eCommerce Brand Owners: Is Your Customer Service Hitting the Mark?
More and more people are shopping online. While it may seem that that’s been the case for several years, the recent pandemic has motivated a huge surge in online shopping unlike anything we’ve experienced since the Internet’s inception.
According to Statista, there were 263 million digital buyers in the United States in 2019. That number is projected to grow to 282.7 million by 2024 (1).
You can buy almost anything online now, and as those options continue to grow, ecommerce owners, marketing agencies, Shopify partners, and more must sharpen their attention to customer service.
What can they do to be more competitive? How can they increase customer loyalty? What steps are they taking to ensure that each and every customer interaction is effective and efficient?
The Good, the Bad & the Inadequate
Traditionally, providing optional assistance to customers making online purchases was enough. Its quality was less important than its mere presence. But nowadays, brand owners have to up their game to stay competitive. eCommerce customer service now involves creating a seamless customer service experience across all channels browsers come into contact with.
While bad customer service is worse than no customer service, so too is inadequate customer service. The bar now sits at a level that has many brand owners scrambling to improve or enhance their existing approach, strategies, and channels.
SuperOffice released a "Customer Service Benchmark Report" which states that while 80% of brand owners believe they’re providing good customer service, only 8% of their customers agreed (2). While the report is slightly dated, it’s worth noting that our perceptions of customers’ experiences may not reflect what’s really going on, regardless of our efforts. It’s important to regularly assess all our practices, especially customer service, with a critical eye and willingness to make necessary adaptations.
Great customer service is one of the most significant influences on brand loyalty. And because it’s a buyers market, there are incredibly high expectations for service, namely immediate and convenient responsiveness.
A good approach for measuring customer experience is to think of it in terms of effort rather than satisfaction. How much do you customers have to work to get the information they need? What barriers are they meeting on their buying journey? How are you attempting to prevent problems, in addition to just providing solutions for issues that arise?
Make it Personal
The basis for developing a positive, responsive relationship with anyone is attention and understanding. It’s no different with your customers. Make them feel special by offering customised support. Recognise that one approach does not fit everyone; your service must be as personalised as possible.
Meeting such a task involves constantly adapting your approaches to fit customers’ ever-changing needs, desires, demands, and expectations. The most obvious way to do that is to offer several communication channels. Some customers prefer phone service, while others opt for email and contact forms. The most widely-used and preferred channel these days are WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and online chat services. Of course this varies by region. In Asia, apps like Line and WeChat are popular communication channels.
Offer a Knowledge Base for Self-Service
Probably the most widely used self-support customer service strategy, a knowledge base enables customers to use the company’s website to find answers to their questions. Depending on the product or service, it usually includes FAQs with answers, troubleshooting suggestions, video demos, a glossary, and how-to guides.
The goal is to simplify access to solutions without needing to reach out for help. So, it’s important to develop a knowledge base that is easy to access and use. Most customers will give up and move on if such a tool is complicated or lacks organization. Ensure yours hits the mark for both.
Provide Buying Guidance
As more people become online shoppers, there is a stronger requirement for more detailed customer support, especially from brands that sell technical products or products that necessitate expert guidance. Clothing, sports equipment, and appliances are some examples of products with which people may request additional support regarding sizing, technical specs, and more.
This is related to providing a personalised shopping experience, but it goes beyond that. People are simply unable to commit to buying a product for which they lack necessary information. Give your customers the option to speak with a brand representative who can offer useful and effective support and information about your products.
Reviews are a critical part of providing social proof for customers. But I want to offer this important piece right up front: be honest with your reviews. I’ve met far too many brand owners who are still pulling the black hat trick of publishing fake testimonials. This is not best practice. Google algorithms are not only getting smarter, customers too aren’t as quick to take the bait. Because reviews are such a useful buying tool, they’re developing a keener eye when reading and considering them.
Ensure that you’re staying on top of your reviews. If you have to outsource help to do this, it’s well worth it. As a consumer myself, when I am researching product reviews, I look out for responses to reviews. Has the brand owner seen and responded to the review? What was the quality of their response? Have they offered solutions if issues were present, or to make it right for the customer?
Improve your Response Time
People want speed and convenience. Just check in with yourself –– are you up for spending hours online trying to purchase a product? No one is. Another Statista metric reveals that customers’ number one frustration with customer service is lack of speed (3). I’m sure that comes as no surprise, but it’s worth considering your process for responding to customers and how efficient it actually is. In addition to offering multiple channels, those channels must be optimised for speed and convenience.
Customer Support Affects Customer Retention…
The more effectively you support your customer’s ability to seek support, the more likely they’ll stick around. Not because they appreciate your efforts (though they very well may), but because they got what they wanted quickly and easily.
Our current times are all about simplifying processes and practices –– that includes online shopping. Paradoxically, that often leads to complications and tedium for all the extra measures required to create an easy, user-friendly experience. Keep improving –– your efforts are well worth it.
Looking for some support to improve your customer service strategies? We can help. As Shopify and ecommerce website specialists, we’re continually updating our knowledge and strategies for our ecommerce clients in Dublin and the rest of the world. Give us a call today to book your free strategy session.