E-commerce customer service “best practices” are the bare minimum. To really level up your store’s customer experience, you’ll need to go above and beyond the basics. Prioritize customer service in a way no other company has in order to really exceed customer expectations.
Truthfully, customer expectations are a moving target. Over half of consumers globally say they have higher customer service expectations today than one year ago. Every day those expectations compound upon each other, leveling expectations up even higher.
Pair this alongside 67% of Americans saying customer service is very important to their loyalty to a brand. It’s a constantly moving target that must be hit in order to thrive in a crowded marketplace.
Whatsmore, the latest trend report on DTC brands reveals e-commerce retailers are on track to outgrow in-store outlets by 10x at a compounded growth rate of 14.09%. With more competitors in the space, online presence must function as both a brand strategy and as a customer support channel.
E-commerce stores’ ability to create a powerhouse customer service experience is crucial to their success. We’ll take a closer look at e-commerce support and offer fifteen ways to provide awesome customer service at your business.
What is e-commerce customer service?
E-commerce customer service specifies the type of customer service pertaining to e-commerce stores and customers. It covers all the channels used for customer communication including social media, email, live chat, and phone. E-commerce customer service agents are responsible for handling refund requests, shipping inquiries, and answering product questions.
Beyond the basic definition, e-commerce customer service spans brand and marketing initiatives as well. Especially for small businesses who use customer experience as their edge on the competition, customer service representatives must reiterate the brand positioning. They must exude the same voice and style as the marketing team.
There’s a creativity to e-commerce customer service that may be lacking in other industries. Growth-minded e-commerce companies can capitalize on this aspect and create unique experiences that keep customers loyal.
15 ways to provide the best e-commerce customer service
You can leverage customer service as the edge your company needs to succeed in a crowded marketplace—if you do it right. The bare minimum won’t cut it in e-commerce. Don’t hesitate to use all the new technologies and innovations in the industry to focus on eliminating waste and heightening creativity.
Let’s explore fifteen ways to offer outstanding customer service in e-commerce. Each of these tips will help you create unique experiences that your customers will love, while keeping efficiency and productivity in mind for your growing team.
1. Pick a customer support platform you love
You’ll be spending a lot of time within your customer support platform, so make sure you love it. It will be your home base for all customer interactions. Email, phone, social media, live chat, even help center articles will all be housed in this sacred software.
Look for a platform that’s easy to use, connects with your e-commerce store, and allows you to keep your brand front and center. Feature-wise, you’ll want a shared inbox with automations, integrations, and reports tailored specifically for e-commerce.
Keep in mind omni-channel capabilities as well. An inbox isn’t just for emails. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram messages should all come into this platform. Streamline multiple channels into one full-service help desk for your team to respond.
Other features to check off in a help desk:
- Folders: Assign inquiries to certain agents or teams
- Filters: Set priority and urgency of requests
- Channels: Clarify which channel the customer used
- Time-based alerts: Reminders and notifications to stay on top of issues
- Customization: Solidify your brand with each interaction
2. Write awesome knowledge base articles
91% of customers would use an online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs. In essence, if you build it, they will come. Although, the opposite is also true—if you don’t build it, they won’t come.
In reality, this means if you don’t have a great knowledge base but your competitor does…guess who your customers will prefer?
Many e-commerce brands are fueled by creative marketing strategies. Use your knowledge base as another branding opportunity. Create fun and insightful articles. Use videos or gifs to liven up articles. Keep a consistent tone throughout your help center that’s in line with your marketing.
Give customers clear and concise answers to their questions, while also sparking joy about your company and mission.
3. Get comfortable with live chat
According to SuperOffice, live chat has become the leading digital contact method for online customers, as a staggering 46% of customers prefer live chat compared to just 29% for email, and 16% for social media.
Years ago, live chat was a luxury. Now, it’s a necessity. Especially for e-commerce.
For growing merchants, live chat can seem overwhelming. But there are ways to manage it even as a small business.
Use your shared inbox and knowledge base to build robust documentation and protocols for known customer issues. This enables you to provide fast and accurate live chat responses.
Start small with live chat, as it can get overwhelming. Turn on live chat for only a few hours a day. Note what kind of inquiries you receive. Pay attention to customer expectations. Then, slowly start to scale with this knowledge.
You can hire more reps to cover busy hours and train them on exactly what customers expect from live chat. Some e-commerce stores use live chat as a sales channel. Others find it useful for quick shipping updates or refund inquiries. Figure out what your customers need from live chat and build a system around them.
4. Automate as much as possible
More than 80% of customer chat sessions can be resolved by a chatbot. Don’t be scared by this data point. By using bots to take over robotic and menial tasks, agents can focus on heightening brand voice and adding personal touches—a crucial part of e-commerce customer satisfaction.
Customer service platforms offer simple automations like canned replies to help you insert vetted responses into emails with the click of a button. Saving time on typing out a new email to every new inquiry is a huge deal.
New platforms innovate automations even more, using smart AI to suggest replies or workflows. The beauty of all this innovation is that it comes in service to the customer.
Customer service automations aren’t meant to replace the personal and human element of support. Rather, they’re meant to enhance it.
5. Respond with lightning-fast speed
Speed of response (89%) and speed of resolution (89%) are seen as the most important aspects of the customer service experience. Speed is the surest way to delight customers.
Quick responses require a mix of tested protocols and efficient systems. Lean on your help desk to store documentation and automate processes.
Let AI (artificial intelligence) help you whenever possible. The faster you can respond to one customer, the quicker you can start helping the next. Use the suggestions from your inbox to help scale your support, even with a small team.
6. Eliminate extra steps for your team
Remove the need to open up new tabs or software to view customer details. Every second counts in customer service. Use your customer support platform to show customer information right where you need it.
Connect your inbox to your e-commerce platform and use one-click integrations to refund customers or edit shipping details without ever leaving your inbox. When your tools work together, you can save time and eliminate weighty back and forth.
7. Measure and track important customer support metrics
The most important customer service metrics revolve around customer satisfaction, ticket volume, and resolution time. Your help desk should track all these data points automatically.
The best way to know if you’re improving these metrics is to compare them against yourself. Try to get better each month. Hold brainstorming sessions to gather ideas to improve these metrics.
Generally, you want CSAT (customer satisfaction) to rise, ticket volume to lower, and resolution time to decrease. If you notice anything going in the wrong direction, then it’s a sign to hire more agents or re-evaluate your workflows. Adding a more robust knowledge base or increasing the use of automations can also help move these numbers in the right direction.
8. Offer omni-channel customer service
Customers expect you to be everywhere. In fact, Acquire.io points to a study where companies with the strongest multichannel customer engagement strategies retained an average of 89% of their customers.
Legitimize your business by making sure you have a presence on every channel where your customers may live. Social media platforms have made it easy to message customers and even sell products directly through their platforms. Take advantage of all these channels.
Use your support platform to funnel all these various channels into one central hub. Your shared inbox ensures that every message looks and acts the same—regardless of the initial channel. Your agents can respond to one inquiry after another without worrying about switching platforms or losing context.
9. Integrate your e-commerce platform
Your business runs on e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, or WooCommerce. Your customer service should incorporate these platforms too.
Make sure your reps can effortlessly access customer and product data from your store. They’ll be able to respond quicker and more accurately to customer requests. Ideally, you can connect your shared inbox to your e-commerce platform so they never even have to open a new window.
Give your customer service representatives as much access to your e-commerce platform as possible. Build trust and encourage them to take ownership of customer issues. Give them access to offer discounts or refunds as needed to reduce back and forth and make customers happier.
10. Add personal touches
The upper edge for small businesses and e-commerce brands is their personality. Encourage your customer reps to show off their own personality in exchanges. Host trainings to help everyone understand the company voice. Invite the marketing team to weigh in on customer service messaging.
Use your brand colors and logo throughout your customer service offerings for consistency. These seemingly small accents go a long way in helping both your customers and your team members feel a part of something larger.
11. Create proactive campaigns
77% of consumers have a more favorable view of those brands that reach out proactively with customer service alerts and notifications. It’s an opportunity that can’t be missed.
Create a process to notify customers when a product ships or gets delayed. Let them know when your site will be down for maintenance or if certain items will take longer to ship. Turn typically poor customer experiences into great ones by being proactive.
Automations help carry this load, so the task becomes low effort and high reward. Sync up your e-commerce platforms with your customer communications platform to automatically send an email or alert in the case of certain events.
12. Involve customers in product ideation
Customer feedback must be at the core of your customer experience strategy. 62% of Americans believe most brands take action on customer feedback. Customers expect to see changes on your end based on their interactions with your team.
Leverage the everyday interactions of the customer service queue to ask customers for feedback in a casual way. Dig into your metrics to see what customers email about the most and try to understand why.
When customers feel involved in your business, you’ll see higher loyalty and better returns. It’s a great way for small businesses to engage with customers in a mutually beneficial way. Task your support team with creating and seizing opportunities to ask for feedback every day.
13. Collaborate with other departments
Prioritize collaboration among different teams to ensure seamless communication and customer experiences. Your customer service team should have the ear of your product team. Your marketing team should constantly be asking for updates from the support team.
This holistic approach enables you to move quicker, resolve issues, and build better products. Look for ways that customer support can assist product managers in getting feedback or brainstorming ideas. Tap into customers’ buying habits to help your marketing or sales team create better assets.
14. Staff up during the busy season
E-commerce has its busy seasons. Don’t get blindsided by it. If you’re planning to run ads or ramp up production for certain holidays, you’ll also want to staff up your support team.
Create training and onboarding docs that are easily accessible from your customer support platform. This enables new team members to reference documentation without wasting much time. Creating a knowledge base specifically for internal use is a great idea to help agents stay in line with your procedures.
15. Stay creative
Remember why you started your business and remind your employees of it often. Keep creativity flowing by empowering your team to stay creative and try new things.
Try sending a funny gif in an email if the customer seems open to it. Add some color to the signature in your email. Commiserate with a customer having a bad day.
Stay present and open to new experiences to keep the creative juices flowing. Your customers and your company will benefit from it.
Tips for building an e-commerce customer service team
Building a powerhouse e-commerce customer service is the surest way to get loyal and happy customers. You’ll need people you trust to represent your brand, along with a team who knows your product in and out.
Like hiring any employees, it’s no simple task to find great reps. There are some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way to find motivated and engaged agents that will help build your e-commerce business for years to come.
Benefits of a remote customer service team
Like many remote workers, I advocate hard on behalf of it. For customer service in particular, there are so many clear benefits to a remote team:
- 24/7 coverage with a global team
- Asynchronous workflows and documentation
- Easy to track and evaluate work via your help desk
When you open your team to remote customer service reps, you can choose candidates from around the world. This means you can offer support in every time zone. Not to mention, you can potentially offer support in various languages.
Remote work forces asynchronous work in many ways—which is a good thing for customer support. You don’t want team members simply talking through a customer inquiry. The ability to scale your support relies on physical documentation around your workflows.
Plus, with reports in your help desk, you can easily track metrics to evaluate the team’s work. View performance by agent or team. Track ticket completion and resolution. You can even open up certain tickets and add a note to help guide or train employees entirely remotely.
Top skills for e-commerce customer service reps
Communication skills are crucial for e-commerce customer service. Pay attention to past writing, speaking, or sales experience. These will all come in handy in support.
Soft skills and personality traits like empathy, active listening, and friendliness also come into play. Ask candidates to provide writing samples or create mock answers to customer questions to help uncover some of these traits.
Example job description for e-commerce customer service
For hiring managers seeking customer service reps for an e-commerce company, put together a summary of your company first. Ideally, you want candidates who are familiar with your products or interested in your industry.
Then, list out the traits you’re seeking in a representative. Blend both soft and hard skills. You can mention day-to-day tasks and ask for experience using certain software.
Ask candidates to submit their resumes using a specific subject line to make sure they know how to follow directions (a top skill for support reps!). Include some open-ended questions to get a sense of their writing skills as well.
Example resume for e-commerce customer service
For job seekers, put together a resume that will stand out to e-commerce customer service teams. Include a cover letter explaining why you love the brand or feel passionate about its mission.
List skills and experience working in retail, using e-commerce platforms, or communications. Add any technical skills you’ve acquired—e-commerce customer service involves a lot of time in front of the computer. Make sure your resume makes it clear you are computer literate.
Using Groove for e-commerce customer service
Groove is the perfect option for e-commerce companies who are obsessed with customer experience, but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a clunky support platform. Not to mention—Groove is extremely easy to use and easy to learn for customer service agents of all levels of experience.
We believe that great customer service tools shouldn’t be reserved for the mega-brands that can afford them. We believe that every e-commerce business should be empowered to deliver fast, exceptional service, even if they’re not billion-dollar businesses…yet.