It’s often said that a company is only as strong as its people. Though many things have changed in eCommerce, from how products are delivered to online technology, this hasn’t changed. With eCommerce revenue at an all-time high, reaching £129 billion1 in 2021, customer expectations have skyrocketed. So it’s more important than ever that eCommerce support to customers rises to the challenge.
Customer journeys need to be personal and efficient, with support on hand if they get lost along the way. Yes, a company is only as strong as its people. But today, an eCommerce company is only as strong as its customer support.
What is eCommerce customer service?
eCommerce customer service is how online commercial businesses provide support to their customers. This is offered through channels such as live chat, email, phone lines and social media by customer service agents who offer assistance, answer questions about products and services, and resolve problems.
Why is eCommerce customer service important?
- Acquiring new customers: The online world can be impersonal and people like to buy from brands they can trust. Providing reliable options for support is crucial to building new customer relationships.
- Customer retention: Retaining customers is key. A good user experience can be the difference between a one-off purchase and a lifelong client. Treat them well and they’ll keep coming back for more.
- Big businesses neglect customer service at their peril: As a business’s bottom line increases, the quality of the customer journey can suffer when support fails to meet increasing demand. If they’re not careful, big businesses’ support can become robotic and impersonal, damaging customer service and denting their profits.
- Small businesses can have the upper hand: If you’re looking for growth, investing in your customer service might be the answer. Smaller companies have the agility and ability to create that all-important ‘personal touch’ in their eCommerce support. When customers feel cared for, revenues can grow between 4%-8% above their market.2 Personalised eCommerce support can be a huge advantage over larger companies that lack a human touch.
Without further ado, here are 7 customer service best practices that will help your business succeed…
Meet customers where they are
Increasingly, innovation in eCommerce customer support is about giving the customer options, allowing them to contact you in the way that suits them best. Offering customers various ways to get in touch with your business is known as omnichannel support. It includes:
- Live chat: Commonly as pop-ups on company websites, this makes multitasking easier both for agents and customers.
- Phone support: Calling someone directly allows for a more personal connection, the most direct way of showing that there’s help on hand!
- Email: Email keeps things simple for those who aren’t in a rush and makes it easier to track what was said and when. Ideal for all those trickier requests.
- Social media: Social media support should be fast and friendly, letting customers interact with brands through the same apps they interact with their friends.
Having multiple communication channels with fast response times is important to eCommerce growth.
But social media support is becoming increasingly important. Don’t just take our word for it. 40% of holiday shoppers are more likely to buy from a brand they can message on social media.3 But they aren’t turning to the social media platform you use; they expect you to meet them on theirs. Social media is now as much about connecting with businesses as it is with friends. You want to keep your friends close, but your customers closer.
The sense of immediacy created by being constantly connected extends to online business, with 59% of brands replying to tweets within 15 minutes.4 In an online world, you have to bring your business directly to your buyers. The key to showing your customers you care is being available wherever they need you.
Agents are everything
Your eCommerce support agents are the voice of your company. To ensure your customer service team provides the best support, they need to be well trained in clear communication, responsive to customer feedback and provide personalised services.
How do I get these agents?
Typically, these agents have been provisioned in-house by businesses. This has restricted which agents they choose by how close they live to the call centre. Today, however, the distributed customer service model provides businesses with a wider talent pool of higher-quality agents.
It enables agents to work remotely and according to their schedules. In addition to lower infrastructure costs and increased flexibility, this model means agents are:
- More experienced: They’re well versed in your business objectives and customer expectations.
- Age and education: Distributed call centre agents typically have a higher average age and education level, translating to higher quality service and an improved level of communication.
- Scalable: A distributed model makes it possible to schedule agents for busy periods so your response times never suffer. And scheduling on demand means only paying for hours worked.
How can they help?
Knowledgeable, experienced support agents can be the difference between looking like an industry leader or an industry lagger. Customer service representatives should be experts in resolving customer queries and issues while reinforcing your brand’s identity.
Especially crucial in peak seasons, your agents will be handling discounts and delivery queries, complaints and payments — and sometimes just that all-important reassurance to move a customer from their basket to checkout. This means providing an exceptional standard of support across live chat, email, phone lines and social media. High-quality agents can adapt to them all.
In theory, your customer service team is there for when users can’t find an answer themselves. Having a detailed and well-presented knowledge base on your website is an effective way of giving customers the answers they need quickly and keeping support requests to a minimum. Plus, 67% of customers prefer to use self-service options rather than speak with customer service.5
A knowledge base that includes FAQs, and information on deliveries, returns and products can resolve customer queries without your agents having to answer the phone or respond to a live chat.
Sometimes, customers need clarification from someone over the phone. But a well-managed self-service knowledge base, easily accessible on your website can:
- Reduce the number of potential support requests.
- Keeping your eCommerce support channels clear for those who need them.
Improving your standard of customer support starts with understanding why your customers need it.
Customers don’t want to be treated like numbers. But more than that, they now expect personalised experiences when speaking with customer service. No matter the reason a customer has requested support, there’s an expectation that agents prefer to give them customised service, from referring to them by name to remembering prior queries.
In short, they want to feel valued rather than anonymous, and cared for rather than ‘dealt with’. According to one survey, 76% of respondents expect a personalised experience, and 71% said they expect companies to communicate internally so they don’t have to repeat themselves.6
In an increasingly automated marketplace, people want ‘personal’ delivered through a screen. That’s the bottom line… and it dramatically affects yours.
Your business’s demand isn’t the same year-round. So your customer service support shouldn’t be either. If it is, in quieter times you’ll be paying for agents you don’t need. And in busier times, you’ll be paying for it too — by missing out on the revenue that unsatisfied customers take elsewhere.
For big businesses…
Many larger businesses have an in-house customer support function. But using an outsourced, scalable model provides access to bolt-on, additional support when they need it most, for example during peak seasons.
For smaller and medium-sized enterprises…
Scalable support is a lifeline saving smaller businesses from over and underprovision. Whether businesses want to supplement an in-house operation or build an entirely outsourced support team, you can’t afford to pay idle agents. But you also can’t earn new revenue without the agents to meet demand.
The good news is that scalable support means online stores and retailers can strike a balance, enhancing and reducing support as needed for the most cost-effective option that allows you to grow.
Whether you’re a growing business that’s overprovisioning, or lacking the support you need to get off the ground, scalable support is the solution you’re after.
Some companies feel that outsourcing is risky, perceiving that it relinquishes their control over their customer service function. Traditionally, outsourcing meant using an offshore solution, which often meant poor quality agents who were neither trained nor interested in your company’s values. With this model, control was limited.
But today, outsourcing can give you more control:
- Onshore outsourcing: With a distributed customer service model, agents are onshore, meaning businesses can get access to specialists at a lower cost, without sacrificing quality (and control) to take advantage of cheaper offshore agents.
- Scalability: Scalable support means you can draw on a reservoir of agents you don’t have in-house, as and when you want them. It offers businesses the ability to hire more people around peak times and scale them down as demand decreases.
While the traditional method relied on hiring and firing based on uncertain projections, an outsourced model means never wasting your time or budget. A flexible approach caters to your company’s needs all year round. For small or large businesses, this can provide more control, lower customer service fees and higher revenues.
Measure — and act on it
You know how to improve your eCommerce support. But you don’t want to put those things into place and hope for the best. Measure what’s going on —and then take action. To understand what’s going on in your customer service and how you can improve, you need to measure key performance indicators.
- Response times. Are you keeping up with demand? If not, it might be time to add more agents or re-evaluate whether different channels could speed up the process.
- Popular channels. Which channels are customers using to approach you? Your customers will tell you where you need to put your resources.
- Busiest hours. Does your response rate suffer during peak hours? What are your peak hours? Understanding when customers are contacting you most so you can ensure you meet their needs — and quickly.
- Customer satisfaction. Listen to your customers. Your eCommerce support can’t develop if you don’t collect feedback. Actively invite your customers to leave feedback. It’s an effective, free way to see where you could be improving.
Measuring is one thing. You then need to act on what those measurements are telling you. Maybe you need more agents on social media or more phone lines covered on a Saturday afternoon. Listen to your customers and change accordingly. After all, customer-centric businesses are 60% more profitable than those that aren’t.7 Measuring helps you get there.
Getting eCommerce customer service right
Great customer service support is table stakes for eCommerce businesses today. By providing omnichannel, personalised and scalable solutions, you can provide excellent customer service, providing your business with a competitive edge.
Odondo is a customer service outsourcing service with a track record in delivering eCommerce support. Our distributed customer service model provides the on-demand flexibility that companies need and the personalised support that customers expect. We do this through access to specialists at reduced costs, so you don’t need offshore services that compromise on quality.
Whether you’re looking to take on a few extra agents, or to entirely restructure your current service team, Odondo is designed for businesses looking to meet demand… on demand. For more information on how to provide eCommerce support, get in touch with our team for a quote today.
Aamir is one of the Co-Founders at Odondo, where he obsesses over the details to deliver a strong and compelling proposition for each of his clients.
Prior to Odondo, he was CTO at one of the UK's largest price comparison websites, with contact centres in the UK and India. In his spare time, he loves reading, politics, tennis, and playing the piano (badly).