If you run an online store, then you don’t need me to tell you that it’s tough out there to provide excellent ecommerce customer service. While ecommerce is trending upward, so is the number of companies squeezing into your space.
When you’re just getting up and running, it may feel like you’re the mom-and-pop corner shop up against a shiny supermarket that just opened next door. It’s tempting to focus on getting new customers through your front door, but there’s another way to hold your own against the competition: By providing superior customer service.
From live chat to help desks to strategies for scaling, here are 12 ways to help your company deliver sensational e-commerce customer service. Taking it a step further, the more you can integrate these channels into one system, the easier your job will be.
1. Offer live chat
If you run an ecommerce store and you’re not using live chat, prepare to be pleasantly surprised by everything it can offer. In fact, this is possibly the only ROI that can be measured in minutes. Deploying it can help you with everything from sales inquiries, to proactive selling, to managing questions about invoices and shipping, to post-sales support. By leveraging pre-written macros within the experience, Live chat can also help you and your team to be more productive and more consistent in your responses.
If you’re already using live chat, don’t pat yourself on the back quite yet. Rapid-fire chats can also be a rich stream of opportunity, so make time to go back through your chat transcripts to see if there are places to address customer feedback or to follow up on issues raised within the chat.
2. Set up a knowledge base (KB)
Knowledge bases aren’t just for tech companies. These can be set up for internal or external use and are proven to be valuable, scalable customer service tools. They’re also an SEO goldmine, providing the opportunity to target some long-tail keywords on your own channel.
A major business justification for a self-service portal is that it’s inexpensive and customers prefer it. Their time is valuable and they want to solve issues themselves, and it frees up agents for more complex issues that require 1:1 support.
3. Post your FAQs
The KB’s close cousin, your most frequently asked questions—when prominently placed on your product pages—have several distinct advantages. Mainly, they’ll save you a lot of time answering the easy questions. And customers will appreciate being able to quickly find the answers. As with KBs, FAQ pages also help improve SEO by lengthening product pages naturally with additional keyword-rich content. In time, connecting your FAQ and content from the knowledge base will help ensure customers are equipped to find what they need, wherever they are on your website.
4. Offer 24-hour phone support
When was the last time you left a voicemail for an ecommerce store? If the answer is between “never” and “rarely,” then you’re not alone. That said, times might be changing. A number of integrated customer service solutions offer voice products that will take voicemails when you can’t be online. Alternately, you can use a 24-hour live-answering service so that your customers are always talking to a live human, leaving you free to call back during office hours.
5. Write an easy-to-understand returns policy
It’s possible to write a returns policy that increases your conversions. Returns are just one part of doing business, online or offline. Check your policy to make sure it is easy to understand; a smooth returns policy could yield return customers. When you can’t explain the policy face-to-face, you’re at risk of confusing and upsetting your customers or making them jump through too many hoops, which impacts your ability to have a long-term relationship with them.
6. Use customer service software
If you’re currently managing customer support through email, a centralized help desk. ticketing system allows you to do more than send email. You can hook up your social media accounts, or add an integrated business VoIP voice system or live chat. You’ll be able to keep a transparent train of all customer interactions and reply much, much faster with comprehensive customer service software.
7. Show the billing history
Customers who can serve themselves are happier—especially for easy things they expect to be able to find online. Customers expect to be able to have access to their account, to payment methods and details, order status and billing history. All the back-and-forth inquiries about invoices or shipping status clog up the arteries of your store.
8. Measure customer satisfaction
If you want to improve something, you need to be measuring it first. This holds true with customer service, and there are a few ways to do this. Some customer service platforms include this feature, allowing you to easily send out surveys following an interaction. The CSAT ratings are a quick way to take the temperature on your service, and the feedback you receive can be valuable, and gives you a way to follow-up. Measuring your Net Promoter Score is also helpful for measuring how likely your customers are to recommend your products or services.
9. Offer social customer service
Customer service over social media is becoming increasingly important. In fact, if you have social media channels set up, you should expect to provide customer service through them. Why? Because that’s what your customers will expect. Consider using a customer service platform that integrates social channels to make your job easier.
Videos are extremely useful pre- and post-sales, especially as an extension of your self-service offering. Consider the value of putting “getting started” materials or detailed walk-throughs of advanced features, or relationship-building material like hints, tips, or advice on your site somewhere customers can easily access. Videos don’t have to be Spielberg epic or super expensive. These days you can make a decent video on your iPhone or by using a screen capture tool.
11. Honor your warranties
As retailers, we have to face the fact that sometimes problems due to faulty products will crop up. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. It’s how you react to these issues that separates the serious players from the pack. Offering a warranty is not just a tick in the ‘increased conversion’ box. Warranties are there for a reason and so, when called upon, make it easy for your customers and deal with the issue quickly and fairly. Consider, too, that if you’re using a customer service platform to track interactions, you’ll be able to see if the customer is new, or frequently requires help, and so on.
12. Scale your team seasonally
Valentines, Mother’s Day, Black Friday, Christmas, January Sales… The ecommerce calendar is full of holiday opportunities. It’s important to be sure you’ve got extra hands on deck for customer service both before and after holiday hotspots to answer questions and to help with returns and exchanges. If customers feel dips in service or experience longer wait times, you’ll lose revenue. By contrast, your ability to meet demand is one more building block for customer loyalty.
How it all adds up
Customer service is a vitally important part of your ecommerce business. While some of the points here are straightforward enough, others admittedly take more time and effort to implement. It all comes back to getting out what you put in. By investing in your customer service, you’ll increase long-term loyalty and the lifetime value of your customers.
Learn more about Zendesk for Retail.
Pilar Torres Wahlberg is co-founder of Pickaweb, a UK-based site that makes it easy to choose a domain and get your own website or ecommerce store up and running.