5 core ingredients of exceptional eCommerce customer service
It’s no secret that poor customer service can tank sales. This is true whether you're running an established business or just learning how to start an online store.
But understanding what contributes to good (or bad) customer experience is sometimes less obvious.
The top culprits of a poor eCommerce customer experience include lack of free shipping, a high number of out-of-stock items, and slower deliveries, according to a survey by Bizrate Insights and Digital Commerce 360. There’s also the matter of slow-loading pages, complex checkout processes, and poor access to onsite customer support.
So, how do you go about auditing the quality of your own customer service? How do you ensure that your customer support translates to happy customers and boosted sales? Let’s dive in.
5 aspects of eCommerce customer serv
Great eCommerce customer service is a blend of the right content, technology, and people at the helm. Ultimately, a strong strategy takes into consideration the following factors and responsibilities.
01. Answering product and brand questions
As a general rule of thumb, you’ll need to provide as much information as possible about your policies, products, and ordering process. Make sure this information is available throughout your product pages, dedicated FAQ pages, and any other informational pages across your site.
You’ll additionally want to give customers multiple options to reach out to you. Respondents in the aforementioned Bizrate survey noted that email, live (human) chat, phone calls, and text were top drivers of conversion when it came to customer service interactions.
As an example, clothing label Ashco makes it easy for customers to reach out by providing dedicated email addresses for different issues including returns, local pickup inquiries, and wholesale requests.
02. Resolving order issues
Order fulfillment issues like backorders, delayed delivery, and wrong items happen. You can't prevent them—however, you can create a game plan for quickly validating and addressing problems, and turning negative experiences into positive ones.
One way to achieve the latter is by sufficiently compensating customers that experience order-related issues. For example, you could provide free (and easy) returns, free replacements, refunds, and/or store credit in exchange for faulty or late items. The key here is to make the process simple, and to let customers know that they have options.
Meanwhile, you’ll need to consider the inventory systems and any precautionary steps that can help you reduce recurring issues like overselling or miscalculating delivery times. Order issues aren’t entirely preventable, but they can be minimized.
03. Monitoring all customer channels
Eighty-two percent of global shoppers use more than one digital touchpoint when making a purchase. These touchpoints typically include marketplaces like Amazon, social platforms, and branded websites.
With this in mind, you’ll need to build a customer support strategy that supports an omnichannel retail approach. You’ll need to account for customer complaints, orders, and questions that crop up across channels—and will benefit from having a central command where you can monitor all these interactions from one place.
Did you know: Wix’s multichannel campaign tools include the ability to list, advertise, and track your products across a variety of channels.
No matter your approach, it's important to be consistent when offering support, regardless of where a sale comes from. Customers will expect the same great experience no matter how they reach out.
04. Collecting customer feedback
It’s always a good idea to proactively reach out to customers by asking for—and responding to—feedback. Otherwise, customers may silently churn without giving you any insight into what went wrong. And others may beat you to the punch and leave a public, less-than-desirable review.
Get ahead by asking shoppers for their feedback after receiving an order. Offer incentives, like discounts or coupons, to motivate customers to complete surveys about their experience with your business. Let customers know that you want to hear from them; don’t simply ask for positive reviews, but rather ask for honest, constructive feedback.
While there’s plenty of data providing that customer reviews and star ratings directly contribute to sales, asking for reviews has another benefit that goes beyond increasing conversions. It allows you to assess what's not working for your customers so you can improve your support approach and work on delivering a better customer experience.
05. Maintaining a conversation
Conversational commerce is a customer service approach that involves interacting with customers in real time via direct, one-to-one exchanges. Popular formats include live chat, social messaging (via apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp), and AI-powered chatbots.
The purpose of conversational commerce is to offer advice as shoppers are actively buying or considering their options on your online store. This mimics real-world customer service interactions whereby you can resolve issues in the moment. A thoughtful conversational commerce approach can reduce cart abandonment rate, while providing an opportunity to upsell and cross-sell relevant items.
Online vintage and antique clothing store I Can Tell By The Moon uses a chatbot (powered by Wix Chat) to invite conversation with visitors as they browse the store. Through an integration with Wisernotify, the team further creates a friendly atmosphere by greeting visitors with an unobtrusive, slide-in message saying, “Hey, welcome to the shop! So happy you're here!”
Types of eCommerce customer support channels
A comprehensive eCommerce customer support approach uses multiple channels to expand its coverage and serve customers in the most convenient way possible. Top channels include:
Phone - This may seem old-school, but phone support remains a favorite channel for many, with 76% of consumers preferring it over digital means.
Live chat - Let shoppers reach out to a live agent from your website or app.
Chatbots - Quickly address commonly asked questions, or direct more complex issues to a human agent, with the help of AI.
Social media - Provide support on social channels by receiving direct messages, responding to posts tagging your brand, and monitoring for brand-related questions.
Email - Engage customers via email to establish an easily traceable line of communication. Set up an autoresponder to give your brand time to respond to customer inquiries, while informing customers about what to expect (e.g., “we'll get back to you within 24 hours”).
SMS - Use texts to provide support, send order reminders, and broadcast sales or promotions. (Though be careful not to overdo it.)
Related reading: SMS marketing is killing our souls
Self-service options - Publish help articles, FAQs, videos, and tutorials that empower customers to resolve issues on their own. As another idea: nurture a community that helps each other out.
Videos - Create videos that demonstrate how to use your products or keep them in mint condition (as ideas). Product videos give shoppers a tangible sense of your business and your products, particularly if you don't have a physical storefront.
Tips for delivering great eCommerce customer service
When it comes to providing great support, good intentions aren't enough. Here are some tips that can help you deliver on the customer support goals you set.
Listen and empathize
Pay attention to what customers are saying and try to understand their needs. A little empathy goes a long way here. Rather than simply providing a solution, put yourself in the customer's shoes when dealing with issues and stressful situations. Express that you care, ensuring that customers feel that they're being seen and heard throughout the interaction.
The average company response time to email is 12 hours. Meanwhile, 46% of customers expect companies to respond in under four hours, according to a survey by SuperOffice. Needless to say, you can differentiate your brand by providing faster-than-average response time. This is where live chat, chatbots, and SMS support can level up your support game by offering real-time solutions.
Be professional and consistent
With every support ticket, get context before giving advice. This allows you to accurately and fully address a customer's issue or question. Make sure to also be clear as possible when responding to customer questions. Preparing a knowledge base addressing common concerns—complete with links to helpful resources like videos and FAQs—can help you manage your time as well, while equipping customer-facing employees with consistent information.
Follow up with customers to make sure that their issue or problem was resolved to their satisfaction. Ask them if they have any further questions and thank them for their business. A customer support experience that's friendly, productive, and helpful can turn a one-time buyer into a loyal customer.
You're never done building your eCommerce website. There's always room to optimize the buying experience. To this end, audit your site experience by recreating a customer’s everyday shopping experience or asking friends and relatives to do the same. Keep your eyes peeled for any roadblocks within your product pages, checkout process, or delivery experience—seeking to address any inefficiencies before they become major hurdles.
Set clear goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) when creating an eCommerce customer support strategy. Measuring things like customer retention rate, sales, and positive review count can help you see the fruits of your labor. Not to mention that you can use Wix Analytics to track website activity and shopping metrics, like shopping cart activity and purchases, over time.
Good service equals happy customers
Ecommerce customer service is part art, part science. As an online store owner, you have many channels and tools at your disposal. But while it’s crucial to build good systems and processes for managing customers requests, don’t forget one essential truth: a key ingredient to good service is real human connection.
Allison is the editor-in-chief at Wix, with several years of experience reporting on eCommerce news, strategies, and founder stories.