E-commerce sales are reaching unprecedented heights. In 2019, 11.5 percent of U.S. retail sales were e-commerce; that’s more than double its slice of the pie back in 2010 (4.6 percent). And now, due to Covid-19, e-commerce is quickly becoming one of the only ways to shop.
While e-commerce enables businesses to access more buyers and clients to conveniently shop anytime and anywhere, it also presents challenges. For example, clients cannot inspect a product and the company cannot assist online shoppers in the same way they could in brick-and-mortar stores.
But the lack of face-to-face interaction between clients and e-commerce businesses may matter less if the company has a robust customer service strategy. Because even online, customer service is a differentiating factor between you and everyone else trying to sell similar products.
Another advantage that comes with the territory of operating an e-commerce store is the ability to build and leverage your online reputation. If your business has a positive online reputation, people will be more likely to trust your brand, purchase your products, and recommend you to friends and family.
This article will cover:
- E-commerce customer service defined
- How to grow your e-commerce business with excellent customer service
- Proven strategies to become the trusted e-commerce company in your niche
What does good e-commerce customer service look like?
E-commerce customer service refers to the level of engagement provided to help online shoppers at every stage of their buying journey. Much like their in-store counterparts, online customer service teams must be ready to:
- Efficiently process large numbers of orders and support requests.
- Answer frequently asked questions on products and fulfillment.
- Provide personalized responses to customer inquiries sent through different channels, from phone to live chat, business websites, social media, and SMS.
- Track customer interactions.
How excellent customer service propels e-commerce growth
With so many businesses competing in the e-commerce space, online sellers must find ways to stand out. One strategy is to provide customers with stellar client support.
Your customer service strategy positions you to:
- Differentiate your business from bigger brands who may be unable to provide personalized and live support.
- Speed up your prospects’ buying journey and minimize lost customers by quickly addressing any friction, such as questions on product specifications, warranties, and returns.
- Win your target audience’s trust by speedily and respectfully addressing complaints and making client support accessible.
20 proven strategies to become the trusted e-commerce company in your niche
1. Set up a multichannel strategy
Multichannel retail increases your opportunities to reach your prospects and generate sales. It enables potential customers to conveniently inquire and shop using their preferred channel.
Your multichannel strategy can lead to stellar customer service. Here are a few tips to keep in mind across all of your channels:
- Develop a knowledge base. Many clients go the self-service route before requesting customer support. A thorough knowledge base or Help/FAQ page empowers your prospects to resolve issues on their own.
- Deploy bots and automated responses to quickly acknowledge messages and resolve simple queries.
- Integrate your channels into a centralized help desk software, to ensure that no customer message remains unread and unresolved.
2. Inspire trust with easy return policies
One reason buyers hesitate to shop online is they cannot inspect items before committing to a purchase. As such, 67% of customers look up a company’s return policy before clicking the “buy” button.
Here are some ideas to help you create a winning e-commerce returns policy that improves conversion rates.
- Make your returns policy easy to find by displaying it in multiple pages, including the checkout and FAQ sections.
- Clearly indicate a deadline for returning items.
- Provide a full refund option.
- Offer free return shipping or in-store return options.
3. Take full responsibility
Perhaps your staff made a mistake or the courier did not deliver the item on time. Whoever is at fault, when a client raises an issue, fix it quickly. Train your customer support team to:
- Listen and make the client feel heard.
- Avoid pointing fingers.
- Address the problem promptly and adequately.
4. Use live chat
One of the many advantages of live chat is that it enables your potential clients to get their questions answered in real-time. Especially if they are on the fence about a purchase, a quick, personalized response from your customer support team can tip things in your favor.
Here are other benefits your clients get through live chat.
- They can multitask and initiate communication, even at work.
- Some customers feel they get better information through chat than email.
- Clients who prefer live support but don’t want to call can use chat instead.
If you’re ready to include live chat in your customer support channels, choose an appropriate software. Alternatively, check the platform you used to build a business website and see if it has a live chat feature.
5. Be proactive
Anticipate the issues your clients may encounter and address these in your FAQ or knowledge base page.
At the same time, display your customer support team’s contact details, and list all options clients have to request assistance--by email, phone, live chat, or social media.
If you’re expanding to new territories, adding more products, or nearing the holiday season, consider beefing up client support.
6. Personalize the customer experience
In AgilOne’s study, 70 percent of U.S. and UK consumers said they expect customized experiences from brands they use.
Make sure you meet or exceed your clients’ expectations through the following personalization strategies:
- Make reordering easy by remembering your clients’ past purchases, shipping address, and payment details.
- If you’re serving international clients, direct your customers to the online store for their country or show prices and shipping fees in their local currency.
- Offer customization options, such as choosing a color, finish, or style.
7. Respect even your irate customers
Dealing with annoyed buyers is stressful, but disrespecting them when they are already disappointed with your service only adds insult to injury. Moreover, you can lose more prospects when unhappy buyers write bad reviews and tell their family and friends about their unpleasant experiences.
View these tough interactions as opportunities to transform negative customer experiences into positive ones. Show respect to irate clients by:
- Letting the customer feel heard. Let the client speak and listen carefully.
- Apologize to the customer.
- Use “Ma’am” or “Sir.”
- Say “please” and “thank you.”
8. Send personalized emails
Personalizing emails goes beyond including your subscribers’ names in the subject line or the content. It involves segmenting your subscribers and sending custom updates and offers to different buyer personas.
Personalized or segmented email marketing campaigns benefit companies through:
- Higher email open rates and clickthrough rates.
- Improved customer engagement.
- Increased revenues.
9. Ask for feedback and reviews
Customer feedback can propel your e-commerce company’s growth. Positive reviews help you win potential clients’ trust, while negative comments enable you to improve your processes.
Be proactive and automate feedback requests. Entice more customers to post a review by offering them a small discount on their next purchase. Thank clients for sharing their thoughts and, if there are unfavorable but valid comments, apologize to them as well.
10. Respond on all forums or channels
While some irate customers will immediately call customer support, others vent their frustration on social media.
It’s impossible for your customer success team to respond to every comment. But they can prioritize those situations where they can add value, just as JetBlue did for their clients on Twitter.
If you have a multichannel strategy, make sure your company representatives are able to monitor discussions on different channels. Develop protocols for handling these, such as sending personal messages to the client or linking them to departments who can adequately resolve their concerns.
11. Monitor customer satisfaction
Another way to gather feedback is by using tools like the Net Promoter System.
- Ask your clients: “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” Let them rate you on a scale of 0 (not at all likely) to 10 (extremely likely).
- Get your Net Promoter Score® by subtracting the percentage of clients who rated you 0 to 6 (your detractors) from those who gave you a 9 or 10 rating (your promoters).
- Ask clients to indicate a reason for their rating.
The Net Promoter System allows companies to determine their performance, identify what’s working and what’s not, and use these inputs to improve their operations.
12. Monitor your inventory
Having too many items in your inventory traps your capital. Meanwhile, running out of stock means you lose customers and revenue too.
Avoid these extremes by determining your reordering point, i.e., when and how much you must order.
13. Commit to a timeframe for resolving issues
Some clients may have concerns that your customer support teams cannot immediately answer. In these cases, inform clients when they can expect to hear from your company.
Make sure that concerned departments--such as your IT, finance, or sales--also know about the customer support team’s turnaround time for addressing queries. Keeping everyone on board ensures that every department will do its part to resolve client concerns on time.
14. Optimize order fulfillment and inventory management
If you’re employing an omnichannel strategy, manually tracking orders from different platforms will quickly eat up your time.
Use integrations to consolidate purchases from multiple e-commerce platforms. Automate your order fulfillment so that your internal teams or chosen third-party fulfillment service can immediately pack and ship orders, process returns, and manage your inventory.
15. Use your reputation to promote your products
Many consumers don’t trust ads, but they respond to brands with reputations that align with their values. If your company is well-liked, you can save on marketing and promotion.
Make your brand relatable by leveraging the power of stories. Stir your target buyers’ hearts with uplifting messages and missions that make them want to support you.
Here’s how you can use storytelling to move your potential buyers.
- Tell them about your brand’s humble beginnings.
- Share your social mission. See how fashion brand Rothy’s weaves its mission (sustainability) into its stories.
- Show behind-the-scenes videos and images.
- Promote a lifestyle through celebrities and mega influencers.
- Allow your clients to join the narrative through micro-influencer promotions and customer-generated content.
16. Update your FAQ page regularly
Having a thorough FAQ page enables your buyers to resolve issues on their own. It decreases their reliance on live customer service, allowing your team to focus on more complex concerns.
As you upgrade your processes, you will need to update this page too. Ask your customer service team to list down other common questions and issues, and add these to your FAQs.
Companies can also create high-quality content around these queries. Doing so helps improve SEO for small businesses while educating and empowering their target clients.
17. Streamline your order fulfillment system
Loopholes in your order fulfillment system can lead to problems that pull down client satisfaction. These issues include failed or late deliveries, shipping wrong or damaged items, and inability to meet seasonal demands.
Minimize human error and address inadequacies in your system by automating your processes. If you have a lean team, consider outsourcing fulfillment to third-party service providers who specialize in managing orders and inventories.
18. Deliver excellent customer service in social media channels
A Facebook-commissioned survey in 2018 found that 61% of daily messaging app users had messaged a business in the last three months.
With more clients expecting to reach businesses through social media, your customer service team must be able to monitor brand mentions and keywords and address concerns fast.
Bringing customer service on social media allows you to:
- Be where your customers are
- Manage your reputation
- Convert prospects
- Turn dissatisfied buyers into repeat clients and promoters. For instance, Twitter found that 96% of clients who had a positive customer service experience with a brand’s Twitter account would purchase from that company again. Moreover, 83% would recommend that business to others.
19. Optimize for mobile shopping
In 2020, the number of U.S. mobile buyers is expected to reach 167.77 million and retail mobile commerce (m-commerce) sales is projected to hit $338 billion.
Take advantage of these m-commerce trends by creating mobile-friendly e-commerce sites.
- Ensure you have a responsive design.
- Provide secure mobile payment options and use trust badges.
- Include essential content like blogs, product descriptions, and videos.
- Enable mobile customers to leave product reviews.
20. Save customers from having to call you again
Even well-trained client support teams cannot resolve all issues immediately. They may have to coordinate with other departments or dispatch a representative to the client’s location.
If you can’t give the customer a solution fast, offer to call them back.
Show buyers that you value their time. Instead of putting them on hold for several minutes, tell them when they can hear from your company. More importantly, keep that promise.
To grow your e-commerce business, always put yourself in your clients’ shoes and treat them the way you would want to be treated.
When customers know you care, they are more likely to trust you, buy repeatedly from you, and promote you to their family and friends.
What are your customer service challenges and what are your tips for handling them? Share your thoughts below.