full power of customer reviews to improve your ecommerce customer service, however, you’ll want to be sure to engage and respond to them in a timely manner. When your customers take the time to fill out a survey or leave a review, it can be frustrating for them if they don’t get a response to their feedback, especially if they’d had a particularly poor experience with your business.
By responding to the feedback your customers give, you'll show them that you value their opinions and appreciate what they have to say. Taking action based on the reviews you receive is crucial as well when it comes to practicing proactive customer service.
Reaching out to dissatisfied customers and providing them with solutions demonstrates that their business is important to you and can help build customer loyalty. According to a Statista study, 80% of consumers will continue to shop with a company that's made a mistake if the company provides excellent service afterwards.
Of course, the first step is to make it easy for people to leave customer feedback for your online store. Consider sending out a survey via email whenever a shopper interacts with your brand, such as after they make a purchase or reach out to a customer service agent.
5. Speed up your response time
When it comes to providing great customer service in ecommerce, it’s not enough to offer customer support via a number of different channels. You've got to be fast in responding too!
People engaging in online shopping have come to expect excellent reactivity in not just shipping times but also in responses from brands’ customer service teams. Online businesses that take weeks or even days to respond to customer queries may be seen as unprofessional or uncaring by consumers, which may cause them to hesitate to purchase from them in the future.
That being said, although you want to respond to your customers' questions as quickly as possible, the bottom line is that you may be limited in what you can do, depending on your resources. In order to strike the right balance between providing quality service and rapid responses, set clear expectations for your customers concerning your response times.
Let people know up front about when they can expect to hear back from you after filling out a form on your website or sending you an email. Then, be sure that you or your customer service agents consistently meet (or even exceed) those expectations to strengthen trust in your brand.
6. Be organized in your strategy
One of the best ways to boost your chances of success regarding the customer support your brand offers is to prioritize organization in your strategy. Whether you’re managing your customer service by yourself or have a team of people taking care of it for you, staying organized in your approach is key to ensuring a consistent level of quality and solving problems as efficiently as possible.
Without a well-organized plan in place, both at the launch of your store and as you scale your ecommerce business, you may find your customers quickly becoming frustrated by, for instance, receiving no reply or duplicate replies to their questions, getting contradictory responses, or experiencing inconsistent service.
Depending on the size of your team and the resources you have at your disposal, the best means of staying organized can vary and may take a bit of time to discover if you're new to ecommerce. Spreadsheets, saved replies for common questions, and special software and tools for facilitating customer service can all be beneficial.
7. Use automation where you can
Customer service automations can save your business time and money, allowing you to complete repetitive tasks more efficiently. The use of automations will also make it possible for you to focus your attention on other areas of customer support that require a more personalized approach.
Significant advancements in technology, especially regarding artificial intelligence and machine learning, have made it easier than ever for companies to automate ecommerce customer service and make the customer journey more enjoyable.
One of the top automations to consider for your ecommerce business include automated emails, which can be used in a variety of situations:
- Abandoned cart reminders: Send your site visitors an email to remind them that they've left an item in their cart in order to encourage them to return and complete the purchase.
- Order confirmations: These emails serve to summarize an order that has just been finalized, including all pertinent details such as the product purchased and shipping information.
- Milestone greetings: Sending your loyal customers a message on their birthday or for other special events, like the anniversary of their first purchase on your site is a good way to show them that you care and appreciate their business.
You might also think about adding chatbots to your store to assist visitors with simple queries and direct them to areas of your website that will be most relevant to their needs.