11 Ways to Improve eCommerce Customer Service
Today’s eCommerce companies must have more than great products and prices to attract and retain loyal customers. Retailers must also make the customer experience their number one priority, because happy customers will keep coming back for more. In fact, 96% of customers say customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand. Satisfied customers are five times more likely to purchase again and four times more likely to refer the company to a friend.
To quote the late Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, “Customer service shouldn’t be just a department; it should be the entire company.” From multichannel strategies to improved response times to live chat, here are 11 ways eCommerce brands can deliver the sensational customer service that will set them ahead of the competition.
1. Make it Personal
In the eCommerce marketplace, 70% of customers expect personalized service from brands they interact with. Customers who feel special will likely reward companies through brand loyalty, repeat sales, fewer returns, and recommendations to friends. In fact, 80% of customers say they will do business with a company mainly because they offer a personalized experience. Since online brands that provide an emotional connection with customers out-perform their competitors by 85%, going the extra mile to make customers feel valued and appreciated can really pay off.
2. Develop a Multichannel Strategy
eCommerce brands that enact a multichannel strategy can create a cohesive and unified buying experience. This lets customers engage through any number of online and offline channels, be it phone, internet, social media, email, virtual assistant, or live chat. Each channel should be customized to suit a customer’s needs, creating a consistent level of service across all channels. To facilitate an effective multichannel strategy, brands are encouraged to use a headless architecture that delivers content and products to any device with the help of eCommerce APIs.
3. Offer Live Chat
In a world where instant gratification rules, live chat can’t be beat. Through live chat customers can get answers to questions and concerns or give feedback in real time rather than waiting for a phone or email response. In fact, 79% of customers prefer live chat specifically because it offers instant responses. Once seen as a novel commodity, 50% of customers now expect to see live chat on an eCommerce website. Possibly the only ROI that can be measured in minutes, an effective live chat can help drive 3-5 times more conversions and add greatly to personalization and overall customer satisfaction.
4. Improve Response Time
Just as customers demand speed when it comes to asking questions, they expect the same type of timelines when it comes to asking questions, making complaints, or addressing product or service issues. Nothing will alienate a customer faster than delayed responses. In fact, 12% of U.S. eCommerce shoppers rate a lack of speed as their main frustration with customer service , while 75% of customers say fast response time is the single most attribute of customer service. While there are many ways eCommerce companies can rev up their customer response times, doing so is crucial, as 92% of consumers say they will stop doing business with a company after three or less poor customer service experiences.
6. Beef Up Seasonal Support
Black Friday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day … for eCommece retailers, the calendar year can seem like one holiday and special occasion after another. Brands need to be prepared for peak times by staffing up with qualified, well-trained seasonal customer support to handle not only increased sales, but also the exchanges and returns that are sure to follow. A beefed-up seasonal staff will ensure business continues in a smooth and speedy manner. Longer response times or dips in service can result in customer frustration, which can greatly affect revenue and customer loyalty and satisfaction.
7. Seek Out (and Act On) Customer Feedback
There’s no better way for an eCommerce brand to get a pulse on how customers feel about its products and services than through customer feedback. Besides being an excellent way to build customer loyalty and retention, feedback can also give invaluable insight on how online companies can strengthen what’s working and improve what’s not. Customers have a lot to say and it’s vitally important that eCommerce brands listen to them. Some of the best ways to gather feedback are:
- Conduct customer feedback surveys
- Monitor social media
- Do one-on-one outreach via phone or email
- Analyze user website activity
- Use website feedback forms or boxes
- Use live chat
8. Have an Easy-to-Understand Returns Policy
One of the realities of all eCommerce businesses is that returns are inevitable. For a variety of reasons, between 15% and 40% of all products ordered online are returned. This is why eCommerce brands need to inform customers on the exact terms of their returns policy. A well-written return policy should be easy to find and easier to understand, as both can have an impact on repeat customers. While returns can be a headache for eCommerce brands, making it simple can have a big impact, as 92% of customers are likely to buy something again if returns are easy. Offering free return shipping and an easy-to-print return label can sweeten the pot.
9. Make Company Information Readily Available
Today’s eCommerce customers do not have time to search for the key company information they might need to ask questions or address concerns. To help them easily find that info, creating a comprehensive “Contact Us” page that lists company phone numbers, emails to various departments or services, snail mail addresses, maps and other important company info is always recommended. A good contact page should be easily accessible and reflect a company’s personality through welcoming content and graphics. As an added bonus, a contact page is a great opportunity to invite customers to sign up for newsletters, highlight new or sale products, or to follow a company on social media.
10. Offer 24/7 Support
In eCommerce, there’s no such thing as a 9 to 5 workday. Today’s customers are liable to shop any time of day or night and are not restricted by geography or time zones. So, eCommerce customer service teams need to be immediately accessible to answer questions or resolve issues. For optimal efficiency, teams should be well-staffed, well-informed, and have the capacity to meet all incoming call volume, especially during seasonal peak demand. It’s also essential that team members have a talent for working with people. Customers want to feel cared for and being available for them 24/7 will help foster good faith and strengthen customer loyalty and satisfaction.
11. Never Let Up
Improving the customer experience is an ongoing process that has no end zone. No matter how many amazing products at a fantastic price a company boasts, none of it matters if they don’t continually engage, excite, surprise, and ultimately, satisfy their customers. Happy customers are the lifeblood of any business, so eCommerce companies need to continually work at improving their customer service methods. Besides the obvious boost in sales and profits, the payoff in customer retention and loyalty is well worth the wait.
Bottom line: in order to thrive (and survive), eCommerce brands must adapt and nurture a customer-centric environment. As the old saying goes, the customer always comes first. When it comes to the customer experience, life coach and thought leader Matt Thorpe said it best: “Don’t forget about those people who have spent their hard-earned money with you. They could be responsible for substantial online sales later down the line. Treat them like your family and take them with you on your journey.”