Picture this: You’ve spent the afternoon shopping online, have finally pressed the fateful “Complete my order” button, only to tragically realize that you’ve ordered two of the same item. Who do you turn to for a quick and painless fix?
Customer service, of course.
Customer support is an integral building block for any ecommerce business—so integral, in fact, that 90% of consumers globally say that quality customer service is directly tied to their sense of brand loyalty. The good news, then, is that a solid customer service strategy can help you improve your customer’s experience and the overall success of your online business, too.
What is ecommerce customer service and what does it entail?
Ecommerce customer service is the support an online store offers its online shoppers to help with everything from pre-purchase inquiries to order issues to returns and exchanges. A good customer service team works via a variety of channels, including phone, email, live chat, and even social media.
While different customer service teams may offer different levels of service before, during, and after a consumer makes a purchase, those services can be whittled down to three basic must-haves:
- Resolving technical issues for customers. There is one constant in life:Stuff happens. If there’s a glitch on your site during any part of the customer journey—whether they’re browsing, or trying to check out—make sure you have a customer service representative who can resolve technical issues quickly and efficiently.
- Answering questions. Shopping online is a lot different from shopping in person, and oftentimes online shoppers have questions about the products they’re perusing—whether it’s about sizing, materials, or something else. A good ecommerce customer support team will have a solid knowledge base about the products so that they’re easily able to answer those questions.
- Returns and post-purchase help. Another big part of ecommerce customer service is supporting online shoppers with returns and troubleshooting dissatisfaction post-purchase. The customer service representative acts as the customer’s point person, guiding them through the process of returning or exchanging items, or figuring out a solution for any issues the customer may have with the product they received.
At best, a customer service agent can provide these services quickly and empathetically. Ensuring this happens helps you to boost customer loyalty, receive valuable customer feedback for your ecommerce business, and give you the opportunity to better understand what your customers expect.
Advantages of good ecommerce customer service
Good ecommerce customer support isn’t just good for the consumers who shop online—it’s good for ecommerce businesses, too. Here’s how:
- Retaining loyal customers. When online shoppers feel appreciated, their sense of customer loyalty deepens. In fact, PwC’s report on customer experience found that brands that provide superior customer service attract customers who are more likely to subscribe to newsletters, sign up for promotions, and make repeat purchases. That’s a tangible, financial impact that can boost your bottom line.
- Attracting more customers. Good news spreads fast. The more often your customers have a positive experience, the more likely they are to spread the word about it and refer new customers to your online business—creating added value for you along the way.
- Improving conversion rates. Ecommerce conversion rate is an important metric—and one that can be hard to improve. Good customer service can help get potential buyers over the hump and move the most important conversion metric you have: sales.
6 Elements of successful ecommerce customer service
So what does a successful approach to commerce customer service look like? A good strategy will include six major elements:
1. Well-defined communication channels
You can provide customer service through a variety of communication channels. But you have to pick those channels wisely—after all, you can’t be everywhere all at once.
Choose support channels that fit your online store’s strategy and scope. For example, smaller businesses can opt to provide email support only, while a more established business may also include support via social channels.
2. A clear, user-friendly interface
A clear, user-friendly interface makes it easy for consumers to find what they’re looking for. Essentially, you want to make it easy to get in touch with your customer service team. This means building intuitive navigation and on-page user experience on your site.
3. A self-service option
The most successful ecommerce businesses offer online shoppers a way to solve their problems on their own before escalating to a customer service agent. You can easily reduce the number of support questions by building out some sort of resource—a Frequently Asked Questions page, or a Help Center—that covers both the basics and the most common queries.
4. A personal touch
More often than not, online shoppers appreciate personalization. According to PwC’s study on customer experience, 71% of Americans would rather interact with a real-life customer service representative than a chatbot.
Every ecommerce business can approach the idea of personalization differently. It can mean providing email or phone support from a real person (not a bot!) when things go wrong or online shoppers have questions. It can also extend to specific customer service phrases and post-purchase follow-ups, such as small gestures like including stickers or notes in your packaging or sending personalized emails.
5. Clear expectations—and the ability to meet them
Online shoppers expect brands to meet or exceed their expectations. So much so that in its 2020 State of Global Customer Service study, Microsoft found that 58% of customers are willing to sever their relationship with a brand if a brand falls short. This could mean being hard to reach when a customer has a question or taking too long to resolve a return.
The solution is simple: Set clear expectations around your response times. Then, meet or beat those expectations. If your phone support is limited to a specific time frame, be upfront about it. And if response times are longer over the weekend, be clear about that too—or better, make an exception to meet a customer’s needs every now and then.
6. Engagement with customer reviews
Customer reviews are a great way of parsing through customer feedback. And when you engage and respond to them, you get a better understanding of what your customers want from your ecommerce business—because you’re practicing proactive customer service.
Proactive customer service means fulfilling a customer’s needs before they bring that need to you or your customer service team, and it’s a fantastic way to build confidence in your ecommerce business and retain loyal customers. By acknowledging reviews—both the good and the bad—you give your online shoppers the sense that they’re both heard and appreciated.
A solid ecommerce customer service strategy helps you retain loyal customers, acquire new ones, and improve overall conversion rates. In other words, good customer service is integral to the success of your online business.
At its best, a customer service team can help build consumers’ confidence in your brand, by:
- Providing proactive customer service and self-service options that help online shoppers resolve issues on their own.
- Resolving technical issues for online shoppers that have run into any issues during their customer journey.
- Helping guide online shoppers through that customer journey, when necessary, with a quick, efficient, and personal approach.
A thoughtful strategy around ecommerce customer support can help to set your online store above and beyond the competition—and encourage your customers to keep coming back for more.