There’s never been a better time to sell online. While eCommerce has been on the rise throughout the past decade, its rise in recent times has been phenomenal. In just the past year, eCommerce sales worldwide amounted to 4.28 trillion US dollars, and revenues are projected to grow to 5.4 trillion US dollars in 2022.
Clearly, today’s eCommerce sellers have a significant opportunity to reach millions online. But with this opportunity comes a responsibility to one’s customers. When you’re an eCommerce seller, the most important thing to your bottom line is excellent customer service.
Regardless of what type of product you’re selling or what sector your business operates in, good customer service should always be at the cornerstone of everything you do.
Providing excellent customer service is the key to driving customer loyalty and increasing the number of positive reviews, which in turn generates an increase in sales.
So if you’re ready to turbocharge your eCommerce business by boosting your approach to customer service, read on. We’ve compiled the ultimate guide to winning at eCommerce customer service in 2021.
What is eCommerce Customer Service?
Let’s start off by understanding what makes eCommerce customer service different from traditional retail customer service.
In the online world, people cannot physically walk into your shop. Their only interaction with you and your brand is through their online experience, so if you don’t get your customer service strategy right from the outset, you can easily lose a customer.
Here are some key ways eCommerce customer service differs from traditional retail customer service.
First of all, eCommerce makes shopping instantaneous, given that an entire catalogue of items is just a click away for online shoppers.
But this also means that your competitors are also an easy click away, so the stakes are so much higher when it comes to providing excellent customer service. All it takes is one wrong move, and your customers can click away and onto a competitor’s website or mobile app.
This is why eCommerce customer service is different from retail customer service and an integral part of online shopping. To stand out against competitors, providing excellent customer service quickly and efficiently needs to be at the very heart of your business.
Anticipating Customer Needs
At its core, eCommerce customer service is the support an eCommerce business provides to its online shoppers. It means knowing how to deliver the best service to someone shopping online, and also means anticipating their pain points and working to prevent them.
This can mean assisting a customer who has an issue with their order, but it can also entail answering questions for someone who wants to make a purchase but needs more information about the product or service, or even how to place the order using your platform.
If you can anticipate what your customers might need and then devise proactive solutions to help them along their online purchase journey, you’ll improve their experience.
A New World of Customer Expectations
Customers today expect more, too. As eCommerce has become a more common way to shop, buyers have become more choosy, and their expectations have risen. Today’s modern online shoppers expect speedy, polite and helpful eCommerce customer service that can be accessed from a range of channels, such as email and social media.
In fact, 73% of consumers said that the quality of customer service they receive influences what they buy. The flip side of this is that poor customer service experience can be costly. 65% of consumers have said they have changed to a different brand due to a poor customer service experience.
That said, 42% are happy to pay more for better customer service. This tells businesses that customer service is definitely something that they should be investing in. Not only because they’ll gain and retain more customers and make more sales, but also because good customer service is in itself a value-add for which brands can add a higher premium.
So, as you can see, eCommerce customer service is different from retail customer service. It is up to online brands to understand the nuance involved in creating the perfect formula for satisfying each potential customer. Perfecting your eCommerce customer service can translate into a higher profit margin for your business.
How to Deliver Exceptional eCommerce Customer Service
1. Start By Being Proactive
As an online business, customers won’t be coming into your shop and speaking with sales reps face to face, so it’s important to be proactive in your outreach to prospective customers. You don’t want to lose an interaction before it’s even begun.
One way you can do so is by dealing with issues before they even arise. Providing timely shipping and tracking information will show your customers that you care about their order and will preempt them from having to reach out to ask where their order is. This is one example of being proactive.
Other examples include:
- Using chatbot technology to answer product questions while a customer browses
- Providing an FAQ section to customers so that they can have the information they need at their fingertips
- Following up after the delivery of the product to ensure everything is performing well for the customer
When an eCommerce company behaves proactively with its customers, it positions itself as a partner to each customer, rather than merely a transactional entity. Customers will appreciate this, and not only will it cut down on customer service snags, but it will also help earn customer loyalty.
2. Overhaul Your Existing eCommerce Customer Service
All online businesses should do everything they possibly can to provide outstanding eCommerce customer service. A good place to start is by honestly evaluating how you’re currently doing in this area.
You can begin by speaking to your customers to find out their needs, wants, and pain points. You can do so through interviews, surveys and by looking at your own internal customer service metrics.
By analysing your customer support software, you can identify key metrics such as ticket volumes, ticket types and response times. All of these metrics will enable you to better understand your customers’ shopping patterns, as well as their needs.
eDesk’s centralised shared inbox integrates with everywhere you sell so your support agents can respond faster.For example, if you see an uptick in ticket volumes around specific seasonal shopping events, you can then respond by ensuring that you have enough customer service agents working during these peak times so that the ticketing queue moves along swiftly and customers aren’t frustrated with wait times.
Understanding your ticket types can also help you find strategies around being more proactive (see the section above) so that you can nip common issues in the bud while cutting down on the number of the same ticket types.
3. Offer a Personalised Experience
We’ve already talked about how today’s customers have high expectations, and that also includes the expectation that they’ll be treated with extra care by a brand. A recent report found that 71% of customers are frustrated by impersonal experiences. Today’s shoppers want to be seen and have options tailored to them.
Undoubtedly, modern eCommerce is about more than just offering products and shipping them to those who purchase them. It’s about creating relationships with customers and that includes helping customers make the purchases that are best for them.
For example, if you know that your customer is a parent, you’ll be able to recommend products that suit their lifestyle with children and make their life easier. On top of this, many brands also use sophisticated web tracking technology that allows them to deliver more targeted marketing campaigns to specific customer segments.
As a brand, you should learn about your customers by conducting market research and delivering tailored marketing campaigns to the right audience sectors.
However, you choose to engage your audience, offering a personalised approach to customer service can be a key way to set your business apart from competitors.
4. Hit All the Right Channels
Today’s customers don’t just visit your website – they’re on a range of social media channels, regularly interacting with your brand and influencer content. Ensuring that your brand is leveraging multiple channels is vital if you don’t want to miss out on potential sales.
Whether you’re an online seller or a traditional retailer, people expect an omnichannel experience. Shoppers might use their laptops to browse while making final purchases on their mobile devices through social media. Having a joined-up strategy where you understand customer profiles across devices can help personalise experiences while making the purchase journey smooth and accessible to many.
This is why big brands such as Sony, Nike and Dollar Shave Club have social media accounts specifically for providing customer support for eCommerce buyers.
These days, it’s not enough to merely have a social media presence; it must be part of your brand’s approach to omnichannel selling. After all, your customers are digitally everywhere. Shouldn’t the purchase journey you offer reflect that?
5. Make Fast Response Times a Priority
In an era where everything moves fast, and you can order nearly anything straight from your mobile phone, the phrase “time is of the essence” has never been more accurate.
This is especially the case in customer service, where today’s digitally savvy customers expect instant responses. Being speedy in your responses is an integral part of getting customer service right in today’s eCommerce landscape. In fact, according to research carried out by Forrester, 77% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service.
Slow responses not only frustrate customers, but they tarnish your reputation as an online seller too. The standard email response time in eCommerce customer service is 24 hours, and 80% of consumers now expect this. Amazon agrees; taking longer than a day to answer customer messages on its marketplace is against the policy. This results in a ‘late response’ mark against your account and negatively impacts your eCommerce metrics.
But email isn’t the only area where you need to respond quickly. Because it’s not uncommon for customers to reach out to brands directly across social media channels, it makes sense that your social channels should be optimised for customer service. This means offering quick responses to customer tweets and messages.
Because social media queries can be seen publicly, it makes the need to provide a speedy response even more critical since other potential customers can see your responses, which builds an overall impression of your brand.
Thankfully, technology is available today that helps your brand have an ‘always on’ presence. Using an eCommerce helpdesk solution like eDesk means you can have customer service agents working across different time zones and numerous channels such as email and social media to ensure speedy responses. Chatbots and live chat tools can also be helpful in responding to customers contacting your company via the website out of hours.
As a seller, you always want to be proactive, but the truth is that you can’t always control issues that come up. However, one thing you can control is response times. By showing your customers that you take their queries seriously and seek to address them promptly, you’ll be building a positive relationship and demonstrating your commitment to customer service.
6. Leverage Customer Reviews to Boost Your Brand
New businesses can fear customer reviews since all it takes is one bad review to tarnish your reputation online forever. However, if you use reviews correctly they can truly give your business a boost! There’s really nothing to fear!
But how do you get reviews right? You can start by proactively inviting customers to provide feedback and leave online reviews once they’ve finished a transaction with your business. Studies show that customers view brands 77% more favourably when they invite customer feedback.
Reviews will help influence others in their purchase journey and improve your company’s SEO; that is, the ability to be found in online search engine algorithms. Customer reviews can provide your business with social credibility, influencing the customer journey.
In addition to building overall trust for your brand, if you’re selling on Amazon, customer reviews are imperative because they are among the most important ranking factors in Amazon’s algorithm. If you’re an eBay seller, reviews will help you win the Best Match position, giving your products better visibility.
Even the negative reviews can become a positive asset. For example, negative customer reviews can actually be quite powerful in providing your product team with insights into what’s not working or what can be improved with each product or service. Responding to negative reviews in this way can actually win customer loyalty, with 52% of global consumers saying that companies should take action based on customer feedback.
If you’re able to leverage negative reviews to showcase that you’ve taken customer feedback on board and adjusted accordingly, this can end up turning negatives into positive proof points for your brand.
7. Show Customer Appreciation to Win Loyalty
Building customer loyalty is a long game, and there are many touchpoints towards earning it. In addition to providing great recommendations, being proactive about anticipating issues, demonstrating personalisation and care towards every customer interaction, we can’t underestimate the importance of showing your customers that you appreciate their business.
Appreciation comes at the end of the customer journey once the customer has already completed a transaction with your business. However, just because it’s an action that comes after a sale doesn’t mean it’s any less important than the actions you take to win that sale.
Showing your customers that you appreciate their business helps them feel valued and makes it more likely that they’ll return to you for future purchases, and perhaps even tell their friends and family about your business, too.
You can show your customers that you appreciate their business through low-cost initiatives like:
- Offering a special discount code after a sale is complete to get them to shop with you again next time
- Offering discounts on a customer’s birthday
- Providing sneak-peek previews of new products or services for those customers who sign up to your email list
- Hosting ‘VIP customer’ flash sales for loyal customers who have shopped with you before
Such actions help make customers feel valued and can provide a significant boost in repeat transactions. They’re a way of topping off the customer journey by offering that additional boost of proactive customer service by saying ‘thank you.’
Good customer service is a journey, not a destination. As an online seller, things are constantly changing, with new platforms and technologies cropping up quickly. Your business must be on the right track to understanding how to leverage every opportunity to provide your customers with better, faster and more exceptional service than the competition.
Getting eCommerce customer service right will help you differentiate your business from other online sellers. It can help you reduce returns and refunds, as well as increasing the visibility of your products and services across different marketplaces and the web at large.
Ensuring that you’re always on top of providing top-shelf customer service will show up in your bottom line and help your online brand grow from strength to strength.