Helping online customers comes with plenty of new challenges. Try out these five ecommerce customer service best practices so you can offer top-notch support.
Customers continue to expect more personalized experiences across their digital channels, according to EY America’s 2021 report, “Reinventing the Customer Experience in the Digital-First Era.” That’s why following ecommerce customer service best practices are a critical component of any strategy to gain and keep online shoppers.
In this guide, we’ll review five best practices for customer service teams operating in ecommerce environments. We’ll include action items, tips on messaging, and why each best practice helps produce an exceptional customer experience.
Before we talk about how to create a positive ecommerce customer experience, let’s look at how customer service works in this area.
Simply put, ecommerce customer service is how companies support customers doing online shopping through a mobile or online store. An online business delivers this service through a multichannel or omnichannel approach.
Common communication channels for ecommerce support include social media, phone, email, live chat, and other channels. Along with human customer service agents, a company might offer automated solutions like chat bots or automatic emails, or content like FAQs and help guides.
However, customer satisfaction doesn’t necessarily improve just because ecommerce customer care is more accessible and convenient.
In an environment of heightened customer expectations, where customers interact with your brand through multiple channels, it is easy to see why it’s so important to provide thoughtful, high-level ecommerce customer service.
Great ecommerce customer service plays a critical role in a company’s brand reputation as well as its current and future sales. As a 2018 PwC report noted, a customer’s experience when using an ecommerce website will help them decide whether to continue to stay with a business and recommend it to others.
The report also noted some other compelling reasons why developing a relevant, insightful customer service strategy should be a top priority for ecommerce companies. It can help:
In contrast, poor customer experiences drive customers away at a faster rate, lowering your retention rate. The PwC report found that a third of consumers surveyed said they wouldn’t give a brand they love a second chance after just one poor service interaction.
Further, an unhappy customer might also leave a negative customer review or use a social platform to warn potential customers about their bad experience, compounding the issues for your brand. After this happens, you’ll need to spend considerable resources trying to convince customers to give your brand a chance.
From undertaking a digital transformation to dealing with supply chain issues to pivoting during a pandemic, online retailers have faced considerable challenges when addressing today’s top ecommerce customer experience trends. Additionally, ecommerce customer service teams have had to contend with an influx of these customer issues:
Customers always want to know when they will receive their online purchases. Recently, however, supply chain and logistics issues have led to backlogs and problems for ecommerce companies, slowing fulfillment.
It can be frustrating when a customer’s order is late, but it’s even worse when they can’t track it. Offer tracking text alerts or links to real-time updates to avoid this common frustration.
Customers don’t want to wait until Monday morning for you to respond to them. They want to hear from you as soon as they need an answer or assistance. They’re looking for proactive rather than reactive support. So, customers will likely prioritize a company that can respond in real time.
No customer enjoys returning or exchanging items they bought online. Doing so typically involves time, energy, and money. Customers want this common situation to be simple to navigate.
Customers should be able to easily locate return and exchange policies and paperwork. To be even more helpful, offer package pickup so they don’t have to stand in a line at the post office or mail center.
More ecommerce companies recognize the potential of offering their products across the globe. Once you can scale sustainably, if your brand doesn’t sell to more countries, you’re missing out on growth opportunities your competition is taking advantage of.
Although it can be complex navigating all the various data privacy and security regulations, currency, and languages, you don’t want to miss out on market representation because you haven’t done the research or made the investment.
One channel used to be enough, but not anymore. Your competitors are selling products and services through social media and SMS in addition to their website and online store.
The same goes for customer support. Customers may prefer to use different channels, depending on where they are or what they are doing. They expect options like phone support, text or chat, and email.
Chatbots are a fine first step for support interactions, but when the bot can’t handle their issue, customers will expect to then be connected to a live support option like a phone call. When they’re transferred, the information they gave in earlier steps should come with them.
To win customer loyalty and address these unique issues, you’ll need to address the five above challenges to offer exceptional online customer service experience.
Here are five ecommerce customer service best practices to get you started:
Customers expect immediate responses and real-time information. That means you’ll need to find a way to offer immediate service, removing as much friction from the service and support process as possible.
With chatbots, help desk software, phone operations, and third-party service providers like BPOs, you can provide around-the-clock service and support to ensure customers get help when they need it. Other support delivery options include online troubleshooting guides and FAQs, self-serve exchange and return tools, and return label printing.
There are many places along the customer journey where a customer comes into contact with a representative of your ecommerce store. You can delight customers by identifying these touchpoints, understanding expectations for each one, and preparing your agents for how to respond appropriately.
During each step, consider what actions and words can make the customer feel positive and taken care of so they’ll be willing to repeat the journey with you.
Focus on what you can do to make the ecommerce experience as easy as possible — personalized product offers, simple purchase navigation, saved payment details, clear tracking information on preferred channels, and direct access to agent support.
Across all customer service channels — chat, email, phone, and text support — focus on making the experience warm and personable. Make customers feel welcome when browsing your online store or asking a common question.
To help your customer service associates deliver a consistent experience, provide proper training and guidance, emphasizing your brand’s messaging and the value of empathy and interest in customers. The training may also cover how to address conflict and confrontation so that agents are prepared to de-escalate any negative interactions they have with customers.
The most important perspective that a customer service team needs is to understand that the customer is at the center of every interaction.
Once a team understands that, they can make the changes necessary to create a personal experience for everyone while still remaining global and local with their reach.
Think about languages and cultural awareness that your customer support team should be qualified to handle.
Adding multilingual customer support provides a way to serve a larger customer base, building trust in your brand by communicating with them in their native tongue. For many companies, outsourcing is the most efficient and effective way to add multilingual support capabilities to your team.
When possible, make sure your customer service representatives have some understanding of each customer’s local area. Ask your staff to participate in simple interactions that acknowledge the customer’s location. This might include references to local weather, a sports team, or a landmark.
Doing so can put a customer at ease and facilitate a pleasant interaction where the customer can feel your support team shows interest.
Customers want to be recognized and acknowledged. Providing access to key profile information on each customer can help your customer support team understand who they’re helping.
Your support associates can also use key data from each customer profile to offer personal attention rather than a canned script. Being acknowledged as an individual with specific needs and interests can help your customers connect with service associates more than scripted lines like, “We appreciate your business.” Acknowledging past orders or how long they have been a customer can make the customer feel like the company knows them and appreciates their business.
From help desk software and chatbots to follow-up communication tools, technology at the right time and place will help you provide more effective ecommerce customer support. By offering automated support around the clock, you can address customer questions and concerns as soon as they come up.
But remember, technology can’t replace the human component of ecommerce customer service. Instead, customer service software, including tools and platforms, can enhance the human dynamic that is so essential for online customer experiences.
For example, online tools make it easy for a customer service agent to quickly see a customer’s purchase history, location, and previous interactions. That can help a customer avoid repeating this information.
When it comes to providing a great customer service experience that retains your current ecommerce base and attracts new customers, there are many best practices to consider.
Speed, care, and concern for what your customers want, consistent and personalized interactions, a friendly shopping environment, and technology tools provide a standard of service and support that meets the growing expectations of today’s consumers.
While it helps to know what ecommerce customer service best practices make the most positive impression with customers and potential customers, it can still be a struggle to get substantial results. Self-service options for customer experiences can help, but a trusted partner that can provide excellent customer service on your behalf is so much better.
With PartnerHero, you can offer a customer experience that feels like it came from within your branded team. Discover how you can scale while maintaining great customer service by reaching out to PartnerHero today.