10 Proven Customer Service Tactics for eCommerce Retailers
With so much competition online in the eCommerce space, to succeed you have to be on your game.
This means that all the working parts of your eCommerce solution need to be operating as a well-oiled machine if you’re going to provide a positive customer experience.
To do so, you’re going to want to make sure you’re using proven customer service tactics specifically designed for eCommerce.
In this article we’ll review a number of tactics which started in bricks-and-mortar retailing, others which have come about via the advent of online technologies, and some which are just good business practices all with the aim of ensuring you deliver a positive customer experience each and every time you receive a visitor to your site or app.
1. Start by reviewing your current strategy and performance
The first tactic eCommerce retailers need to implement when looking to improve their customer service is to start by reviewing their current service levels. If you’re starting your first eCommerce site this process will still be extremely useful to get you thinking about your strategy, so we encourage you to read this part regardless.
To review your current customer service levels, begin by listing the following:
- Any pain points your staff and customers have mentioned which relate to your eCommerce service.
- Assess each pain point and rank it from 1 to 10 in terms of how serious the issue is. Items which have caused a loss of income should rank highly.
- When assessing each pain point evaluate whether there’s been any negative mentions of your business on social media. You can locate these with tools such as Hootsuite.
- If you find any ‘social backlash’ list these pain points and the contact for outreach at a later date if appropriate.
In addition to the pain points, take note of what’s working for your eCommerce business. For example, if your response times are quick, you’re receiving positive social mentions or have feedback you could use as customer testimonials, store these for marketing purposes later.
On the other hand, if your list is confronting because you’ve been retailing online for awhile and have ignored negative customer feedback, listen to what your audience is saying so you can use this information to get the train moving in the right direction.
Now let’s sort out your pain points
Your list of pain points will remain just that unless you begin to identify some tactics and solutions to resolve these. Let’s begin by listing some options you have at your disposal to begin to transform your customer service levels.
2. Fix the technical issues you have first
During the analysis of your current customer service performance you will no doubt have found some broken or poorly performing technical elements on your site. These are the items you want to fix first before you increase the complexity of your site.
Start by contacting your web development agency or internal IT team for costings and timeframes for delivery of each item. When doing so check that the impact of these adjustments will not affect any existing business processes or personnel. When making technical changes on your site make sure you back this up with a suitable communications strategy. This will save you a lot of headaches internally and also give you the opportunity to reach out to customers via an EDM or on social media (especially to those who complained about a feature) and promote your commitment to fixing customer service issues.
3. Ensure you have to have a customer support portal
Whether you build your own or use proprietary services such as ZenDesk or FreshDesk, a customer support portal will help you keep track of all your requests over time.
This a great way to evaluate common customer complaints both progressively and over time when you return to your service to look for patterns. Not only this but you’ll be able to provide your customers with the reassurance that their request is being managed and has been received. It’s also a great tool to evaluate staff responses and use custom-built feedback triggers which can enhance your customer’s experience on your site or app.
4. Start using a ‘contextual’ customer feedback widget
If you don’t know much about contextual customer feedback widgets, they’re a fantastic tool you can use to provide your users with the ability to let you know what they like, dislike or think could be improved across your site.
The best part about these widgets is that they can be configured to popup, slide out or appear on timed or action-based intervals on your site and can be setup to ask highly specific questions related to the page your visitors are using.
If you haven’t tried a service such as Feedback Lite we recommend giving it a go. These services are extremely affordable and can help highlight critical usability errors on your site which could be costing you a great deal.
5. Experiment with a premium shopper service
If you’re running an eCommerce store and are looking for new tactics to improve your customer service, Amazon.com is one of the best places to start.
The array of services Amazon sell online is near infinite, yet one interesting option which may be of use to you is a premium shopper service. Amazon calls theirs Amazon Prime, giving you access to a premium service from Amazon when you make a purchase. This includes faster shipping, early access to products as well as access to deals the general public can’t see. Yes, you do have to pay a monthly fee, but for Amazon this has grown to become a very healthy revenue stream and is an option you may consider using to trial new customer service tactics and increase your monthly revenue with a recurring income stream.
6. Map your eCommerce workflow and support service
If you’re running an eCommerce store it’s important to understand where your customers are getting caught in your eCommerce workflow and how to provide them with the best possible support when they do.
For example, if you run an online store that includes the following site structure, you could implement a live chat assistant that you can use to get your customers out of trouble no matter where they are in their online journey:
- Product Category
- Product Page (i.e. User runs into trouble, clicks on LiveChat)
- Shopping Cart
Services such as LiveChat are great for providing real-time customer support to eCommerce users but are only useful if you have staff online to assist. One way to handle this is by outsourcing virtual assistants in other time zones to handle your out-of-office hours so you can provide a 24/7 service. The key here is to ensure you provide quality training to your staff to ensure they can assist your customers.
7. Multiple language sites convert and offer the ultimate in "customer-centric service"
For some reason it’s not popular to offer multiple languages on eCommerce sites. Maybe because it’s perceived to be difficult or the effort is too great for the reward. Regardless, in instances where your traffic is heavily split between English and a second language this could not be further from the truth.
Research shows that sites which offer a truly personalised, language-specific service to their customers see strong repeat visitation figures and enjoy high sales and growth figures. Depending upon the CMS you use and/or language translation packs you have installed on your server this may actually be something worth considering, so don’t discount this customer service tactic without proper investigation.
Now it’s time to create a customer service strategy
Now that you’ve got some handy ideas you can implement to solve your customer service issues and enhance your existing offering, it’s time to start building a customer service strategy. This document is what you’ll use to roadmap your improvements. From fixing your existing issues to adding new ways of supporting your customers to putting in place deadlines for delivery, you’ll lay out the next 12 months of your eCommerce revolution in your customer service strategy.
8. Creating your action list and schedule
Let’s start your customer service strategy by creating an action list of items to undertake over the next 12 months. This should include:
- Creating a list of solutions which will bring positive change (even generate brand advocates) to your business in the area of customer service. This list should include solutions to the above list of pain points in order of urgency.
- Evaluate the cost of each solution. This should include any alternatives and the expected ROI of each solution. Don’t forget ongoing management of these solutions as these are not ‘set and forget’ type solutions.
- Evaluate your man-power. It would be great to implement every solution on your list but the reality is you may have to scale your strategy over time. To do so rank the solutions you have based on cost, man-power and your expertise. This will help you prioritise your first steps.
Once you have a list of solutions you think could help transform your business and you know you can support, its time to draw up an implementation plan. This may look like:
- Month 1 to 3: Fix the technical elements on your site which inhibit a positive customer experience.
- Month 4: Roll out a customer support portal which is tied to a support@ email address and train your staff to record phone and personal emails in this system.
- Month 5: Implement a customer feedback widget on your website.
- Month 6: Offer a premium shopper service service at a cost.
- Month 7: Undertake a half-year customer survey via EDM to assess your progress.
- Month 8: Implement any relevant suggestions which came from your half year EDM.
- Month 9: Implement a social media monitoring strategy to manage both positive and negative mentions of your brand online.
- Month 10 to 11: Consider offering your site in multiple languages if your demographic supports it.
- Month 12: Undertake a usability review on your site.
Your implementation plan is just that, a plan. You should run it by numerous levels of your business to ensure everyone agrees with what you’re trying to achieve and is on board. Although your intentions are good, not everyone in your organisation may see this, so it’s important you spend time communicating how your support strategy will affect them and most importantly make their lives easier. This should be backed up with your documented strategy so they can see the timeline you’re intending on rolling out these changes.
9. Get buy in from your stakeholders and begin the rollout
With any business endeavour it’s important to ensure that you have appropriate backing from those around you. In the case of a customer support strategy this includes internal stakeholders, technical partners, internal developers and those that are required to approve financial delegation of funds to support your timeline.
By spending time ensuring your pathway forward is clear, your support service will be much more successful. This is an often overlooked piece of the puzzle that can derail a customer support strategy, leaving you only a few steps in and achieving just a small percentage of what you set out to.
As you move forward during the months of your strategy and get some runs on the board, stakeholder buy-in will become easier, however expect at first there may be some friction as you try to change what has been done before.
10. Review on a fortnightly basis but act as soon as possible
A good customer service strategy is always under constant development. We recommend reviewing your overall performance every two weeks and looking at the issues which arose, how you handled them and the time it took to resolve them. If there are areas you can improve, look to rating their urgency and fixing them as part of your ongoing service.
If customer service issues do arise, make sure you act quickly and assure your customers that you're fixing their issue. There’s nothing worse than waiting a week to having a minor issue acknowledged. Although you’ve laid out an annual roadmap this may change slightly based on your regular reviews. If something major comes up, look to prioritise this, don’t just wait until next year and you’ll do fine.