5 Steps to Excellent Ecommerce Customer Service

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June 17, 2022
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 min read
Jon Sidor

Online shopping has exploded in popularity in recent years. It’s gotten faster, easier, and more satisfying. Most customers no longer see the tech around it as complicated or risky.

On top of that, the COVID-19 pandemic drove millions of customers to do their shopping over the Internet.

Whatever the reason, one trend is becoming crystal clear—ecommerce retail is booming.

In 2021, global ecommerce sales reached $4.9T. By 2025, they’re projected to hit $7.5T.

To succeed in ecommerce, brands can’t rely on brick-and-mortar strategies. 

You can’t set up shop in a prime location and expect customers to come to you. Greeting customers with a friendly Hello! is tricky too. 

And great products alone won’t cut it. 

In an increasingly competitive space, the only way to delight customers and get them coming back to your online store is through exceptional ecommerce customer service. 

What is ecommerce customer service?

Ecommerce customer service is how online brands help customers handle any issues that come up while shopping, such as questions about payments, refunds, delivery, and so on.

Why is it so important?

Customers are demanding it—90% expect the websites they’re visiting to have built-in customer service.

Moreover, customers don’t buy a product online just because of price or quality. Your website’s entire customer experience impacts whether or not a purchase is made.

According to PwC, 73% of people see the customer service experience as a major factor in their final buying decisions. 

Poor online customer service, though, can severely harm a brand. 

Data indicates that 80% of customers switch brands because of low-grade customer service interactions. A further 78% cancel planned purchases due to this same problem.

And as customer service continues to evolve, brands themselves now view it as a revenue-generating channel. For forward-thinking brands, there’s no longer any defined boundary separating service from sales.

That’s why delivering great customer service is essential to succeeding online.  

Here are 5 steps your brand can take to optimize its ecommerce customer service. 

Five Ecommerce Customer Service Best Practices

1. Measure your customer service metrics

The top-performing customer service teams don’t get great results from intuition alone—they rely on accurate, real-time data.

Customer service metrics are measurements that depict how well a company is meeting its customers’ needs. These metrics answer questions like: 

  • How long does it take to respond to customers?
  • Are customers getting their issues resolved?
  • How satisfied are customers after interacting with a brand?

Tracking these metrics has been shown to increase support team productivity and customer satisfaction.

Some measurements that are vital to improving your customer service team’s performance are:

1. First Contact Resolution (FCR) 

FCR shows the percentage of customer requests that are resolved immediately after a customer’s first interaction with a brand. FCR increases as more customers get their issues handled after asking a single question. Higher FCR rates are closely linked to higher customer satisfaction

2. First Response Time (FRT)

FRT is the time it takes a customer service agent to send a customer their initial reply. Online shoppers are demanding faster FRTs across all customer service channels, as shown in the table below.

3. Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

CSAT shows how pleased shoppers are with your brand’s customer service. 

After interacting with an agent or chatbot, customers answer survey questions like:

  • How would you rate your experience?
  • How satisfied are you with this response?
  • How satisfied are you with the advisor that you spoke to today?

Customers select their level of satisfaction using a scale

Good CSAT scores start at 75%. This means at least three out of four customers are giving positive feedback to your questions.

4. Repurchase, Up-sell, and Cross-sell Rates

A brand’s repurchase rate highlights the percentage of its customers that have made at least two purchases in a given time period. Essentially, it’s a way to check if your CX is attracting repeat shoppers. 

Similarly, checking how frequently your agents bring in added revenue can boost per customer dollar value. 

Upselling is when agents convince customers to purchase a higher-priced version of a product. Cross-selling involves getting customers to buy a complementary product to one they’ve already selected.   

Support teams with higher rates aren’t just providing great service—they’re actively driving sales.

With these and other metrics, customer service managers can train support agents to refine their strengths and work on any problem areas. Furthermore, teams can expand their knowledge bases to include the information that customers demand most.

2. Organize your tech stack

For a customer support team to run effectively, it has to be well organized.

As organizations grow and customer inquiries pick up, even the most qualified and motivated customer service representatives need to invest in tools to assist them.

The most effective teams already know this. 

According to Salesforce, high-performing teams are 3.2 times more likely than underperformers to have a defined strategy concerning their AI tools. 

In addition, 69% of the top customer support agents actively look for ways to incorporate better help desk software. For underperformers, that figure drops to 39%.

If you want results, you can’t go it alone.

Choosing which tools are right for you, however, can be a challenge.

Simple options like a customizable inbox, live dashboard, and user profiles are effective starting points for providing an efficient customer experience.

For help deciding what types of customer service software are best for your brand, check out Zowie’s Ecosystem Map.

3. Automate and promote self-service

To provide effective customer service, you don’t need an army of support agents waiting to answer customer chats or calls.

Automation is one of the biggest trends in customer service that ecommerce businesses should consider taking advantage of. 

An estimated 95% of all customer service interactions will be automated by 2025.

Why is automated customer service a good thing?

Automating routine tasks, like answering FAQs from customers, lets 77% of agents focus on more complex requests.

Customers will benefit too.

According to 42% of customer service managers, AI-powered automation will bring about the greatest improvement to customer experience in the years to come.

Similarly, artificial intelligence enables ecommerce companies to offer self-service options on their websites.

Data from Statista states 88% of customers expect online self-service.

Customers want it, and it actually works. Only 12% of shoppers are unable to find the information they need using self-service portals.

Chatbots are one of the most effective self-service options. Microsoft found chatbots successfully resolved 79% of customer issues.

Top AI-powered bots come with built-in integrations for ecommerce platforms like Shopify, meaning automation can greatly simplify your ecommerce customer support.

To see how else chatbots can help agents deliver excellent customer service, read our “Do Chatbots Help Agents?” blog post.

4. Deliver omnichannel support

Omnichannel customer service is support given to customers that is seamlessly and consistently delivered across different devices, touchpoints, and communication channels.

Brands with omnichannel service meet customers in all of today’s most popular support channels, like chat, messaging, email, and social media.

Omnichannel service links all parts of a customer support system together. If a customer asks a question on one channel, they can continue the conversation on a different channel at a later time. This saves time and effort since customers don’t need to repeatedly clarify their issues.

For example, a customer emails a company on Monday about an item they ordered online.

On Tuesday, they ask some follow-up questions about pricing over live chat, and the conversation picks up exactly where the email exchange left off. 

The customer sends some final inquiries over social media on Wednesday, and the agent knows exactly who the customer is, what they ordered, and what responses they’ve already been given.

Many ecommerce businesses offer multichannel support, but that isn’t good enough.

Multichannel customer support means having several service channels through which customers can contact you. 

These channels don’t have to be linked to one another, though. That’s where multichannel support falls short of customer expectations.

Why is omnichannel customer service vital to bringing customers exceptional support? 

A majority of companies say “providing a seamless experience across multiple channels” is their top customer experience issue.

And according to HubSpot, 71% of shoppers want a consistent experience across all channels—but only 29% are getting one.

In other words, shoppers want omnichannel support, but brands aren’t meeting customer expectations.

Another reason to focus on omnichannel customer support—it’s becoming the norm.

From 2010 to 2020, the share of companies investing in an omnichannel customer experience jumped from 20% to 80%

Online businesses that implement an omnichannel approach enjoy numerous advantages.

They deliver faster response times and can increase customer retention by 89%. Revenues also rise as omnichannel customers spend 10% more when shopping online.

5. Personalize your customer experience

Personalized customer service means giving shoppers a tailored support experience based on their past interactions with your brand. Support teams track customer information, enabling unique conversations relevant to each individual customer.

A standardized customer interaction over chat typically looks like this:

Elon: I have a question about my order.

Virtual Assistant: Enter your email address and order number.

Elon: elon@musk.com. My order is #43514.

Virtual Assistant: What kind of item did you order?

Elon: Sneakers.

Virtual Assistant: What is your question?

Elon: When will my sneakers arrive?

Virtual Assistant: Please wait for an agent.

The customer eventually gets help, but templates like this are time-consuming and unengaging. The customer feels like just another ticket.

A personalized example looks like the following:

The issue gets resolved faster, and the shopper feels taken care of. The entire customer experience is enhanced.

Tracking data isn’t a bad thing. According to Accenture, 67% of customers are willing to share personal info with brands as long as it adds value, such as improved service.

Straightforward steps to personalize the customer experience include addressing shoppers by name, collecting customer feedback, and rewarding loyal customers.

Why personalize your customer service?

Roughly 70% of customers are willing to pay more for unique experiences.

Product recommendations on Amazon’s site, for example, bring in 35% of the company’s revenue

Personalization also produces a rise in customer loyalty and customer retention.

Grow your ecommerce brand through customer service

Ecommerce customer service is about much more than answering questions. 

Digital brands that offer a remarkable customer experience are the ones that really stand out. They attract more potential customers, build brand loyalty, and generate revenue from customer support. 

In short, customer service is the new marketing. But you need a comprehensive customer service strategy in place to elevate your support.

These tips can assist any brand looking to deliver effective service online across the entire customer journey.