How to Sell Online / Small Business Tips & Tricks

Ecommerce Customer Service: How to Create Experiences That Boost Customer Acquisition & Retention

John Allen / 9 min read

Ecommerce has been a growth market for decades. In light of the present Covid-19 pandemic, online shopping has enjoyed a further boost. It’s now a far greater part of more people’s lives than ever before. 

That’s good news for ecommerce businesses, of course. It doesn’t mean, however, that they can rest on their laurels. There’s still stiff competition within the niche. Customer engagement ideas and strategies remain essential to win people over from your rivals.

What’s even more crucial is to ensure you offer outstanding customer experience. Consumers have exacting standards. It matters if you don’t provide excellent customer service, customer support, and the other things that add to user experience. In that case, online shoppers will look elsewhere. 

What, then, can online stores do to ensure top-notch customer service experiences? That’s one thing you’ll learn by reading on. You’ll also discover what distinguishes ecommerce customer service from the bricks-and-mortar variety. Plus, we’ll suggest some handy tools an online business can use to aid customer satisfaction.    

What Is Ecommerce Customer Service?  

Technological innovations have changed how we shop. The proliferation of smartphones, 4G, and even 5G connectivity, have led to a rise in online shopping. Ecommerce customer service is how ecommerce stores support this new breed of customers. 

It encompasses all assistance brands can provide consumers throughout their customer journey. That means everything from social media to post-sale support and FAQs to helpdesks. 

What your ecommerce business must aim for is consistently excellent customer service. That means providing seamless shopping experiences. It also involves speaking in a unified voice across many channels. 

It’s only by prioritizing ecommerce customer service that a brand can succeed. Delivering consistent service experience is essential to customer satisfaction. But how is that different from brick-and-mortar customer service, we hear you ask. 

How Is Ecommerce Customer Service Different From Brick-and-Mortar? 

The principal difference between traditional and ecommerce customer service can get summed up in one word. Technology. Okay, it is a little more complicated than that, but tech plays a massive role.

The customer journey of many shoppers takes place entirely online. Brands don’t have any face-to-face customer interactions of which to take advantage. It’s those that are the lifeblood of brick-and-mortar retailers. 

That makes sense, too. Through direct interactions, retailers can build rapport. They can offer personalized service and create loyal customers. 

Ecommerce brands must rely upon technology to replicate the same process. Fortunately, there are now many solutions that help with precisely that:

  • Live chat software to help advisors interact with customers in real-time.
  • Advanced call handling software to speed up response time in call centers.
  • Chatbots to aid self-service customer support. 
  •  AI-driven software to streamline data analysis, entry, and other time-consuming processes. You are thus freeing up your customer service team to focus on consuming-facing tasks. 

Those examples are merely the tip of the tech iceberg. The digital nature of the ecommerce customer experience, though, also throws up unique challenges for brands. They include:

  • A higher volume of customer inquiries and requests. 
  • Heightened consumer expectations, thanks to standards set by vast ecommerce sites like Amazon. 
  • A need to maintain great customer service and fast response times in a multichannel environment

How, then, do ecommerce companies meet those challenges? By using technology to build trust and loyalty among a customer base they never meet in person.  

Ecommerce Customer Service Builds Trust and Loyalty

Without meeting consumers in person, online brands must build trust in different ways. It’s only by doing so that they can inspire customer loyalty. That’s what will keep people coming back to their ecommerce site over others. 

One vital element in building trust online is personalization. Part of what makes face-to-face service so effective is how personal it is. When a shop assistant is speaking to you in person, you have their undivided attention. That shows you how important you and your custom is to the store.

To gain a competitive advantage, your ecommerce customer service must replicate that feeling. Over 75% of consumers, after all, want a more personalized shopping experience. 

Straight forward things like personalized emails or individual customer accounts play a role. 

Seamless omnichannel customer support takes things one step farther. We’ll talk about that in more detail later.

Your customer support team is also key to build trust and deliver great customer service. They must offer consistent experiences across all support channels. 

One agent having one off day can make a huge impact. That’s all it can take to drive some customers away forever. They’re not likely to keep a substandard interaction quiet either. That’s why the savviest ecommerce firms send staff on customer service online courses. These aid them in developing soft skills to build trust and relationships. As well as honing more practical abilities. 

Choosing the Right Customer Service Channels 

Ecommerce businesses must meet consumers where they are. Today’s customers use a broad range of communication channels. Brands, then, need to maintain a presence across the outlets, too. More than that, they must use each in unique and appropriate ways. 

1. Social media.

Unless you’ve been under a rock for a decade, you’ll know that social media is now ubiquitous. It’s no longer a domain for funny videos and sarcastic comments. It’s somewhere consumers expect brands too frequent.

You need to run and check accounts on the networks most popular with your audience. That may mean old favorites like Facebook or even a more modern video platform. Engaging customers via channels they prefer shows you care and, thus, builds trust.  

2. Email.

It’s tempting to think email’s got replaced by social media or IM channels. In reality, it’s still a very popular means of communicating with customers for online stores. Often, though, they do now expect replies in as timely a fashion as on other more immediate platforms. 

You must, then, keep tight control of your inboxes. Don’t, though, forego personalization in search of speed. Customers don’t want requests or inquiries answered by an unmistakable template message. Even if what they’ve asked is one of the most common questions you receive.   

3. Live chat.

Live chat is an increasingly important support channel for online retailers. Consumers prize real-time support. Being able to deliver it can help you retain potential customers who might otherwise abandon your site. 

Natori example

Not all companies can have chat agents available 24/7. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include a live chat option on your site. Take a look at the above example from the clothing brand, Natori

When customer service representatives are online, live chat is possible. Otherwise, customers can ‘leave a message’ that gets a response when an agent is available.      

4. Telephone support.

Simply as there are now more support channel options, you can’t neglect phone support. Many consumers still prefer phone calls to get answers to their questions. 

Make sure you display a phone number on your website. To better integrate phone support, too, you could look into CTI software. This can help phone calls and the info they contain to add to your CRM and other systems.   

5. Blog content.

You may think that an ecommerce blog is all about customer acquisition. You can, of course, use it as a channel to aid content and video marketing. It’s also an invaluable tool to assist self-service customer support, though. 

larq blog

You’ll want to keep your blog topped up with useful content for existing and potential customers. The type of articles featured on the Larq blog – shown above – are a prime example. Try to focus on common questions about your products. And pain points they can ease for your target audience. You can also use knowledge bases to share similar content.  

7 Tips for Building Your Ecommerce Customer Service 

We’ve covered what ecommerce customer service comprises. You’ve got an idea, too, of the channels you need to use. How, though, do you create the customer experiences that give you a genuine competitive advantage? The following are seven impactful yet straightforward tips.  

1. Have a robust omnichannel strategy.

We’ve talked about meeting customers where they are. That’s the basis of multichannel customer support. It’s crucial as 73% of consumers hop between channels during a shopping journey. Today, though, you need to take things further. You must embrace an omnichannel strategy. 

Omnichannel support is about creating a seamless customer experience. No matter how or when a customer contacts you, your service must be consistent (and excellent). Your communications channels, thus, must get integrated and unified.

That means combining your VoIP phone, email accounts, helpdesk software, and more in one frictionless system. A customer reaching out in any manner, therefore, gets recognized immediately. They don’t have to reiterate previous interactions even if they occurred by email, and they’ve now called. That eases a common source of consumer frustration.  

2. Build out a great customer service team.

We’ve talked a lot about tech and how it impacts ecommerce customer service. At the end of the day, though, the best support is still about building customer relationships. For that, you need a high-quality customer service team.

Hiring the correct people is obviously important. Beyond that, though, there are three principal aspects on which to focus:

  • Training & upskilling – Make sure each member of staff grasps what you expect and how to deliver it. Courses and seminars can help train your team in customer service best practices. You may also wish to run product-specific training. That way, your agents will know your lines inside out. 
  • Systems & processes – The framework in which your team works is also crucial. It’s your responsibility to implement processes conducive to excellent customer service. 
  • Tools – A bad worker may blame their tools, but it’s harder to do your job well when improperly equipped. Give your staff the best customer service tools, and you’ll reap the benefits. We’ll suggest some examples a little later. 

3. Be consistent. 

Offer a great customer experience, and the recipient will likely return to you in the future. Fail to match the level of customer support next time, though, and you may lose them forever.

Each customer interaction must sustain the highest standard. That means at all times and across all channels. Consistency is a customer service strategy that’s easy to understand. It remains, though, tricky to achieve. 

4. Act on customer feedback.

Often brands fail to deliver great customer service because they don’t know what it looks like. They don’t grasp what it is that their target audience expects and domains. The best way to remedy this is by asking. 

Customer feedback is invaluable for any ecommerce business. Your customers have a unique perspective on your products and service. They can flag up any issues you may have or show you where you’re doing well. 

Asking for feedback is the first step to improve customer support and satisfaction. Acting upon it is the second and more vital one. When customers tell you about problems they’ve encountered, solve them. Then show both those who reported them and others that you’ve done so.   

5. Improve your response time.

The modern world is an increasingly instant one. In general, people don’t have the patience they once possessed. That’s certainly true when it comes to customer service. Across channels, consumers demand shorter response times than ever before. 

Consumers are most demanding when it comes to social media or live chat support. Long waits for phone support or email replies, though, also won’t fly. To deliver superior support, you must improve your response time across the board. 

6. Provide assistance every step of the way.

Right at the outset, we described ecommerce customer service. We explained it meant supporting someone throughout their customer journey. What that means is providing assistance every step of the way. It’s no good only to excel when someone reaches out post-purchase. 

As soon as a potential customer visits your site, you must be equipped to help them. That may be via a chatbot offering to show them to a desired product. It could be through live chat to talk them through any objections they may have.

Your shopping cart and checkout must then be intuitive and straightforward. After purchase, too, send a confirmation email. Finally, be ready with that post-purchase support and help with deliveries or fulfillment. That’s the way to extend the customer life cycle via top-class customer service.   

7. Make shipping and return policies clear.

Speaking of deliveries, your shipping and return policies are also critical. Above all else, transparency is the key here. Most customers will accept that moving goods takes time and costs money. 

What they won’t accept is feeling like they’ve been misled about how long they must wait or what they have to pay. Your policies must be apparent and clearly display:

  • Order processing time.
  • Delivery times for different shipping options.
  • Cost of those delivery alternatives. 
  • Approach to shipping at weekends. 
  • Taxes, duties, or other additional charges. 
  • Policy towards particular or unusual addresses (I.e., PO boxes or armed forces deliveries.

The below is a terrific example of best practice from the culinary brand, Di Bruno Bros:

di bruno example

Best Customer Service Tools to Use for Ecommerce 

Hopefully, you’ve now grasped the importance of ecommerce customer service. You should also have plenty of ideas about where you can improve. That might be by strengthening your omnichannel strategy. It could mean improving response times with live chat. Whatever avenue you choose, the following are some tools that could help you on your way.  

1. RingCentral.

RingCentral provides a unified communications platform. It’s an excellent choice for brands looking to boost omnichannel support. The firm’s solution brings together many channels. They include phone, the best video conferencing for small business, instant messaging, and more. All using one interface. 

What’s more, the company’s apps and tools also boast plenty of third-party integrations. That means they can work seamlessly alongside other solutions. That includes many order management or CRM systems, among others. 

All your customer data and insight, then, becomes easily accessible across your company. That’s a key component in delivering seamless customer experiences. The type that modern consumers demand.  

2. Tidio.

Tidio is a provider of live chat solutions. The firm’s live chat alternatives are easily integrated onto an ecommerce website. What’s more, they’re also supported and augmented by chatbot technology.

That means a Tidio live chat solution can help you improve response times. When you have customer service representatives online, they can interact directly with visitors. At other times, the AI-driven bot can answer common questions. Or it can point users to your knowledge base. 

3. LiveChat.

LiveChat offers specialized online customer service software. It encompasses online chat, web analytics, and help desk capabilities. As such, it can help you reach new levels of ecommerce customer service.

The online chat solution can link up with hundreds of other apps. They include IM channels used by your customers and the CRM or order management software you use. LiveChat, then, can also help augment your omnichannel customer service strategy. 

Executive Summary 

In online retail, you never meet your customers face-to-face. That’s obvious, but it is something we often forget about. It’s worth reminding ourselves, though. The fact dictates that ecommerce customer service is a discipline all of its own. 

To achieve excellent ecommerce customer service, you must meet your customers where they are. Then, you need to replicate good old-fashioned personal support. Make every customer feel like they’re more important to you than anyone else. Manage that, and you’re halfway there. Hopefully, the tips and tools above have given you some inspiration to get started.   

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John Allen

John Allen

Director, Global SEO at RingCentral

John Allen, Director, Global SEO at RingCentral, a global UCaaS, VoIP and video conferencing solutions provider. He has over 14 years of experience and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs. He has written for websites such as Hubspot and Toolbox.

View all posts by John Allen
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