Quality customer service is crucial in every industry. However, compared to a brick and mortar retail store, eCommerce customer service is significantly different.
The lack of physical interaction before a purchase can lead to more uncertainty before committing to the purchase. Combine this with unhappy customers taking to social media to vent their frustrations, and that your eCommerce store is open 24/7, and you can see how eCommerce customer service can be tricky. But luckily, it’s not difficult to turn a curious browser or unhappy customer into a returning patron using a few tried and true best practices.
Why Customer Service is So Important
96% of people say customer service is important when it comes to their loyalty to a brand. When buying from an online store you’re never bought from before, there’s one thing missing — trust.
That lack of trust comes from a fear of the unknown. Is this website trustworthy? Does this product actually look like this? And no matter how good the content on your eCommerce site is, untrusting customers will have questions they want answered before they commit to a purchase. Here’s why answering those questions and providing good customer service is so important to your brand:
An Engaged Customer is an Opportunity
A customer who has a question or concern before the purchase is a customer that’s engaged with your brand. To get a person to this point, you know that your marketing has worked, and they want to buy.
Think about it for a second – a customer that’s asking you a question is in the consideration stage of the buying process. They just need that little push in the right direction, and that little push comes in the form of answering an (often) simple question in a timely manner.
An Unhappy Customer is an Opportunity
80 percent of people stop doing business with a company because of poor customer experience. On the flip side, an unhappy customer presents a problem that needs to be solved, and arguably, an opportunity to create a brand advocate. A customer that’s voicing their discontent is often just asking you to fix something they’re unhappy with – they’re literally asking you to make them happy.
What happens when you exceed the expectations of an unhappy customer? That’s when the power of quality customer service is most influential. By going above and beyond the expectations of an unhappy customer, you take their opinion from one extreme to the next. You’ve turned a bad situation into a good one, and this is the kind of thing people tell their friends about.
It’s the First Personal Touchpoint Between You and Your Brand
In the world of eCommerce, the first physical touchpoint between brand and consumer is when the customer gets the packaging in the mail. Your online customers have no physical interaction with your brand before they purchase a product from you.
Therefore, it’s important that you make the most of any personal interaction you have with a customer before the purchase. This is an opportunity to start building that trust and a rapport between your brand and an individual, even before the purchase has been made.
A Satisfied Customer Means a Retained Customer
Only 18% of retailers focus their marketing efforts on retention. The truth is repeat buyers are not only easier to convert, but they’re more likely to have a higher average cart spend and lifetime value. 93% of customers are likely to make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service. So once your customer service methods have satisfied a customer once, why would you not ask them to return?
With retention in mind, your customer service takes on a different role. Now, rather than taking care of a customer’s concerns so that they’re satisfied, your focus is to exceed their expectations so that they buy from you again without hesitation. Remember this as you design your customer service process!
How to Offer World-Class Customer Service
Be There Around the Clock
One of the reasons that the eCommerce industry has shaken up the traditional retail world is because anyone can buy anything at any time of day. This, of course, is true for your store — but it should also be true for your customer service. You need to be able to support customers who want to buy at both midday and midnight – and every hour between.
Consider using a 24/7 answering service that has experience with businesses like yours and can answer frequently asked questions, or guide your callers through the ordering process. Alternatively, implementing a chatbot tool on your site can be a great way to address simple inquiries with 24/7/365 coverage.
Offer True Omnichannel Customer Service
Do your customers prefer to interact with you on Facebook, where they first learn about your brand? Perhaps they’d like to chat with you about payment methods while they’re in the middle of the checkout process in your store. Maybe they’ve sent a delivery back to you to exchange sizes, but want to talk to you on the phone because the package has gone missing.
Once customers and potential customers are engaging with you over multiple channels, it’s time to be wherever they are — social media, phone, email, and chat to name a few avenues. Make it as easy as possible for your audience to reach you.
Make Your Customer Service Proactive
A quality relationship is often the result of good customer service, and good customer service is based on problem-solving. So what if a customer could solve problems themselves before they arise?
To make it easier for your customers to self-serve, place a section on each product page that addresses the questions you’re most asked about each product. That way you can answer customers’ questions that they didn’t even know they had. Below, you can see the FAQ on Packhelp’s product page for their range of custom printed paper bags:
Personalize, Personalize, Personalize
When you’re trying to build trust and foster a relationship, talking like one human to another is essential. When you walk into a store to buy a new TV, the floor staff don’t greet you with ‘hello valued customer!’ So don’t start your emails like that, either.
By using a person’s name in even the simplest transaction email, you make that communication much harder to ignore. Using a person’s name is a great way to tell your customers that they’ve been acknowledged as a human, rather than just another statistic or transaction.
Utilizing geo-location targeting, making product recommendations and upselling are ways eCommerce brands are personalizing the user experience and getting consumers to spend 48% more on their sites.
Test Your Purchasing and Fulfillment Processes
Why wait for your customers to reach out to you to tell you there’s a problem? Before launching a new product or website layout, test, test, and test again. Use a third-party to test your checkout process, and iron out any bugs before going live.
Note if there are any processes that are a little more complex than others. If these processes can be optimized and made easier, do so. If they can’t be optimized (for example, going to an external site to complete payment), document the way the process should look, then put this information where the customer can easily find it.
ECommerce customer service is more than just answering questions for your customers. It’s a keystone to your business, that can complement your marketing efforts, help your brand grow, and turn angry customers into lifetime buyers.
At the end of the day, eCommerce customer service is an investment. It presents challenges such as implementing technology to deal with 24/7 inquiries from all over the world. But it also presents countless opportunities for positive tailored experiences. By spending some time and refining the way your online store takes care of customer service, you can turn this process from a support method to an integral part of your brand.
Phil is an Australian guy, living and working in Poland, helping take Packhelp to the world. When he’s not writing content, he can be found walking his dog, longing to be a stormtrooper or hanging out playing Nintendo.