Fast customer service is often the difference between maintaining loyal customers and losing shoppers to competing brands. Businesses that prioritize resolving customer questions and complaints quickly are more likely to meet consumer expectations and promote long-lasting relationships.
Consumer expectations around service continue to grow too––76% of customers say they expect to engage with someone immediately when contacting a company. But there’s clearly work to be done––only 26% of retail businesses feel the overall quality of their customer service is strong.
Ahead, you’ll learn why your retail brand needs to prioritize fast customer service, and some actionable tips for improving your business’s support department.
9 tips for offering faster customer service
Providing fast customer service is crucial to satisfying consumer needs and remaining competitive.
Here are eight tips for offering fast customer service at your retail business.
- Be authentic
- Provide mobile support
- Lean into AI chatbots
- Invest in customer support agent training
- Prioritize customer support requests
- Provide self-service options
- Speed up initial response time
- Personalize customer service
- Always ask for feedback
1. Be authentic
When dealing with customer complaints, it’s always best to show your brand’s humane and authentic side. Whether you handle tens or thousands of customer issues daily, customers want to be treated like individuals.
That means brands need to own up to mistakes and be honest about limitations. In fact, 80% of customers want brands to be more honest.
Handling customer complaints around delivery delays, incorrect items, and damaged products are all part of managing a growing retail business. Sometimes in spite of everything your business does, shipping, delivery, and warehouse management are out of your control.
Even though some issues are unavoidable, your customer care team needs to know how to handle them and best support customers. It’s always best to set realistic expectations––if it will take another two weeks for the product to be back in stock, then be honest about it.
When brands are honest about what they can and can’t realistically do, customers are more likely to trust them, even when things go wrong.
2. Provide mobile support
Insider Intelligence expects retail mobile commerce sales to account for 43.4% of total ecommerce sales in 2023. Retailers that want to tap into mobile commerce should make it straightforward for people to reach customer service team members.
Some 68% of WhatsApp users believe the app is the most convenient way to engage with a brand. Retail brands can use WhatsApp and other social media messaging apps to provide quick and personal customer service to shoppers.
For example, outdoor and sportswear retailer Decathlon uses WhatsApp to help customers quickly identify solutions.
Fast customer service needs to happen where your customers are shopping. So if your customers are using their mobile devices to buy your products, make it easy for them to get support there.
3. Lean into AI chatbots
Data from Zendesk shows that customer satisfaction ratings for live chat (85%) are second only to phone support (91%). People want efficient customer service instantly. AI chatbots let businesses provide instant replies without relying on a full-time human support team.
Use AI chatbots to provide instant responses to customer inquiries. Your chatbot can provide a list of suggested questions or a menu of options for customers to choose from.
For example, clothing retailer ASOS has an easy-to-use live chat designed to help customers troubleshoot without needing to phone or email the business. ASOS provides a list of suggested FAQs related to its returns policy, shipping methods, and customs charges:
The online chat saves the customer from waiting for answers from a human representative. Plus, ASOS can save its customer support team time for more complex customer issues.
You can also use an app like Shopify Inbox to provide faster customer service. With Shopify Inbox, your store will display a live chat widget customers can use to contact support.
Shopify Inbox also lets you:
- Add quick replies for common questions
- Include product links in chat
- Assign chats to different staff
- Share product photos
Shopify Inbox helps you unlock the power of chat as a powerful sales channel. Shopify Inbox makes it easier than ever for you to drive more sales, build strong customer relationships, and spend less time on support—all without leaving your Shopify admin.
4. Invest in customer support agent training
Offering good customer service means providing a solid training infrastructure for your agents. Concerningly, 68% of customers say it feels like most businesses need to improve the training of their customer service agents.
Your customer service agents are only as good as the training and resources they receive––investing in consistent training programs and resources will level up and improve the support they provide to customers.
Build regular training into your customer support team’s schedule by:
- Creating a central resource hub with example scenarios
- Scheduling monthly training sessions
- Offering roleplay and feedback sessions
- Sharing videos of example customer issue resolution
- Providing question-and-answer sessions
Investing in customer service skills training will pay dividends. Your agents will feel empowered to solve customer issues effectively, while shoppers will be impressed by your brand’s efficiency and ability to solve problems.
5. Prioritize customer support requests
Not every customer support request is an emergency––it’s important to learn the difference between solving an urgent time-sensitive issue and a ticket that can wait a few minutes.
Set up a triage system so your agents can categorize issues. For example, is a question about a delivered broken product more important than a request for a product to come back in stock?
While the first question will require human support, the second question could be answered with a simple auto-responder message asking interested customers to sign up for a back-in-stock email.
This is where your AI-powered autoresponder comes in too. For simple questions around product sizing, delivery dates, and shipping fees, your chatbot can provide answers.
Remember that automation isn’t always enough. More complicated or urgent issues will require high-quality service from your human support team.
6. Provide self-service options
Self-service customer support can help your business stand out from the competition. Time-strapped customers want solutions quickly and they value businesses that let them help themselves. Not every business needs to run a call center––an intuitive and resourceful self-service hub can sometimes successfully replace the need for human support.
Far from being a nice-to-have bonus, self-service options are quickly becoming essential. Seventy percent of customers say they expect companies to have a self-service portal or knowledge base available to them. Instead of having to phone or email businesses, self-service portals can guide customers to the right solution more quickly.
For example, home improvement store Lowe’s has an easy-to-use help center that lets customers track orders, schedule installations, manage warranties, and secure their account.
As a best practice, always let new customers know you offer self-service customer assistance if they’re interested. You can use a partner app like Helphub to easily create self-service help centers for your store.
7. Speed up initial response time
Eighty percent of customers say they want quicker responses from companies. Plus, 66% of US consumers agree that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service.
But there’s room for improvement––only 21% of retail businesses feel their speed at resolving engagements is extremely strong.
Whether your customers contact you via phone, email, or live chat, that initial wait time can heavily influence their opinion of your customer service. Reply to that email a few days later or ignore that tweet and your business risks losing customers quickly.
But shorter response times adds pressure to already busy customer support teams. Businesses may find they need to add extra team members during busy shifts or extend working hours. That can increase overheads and overall investment in customer service.
To provide real-time responses without needing to have a support team on call 24 hours a day, businesses can automate initial live chat and email response messages. For phone calls and other in-person support methods, track performance metrics to see how quickly customers receive attention and how long a resolution takes.
8. Personalize customer service
According to recent research conducted by Gartner, personalizing customer service and going above and beyond can help boost customer retention and improve the chance customers speak positively about your business.
When businesses go beyond mediocre customer service and give value-driven customer service interactions, customers are 86% more likely to repurchase, 82% more likely to be retained, and 97% more likely to spread positive word-of-mouth about your business.”
How do you personalize customer service? Collecting customer data can help you personalize your interactions with customers. To encourage consumers to part with their valuable personal data, you’ll need to demonstrate value.
The key to successfully collecting customer data is showing shoppers how it brings them value.
In exchange for customers’ names, email addresses, and phone numbers, consider offering them perks to improve the shopping experience:
- Discount or promo codes
- Exclusive back-in stock and new-in notifications
- Early access to new product lines
Unify your customer data in a CRM so your customer service representatives can easily get context on each customer and their issues or questions.
9. Always ask for feedback
After any interaction with your support team, it’s best to follow up with customers and ask for feedback. Moving forward, your team needs to be able to identify where things went well and what requires improvement.
Customer feedback surveys are an excellent way of helping your customers feel heard and valued.
To get a better understanding of how customers feel about their service, brands could ask questions including:
- Were you satisfied with the response time today?
- Did our customer service rep answer all your questions?
- Did you receive the solution you were looking for?
- Could you rate your overall experience on a scale of 1 to 10?
Survey insights can help you better understand customers and find opportunities for improving service delivery. To thank customers for sharing their time and thoughts with your business, you could offer respondents an incentive like a discount code.
Shopify merchants can use apps like POWR to ask customers for feedback following purchases or interactions with their support teams. The app makes it easy to customize simple customer feedback surveys:
Why you should provide fast customer service
Customers expect fast, and effective customer service from retail brands. Providing fast customer service can be a key competitive differentiator––customers hate waiting and wasting their precious time. Businesses that get it right can expect happy, loyal, and satisfied customers.
But, companies that don’t keep up with customer expectations may pay a high price. If the quality of service is low or too slow, customer loyalty may slip and consumers may churn to another business.
Here are the top three benefits of providing fast customer service.
Improves customer satisfaction
Fast customer service is one of the top ways to boost customer satisfaction. By gathering customer feedback and solving their problems quickly, you give them a memorable customer experience.
Ensuring customers are satisfied with your business’s overall offering is key for your business’s long-term success in a competitive marketplace. Ultimately if consumers are satisfied with your offering and customer service, then they’ll continue to choose your business and buy from you.
Elevates your competitive advantage
Forty-seven percent of online US adults say they will abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question. Customers rely on fast customer service and, if it’s not available, they’re prepared to leave the business and look elsewhere.
Customers return to the businesses where they had the best experience. Offering top-quality fast customer service helps your business stand out. For example, if two brands were to offer a similar product line at the same price point, their only competitive advantage would be to offer an exceptional customer service experience. Part of this includes speedy support.
Build customer trust
Fast customer service proves your business is reliable and that customers can trust it to deliver on its promises. Consumers may need assistance with everything including website glitches, faulty products, and delayed delivery dates.
When things go wrong, customers want to know the business will be able to resolve issues quickly and efficiently.
Make great customer service a priority today
Providing high-quality and fast customer service is often what lays the foundation of a loyal fan base of shoppers. Solving customer problems always needs to be a priority––people need to feel they can trust your business even after a negative experience.
To stand out in an increasingly competitive retail landscape, brands need to tap into customer preferences. Find the communication channels your customers prefer using and invest time and resources in providing the best experience possible.
Fast Customer Service FAQ
1. What are the benefits of having faster customer service?
Fast customer service is essential for keeping customers satisfied. The aim of fast customer service is to quickly and effectively provide customers with solutions and answers to their questions. When you value customer time, they’ll be more likely to remain loyal to your business and keep coming back.
2. What is the difference between good customer service and excellent customer service?
Good customer service is responding to customer inquiries in a timely and friendly manner, whereas excellent customer service goes beyond that by going out of their way to make sure their customer is satisfied. Excellent customer service means providing personalized solutions and taking extra steps to ensure the customer's needs are met.
3. What is the best customer service?
Delivering the best customer service means engaging with customer needs, having an authentic approach, and delivering helpful resources. Excellent customer service means going above and beyond your customers’ needs and exceeding expectations. Essentially, top customer service means doing everything to ensure customers aren’t just satisfied but are delighted by your product and services.
4. How can you provide fast customer service?
You can provide time sensitive customer service by shortening response times and providing solutions to customers more quickly. Use AI-powered chatbots to answer customer queries in real time and set auto-responses to email inquiries. Customers also expect brands to provide an omnichannel support experience, so they can make contact on their preferred channels.