How to streamline Customer Support for your eCommerce Business (so you have more time to grow your business)

Adii Pienaar

Online shopping is no longer just about selling products. More and more, it’s becoming all about selling an experience.

Buying things online isn’t a novelty anymore, it’s everyday life and a viable channel to acquire almost anything. The amount of products available at three clicks of a mouse is rivaled only by the amount of vendors selling those products. So for shoppers, it’s no longer a question of where to find what they’re looking for – but where to go to receive it in the easiest, fastest and most fun way.

They’re looking for the experience of excellent service. Not just good – excellent.

Excellent customer service is essential to giving buyers an experience that will make them come back for more. But good support – like answering queries, helping during the checkout process, or handling returns smoothly and professionally – can be time-consuming.

As ecommerce shop owner, you want to focus on growing your business, not dealing with customer support at all hours of the day. So let’s explore here how to create excellent customer service and a great online-shopping experience for your customers, while remaining able to focus on what’s really important to grow your shop.

5 Reasons why excellent customer service is so important in ecommerce

You surely remember an incident when the customer service of a company has let you down. I bet it has happened more than once.

You can probably still recall the negative feelings that experience evoked in you. Those memories may even still make you mad or irritated. Would you ever buy from them again? Probably not. And you’re not alone. According to Nextiva, 47% of consumers have made the choice to switch to a different brand due to bad customer service within the last year.

You wouldn’t want your customers feeling that way whenever they thought of your ecommerce business, right?

1.1 Service will be remembered – both good and bad

We humans tend to remember bad experiences better than okay ones. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint: if we didn’t learn from our mistakes and remember them in the next similar situation, we as a species probably wouldn’t exist anymore.

So it sticks in our memories when a package arrives a day late or our question about the product never gets answered. Or when we want to return something and the return process is so complicated that we give up in frustration and never get our money back.

Oh yeah. We remember. And we tell our friends about it. The average American tells 15 other people about a poor customer service experience.

Granted, customers don’t give you a lot of time to fix a problem – and even less chances to do so. But why should they? It’s highly unlikely you’re the only shop selling this product they want. So why should they wait around for an answer that may never come, when they can just as easily click over to the next shop where they never run into problems?

On the other hand, it’s worth investing in outstanding service. Because, while people more easily remember the bad experiences over the good, we do still remember the outstanding ones.

You know, those times a shop went above and beyond to replace a damaged item, or get your order to you on time. Or when they added a little personal note to your shipment. Or realized you were having difficulties in the order process and checked in on you before it ever became a true issue.

Remember those warm and fuzzy feelings? Then you probably remember the name of the shop that inspired them. And you would buy there again in a heartbeat.

Find out about Conversio’s small gestures to delight your customers that will make them come back for more. 

1.2 Good customer service builds trust

Good customer support makes people feel like they’re in good hands, like they’re well taken care of, and like their problems are taken seriously. Next time they’re looking to buy something, they’ll remember being happy with you – and you’ll be their first stop.

You’ve built their trust in your shop and made them happy. Happy customers are loyal. They come back again and again. They also recommend your shop, products and service to others.

Even better: Happy customers are willing to pay (a bit) more for outstanding customer service. They’ll return to your shop and buy from you, even if they found the same product for cheaper somewhere else, because they know that if problems arise, you’ll handle them in their best interest.

1.3 It’s cheaper to hold than to acquire customers

Convincing new customers who don’t know your shop and products to buy from you, is a much bigger marketing effort than persuading former customers to buy from you again – but only if you made them happy the first time around.

1.4 Your customer service represents your brand

Good customer service strengthens your brand and brand awareness. Your customers will associate your brand, your shop, your products, with good service (or bad). They will spread the word about you.

Make it easy for them to spread the word. And spread it yourself by incorporating your outstanding customer support philosophy into your marketing messages. Make your brand synonymous with excellent service.

1.5 Your reputation depends on it

Remember that old adage “one bad egg can rot the whole barrel”? Well, if the one bad egg is a customer’s bad service experience with your shop, then your reputation is the whole barrel.

With social media these days, it is incredibly easy for disgruntled customers to take their discontent to a public forum and bewail their woes in front of their friends, family and followers.

Remember the public relations disaster United Airlines found themselves in after violently dragging a passenger off their plane? A passenger who had paid for this very seat, and was asked to give it up so a United Airlines staff member could catch the flight to the next work destination. They suffered nearly a billion dollar loss in ticket sales.

One misstep can be enough to bring a virtual roasting down on you and ruin the public’s opinion of you – even for the people who’ve never bought from your store.

Conversio knows how to build a profitable ecommerce brand based on trust and customer happiness.

4 Ways to Improve your Customer Service

Good customer support should feel effortless to your customers. They want to feel heard and taken care of at the very least. Better yet, they love feeling like the whole buying experience was tailored exactly to them.

We humans love to feel special. Here are the key ways to make your customers feel extra special.

2.1 Make it personal

As we said before, buying things online is no longer a novelty. People know that they can find almost anything online to buy, and not just in one place. Depending on the product, there can be hundreds of sellers of the same item. Maybe even thousands.

To stand out in such a sea of suppliers, it’s no longer enough to offer the best deal or free shipping. Sure, those help – but everyone else is offering those, too. Competition is fierce, and prices often only differ by a few cents from vendor to vendor.

So why do you think they should buy from you? Why choose you?

Because you’re going to offer them the easiest, nicest, kindest, most helpful and most personal online shopping experience. You’re going to make every single customer feel like he matters to you. Like you’re making your wares exactly for her.

Personalization is the next big thing in ecommerce, because it gives buyers that experience of belonging; of finding her tribe; of being perfectly taken care of in anything he desires.

Brick-and-mortar stores have it easy in that respect, because sellers there do get up close and personal with customers. By personalizing messages and any contact you have with your customers, you’re trying to emulate that one competitive edge retail stores still have over online stores.

It’s why people still go to brick-and-mortar stores, so show them you can provide that, too. Many will gladly choose your online store over traveling to a retail store – and probably over your less personalized online competition.

2.2 Multichannel customer service

Like everyone else, your customers have preferences on how to communicate with people. Some pick up the phone and just make a call. Others prefer text messaging apps like Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger. Again others stick to the impersonality of emails.

The more you are able to accommodate your customers by offering them their favorite channel of communication to get in contact with you, the happier you will make them.

Of course, you probably don’t have the time or resources to monitor all these channels all day every day. But if you’re using Facebook or Instagram Ads to market your products and brand, make sure to offer contact via Facebook Messenger.

Make sure that wherever shoppers are buying your product, they have easy access to contact options.

Live Chat

A great, up-and-coming contact method for customers is the live chat. Live chat is basically a messenger option integrated into your website, where you answer shoppers’ questions or queries via chat.

The live chat’s major benefit is its immediacy. Instead of waiting (which most people won’t) for a return email, shoppers get their questions answered instantly.

Of course, this only works when there’s actually someone on your end immediately answering the incoming queries. If a customer uses live chat but nobody answers, instead of being happy about the option, he’ll be frustrated and leave to find a shop that doesn’t make him feel like a fool.

So, use live chat – but make sure you have the option of switching it off when you aren’t able to answer messages coming through it immediately. Better yet, make sure it disappears from your website during times it’s unoccupied. It’s better the customer never knows she may have had the option, except right now when she needs it.

Most live chat programs have the option to magic it off your website with one click when there’s nobody to man the chat.

2.3 Optimize the checkout process

Make the checkout process as flawless, easy and intuitive as you possibly can. This includes

  • Optimizing your product titles, descriptions and images, so the customer has all the information he needs and knows exactly what he’s getting when he clicks on “buy”
  • Showing product reviews so she can see why her peers have liked the product
  • Providing a search function so they easily find what they’re looking for
  • Offering various delivery and payment options, so a customer can choose his favorite; and presenting those options as clearly as possible
  • Streamlining the checkout process by limiting it to three or four steps and keeping the mandatory fields to be filled out to a minimum
  • Presenting every page as clear, concise and uncluttered as possible.

Don’t force her to fill in her phone number and birth date – you don’t need that information. Refrain from bombarding him with a single page of close-set details in different colors and fonts that will leave him feeling like he doesn’t know up or down. Don’t make her click through page after page to get to the “buy” page, either – she won’t.

You want your customer to zip through the checkout process so fast and easy that he misses it if he sneezes.

2.4 Follow up

After a customer has made a purchase, follow up with them. Send them an email a day later to ask if they’re happy with the product and service, or whether they have questions.

They will feel like their satisfaction with the product matters to you, and like they have someone to talk to if they’re not entirely happy.

This is also a great opportunity to offer a discount on the next purchase, make him aware of a similar or complementary product he may like, or ask for a referral. Just be careful to not make it sound too salesy. You’re following up because you want to make sure the customer is happy, not to push the next product on him. Make him think the next purchase is entirely his idea and just give him the incentive to go for it.

Alternatively, you can ask for feedback in this follow up email. Ask the customer to leave a review if he was happy, or to answer a question or two regarding his satisfaction with your service. If they were unhappy about something, customers will often use this opportunity to tell you about it and you can learn from your mistakes while the customer has the feeling of being heard.

You can follow up not just on completed purchases, but on abandoned purchase orders as well. If a customer abandons his shopping cart before hitting the “buy” button, shoot him an email to remind him of his open purchase. Or kindly ask him if he had any problems during checkout and if you can offer support with anything.

Remember the importance of personalization? Following up with your customer is a great opportunity for personalized messages to shine.

Want to create the best email drip campaigns for Ecommerce stores? Get started with Follow-Up Emails by Conversio.

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6 Ways To Streamline And Automate Customer Support

Yikes! All those suggestions on how to improve your customer service sound time-consuming and like a lot of work, right?

Chin up – there’s no need to do it all by yourself. There are numerous solutions for you to implement the above-mentioned improvements without spending every waking hour doing so.

3.1 Hire a customer service rep or service

What is the best way for a shop owner to free up his time to focus on strategy and growth?

That’s right: delegate, delegate, delegate.

There are two ways to delegate the customer support that don’t include hiring a full-time employee:

  • Hiring a customer service agency
  • Hiring a part-time virtual assistant

Customer Service Agent or Agency

Customer service agents or agencies will take over all communication with customers and make sure their queries are answered and needs are met.

Now you’re probably thinking I’m talking about one of those customer support call centers where you end up in a holding pattern for large chunks of time and get frustrated really quickly. But a good customer service agent goes beyond call centers. Here’s a good guide on when outsourcing customer support to an agent makes sense and when it doesn’t.

Virtual Assistant (VA)

We like to recommend hiring a VA. A VA can take over anything a customer support agent could – and more.

A virtual assistant will get to know your whole business inside and out, its products, structures and processes. She (or he!) will understand your business on a deeper level and be able to offer support not just to your customers, but to you as shop owner.

You can delegate all kinds of tasks to a VA, not just customer service. Need help sorting your inbox? Managing your social media accounts? Scheduling meetings? Doing research? Maintaining your FAQ? Your VA’s on it and will help your grow your business just by taking these and other daily operational tasks off your plate.

3.2 FAQ – Help customers help themselves

You’ll find that many customers will contact you with the same or similar questions you’ve already answered several times over, for example about your

  • Warranty
  • Return policy
  • Contact options
  • Order cancellations
  • Delivery time
  • Gift cards
  • And so many more

Set up an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page to field these questions. This will

  1. make it easy for your customers to find answers themselves and
  2. free up some of your precious time.

These days, customers expect a webshop to have an FAQ-page. Most will go look for it before trying to contact you. Don’t disappoint them by making them search in vain – they’ll remember that, too.

Your customer service rep is the perfect person to maintain and expand your FAQ. If customers ask a question, it means they didn’t find the answer in your shop. So your rep needs to add it straight to the FAQ. Or to the product page, if it relates to a product.

3.3 Chatbots

To give your customers the best experience, you need to be reachable. Ideally 24-hours a day so that you can respond instantly. Because if you don’t, the customer won’t wait around for you to answer. He’ll just click straight to your competition and buy there.

Of course, for most online shop owners, being reachable 24/7 is unrealistic to the point of being laughable. Even if all support channels ping up as notifications on your phone, you’re not always in a position to answer them immediately. Even if you have a team to back you up, or an employee whose only job is fielding customer requests, responding 24/7 isn’t feasible. Your employees have the nights off, too.

Enter the chatbot.

A chatbot is a software that automatically interacts with received messages. It can be programmed to respond in certain ways to certain requests or keywords. Nowadays, they even incorporate machine learning to adapt their responses according to the situation.

Chatbots can be integrated in text apps, website chat windows and social messaging services on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. They can help your customer

  • get a quick answer to a question
  • resolve a complaint or problem
  • get a more detailed answer to a query
  • find a human customer service agent.

Chatbots not only provide “after-hours” support, but in doing so save you time and money, since they are cheaper than employees and really can answer questions 24/7.

For more information on chatbots, check out Sprout Social’s complete guide here.

3.4 Customer service software

One of the best things about the internet and how far it has come isn’t just the option of buying – and selling – online, but the vast offering of comprehensive software solutions. If you were wondering whether there isn’t some program or other to help you sort out your customer support, of course, the answer is yes. And not just one.

Customer service software is any tool that helps a business

  • manage inbound and outbound communications across multiple channels,
  • efficiently deliver service, and
  • resolve issues.

Basically, it’s a system that handles anything a customer can throw at you, while usually tracking numbers and costing less than an employee.

There are many different solutions that vary by features, compatibility, industry and scale. Large shops won’t go wrong with an all-encompassing CRM (Customer Relationship Management system) like Salesforce or Netsuite, while smaller shops on a tight budget might look into feature software like Chatbots by Zendesk.

Speaking of which, help desks or customer communication platforms like Zendesk are somewhere in between full-fledged CRM-systems and one-feature software.

Some of the most popular are

  • ZenDesk
  • ClickDesk
  • Facebook Messenger
  • Acquire
  • FreshDesk

They incorporate numerous features working together to support and simplify your customer support from anywhere between 5 and 300 USD per month. For more information on customer service software, check out TechnologyAdvice’s guide here.

3.5 Email Automation – be proactive

Many people think email is dead. At Conversio, we know this is far from the truth, as we explain here in chapter 2.2 Email Marketing. And we also know that email automation can support you in creating a better customer experience.

Consider this: You offer a freebie on your website, and a potential customer signs up for it in exchange for their email address. You now have a direct line to someone who hasn’t even bought anything from you, yet.

Don’t squander it. Especially not by sending a generic newsletter every week that your customer won’t open anyway. Instead, send specific emails when someone in that list fulfills a specific condition – for example, when they sign up for your list.

Check out here under 2.2 what a welcome email series could look like.

It’s all about being proactive. Make the (potential) customer feel like there’s a person behind your shop, not just a software or system. Do this before problems arise. Then, if they do, your customer will feel more like he can contact you about them instead of hightailing it straight to your competition.

You can also use email automation to

  • Follow up on a sale
  • Offer assistance for, or remind of an abandoned shopping cart
  • Ask for feedback

Want to remind your customers of that thing they wanted but abandoned in their shopping cart? Help them recover their carts with Abandoned Cart Emails by Conversio

3.6 Measure customer support

How do you know if you’re making customers happy?

There are several ways to measure this. The first is by asking the customers themselves to evaluate their experience with your customer service. The second is to keep track of the activity data surrounding your customer service performance.

Quality metrics – CSAT and CES

There are a number of tools you can use to measure customer satisfaction (CSAT) that allow you to send a survey after every support interaction. This gives customers an easy way to share feedback and tell you what they did or didn’t like.

The customer effort score (CES) captures the effort a customer had to go through to get his issue cleared up. A “high-effort” experience arises from having to send several emails, follow up on them, repeat requests or search for a long time to find a solution on your own.

Any customer with a high-effort CES is not a happy customer and is unlikely to repurchase. This study shows that 94% of customers with low-effort interactions intend to repurchase.

Performance metrics

How often do customers need help? Your ticket volume is a strong indicator of your customer experience. In most cases, the less customers contact you, the easier it is for them to do business with you.

Calculating your ticket volume

If you want to better your customer experience, calculate the following ratio:

Number of support requests / number of orders = customer experience ratio

For example, you had 500 orders in the last 30 days. In that same time, 50 people contacted you for support. 50 divided by 500 equals 0.1.

The closer the ratio is to zero, the better. Over time, try to drive the ratio down with the help of the feedback you get.

First response times

Nowadays, 37% of consumers expect you to respond within one hour. 16% even expect an immediate response. Fast first response times are crucial for happy customers. That’s the amount of time a customer has to wait from when they submit their request to when they first get an answer from you.

Ticket types

Are there incidents or problems your customers keep running into?

To find out and keep track, set up a basic tagging or categorizing strategy for incoming support requests. Such tags could be:

  • Payment – for queries on payment options
  • Delivery – for questions about delivery options
  • Checkout – for problems during checkout

Tagging incoming requests in this way quickly shows you where your process is faulty or difficult to understand.

Measuring your customer support is the only way you’ll be able to analyze and then adjust and optimize it. Yes, it’s work, but it’s the only way to get closer and closer to achieving that extraordinary service your customers desire and deserve.

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