As the holidays approach, it’s a time for joy, appreciation and gifting. But sometimes it’s easy to forget that an increase in online shopping also means increased customer inquiries about order status, returns and exchanges, order cancellations, and other various requests.
And the best way to keep your customers loyal and coming back as repeat customers, is through good customer service. In a survey by HubSpot, 80% of respondents said they’d stop doing business with a company because of a poor customer experience. This means if your customers are dissatisfied with interacting with your sales agents, they can – and will – look towards your competitors for their holiday shopping needs.
While every brand is different, here are 10 tips to make your customer service experience stronger. By following these suggestions, you can keep customers happy and satisfied through this year’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas and Holiday Season.
1. Build a Customer Service Help Center
Nicole Baqai, Manager Strategic Partnerships, Gorgias, told Diff, “What this means for your support team during Covid, is there will be a huge spike in sales! Retailers should be expecting a 2-3x increase in support tickets. So the question is, how will you manage that support?”
With an increased volume of online shopping, retailers should also expect a higher amount of returns. And if you don’t have a support desk in place, you likely won’t be able to keep up with an influx of customer inquiries.
“What comes to mind is hiring more people, but brands don’t necessarily have to hire, but instead lean on technology to help scale their businesses,” explained Nicole.
Gorgias is an ecommerce help desk that aggregates support in one place, including email, chat, Facebook, Instagram and SMS support.
Instead of replying to “Where is my order?” several times, you can have a rule in place in the backend that automatically responds with machine learning and tags the message as a shipment request. Best of all, the technology pulls in variables directly from Shopify like the customer’s name and purchase history to reply with a personalized message, signed off with your company name.
For example, Steve Madden adopted this technology two weeks before releasing Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals. The company can now automate responses to common questions with the technology above. This leaves customer service agents focused on more urgent matters that require human interaction.
2. Set and Share a Holiday Customer Service Schedule
Build a help section on your website. This can be included in your ‘Contact Us’ section. You can include an FAQ page, quick help docs, a call to action (CTA) to contact your team, and links to your company return and exchange policy.
By making it easy for customers to find answers to questions on their own, you can save time by lowering the amount of incoming customer inquiries.
To avoid frustration, clearly state your customer support schedule. Also let shoppers know how they can reach out to you if they need help. This can be via chat, SMS, your social media pages like Facebook or Instagram, or by email and phone. By showing you are accessible, you will put customers at ease knowing that if needed, your team is available to resolve their issues in a timely manner.
You can also share reminders of how to reach customer support on your communication channels, such as in-app notifications, chat messages, email signatures, or in a blog post.
3. Use (But Don’t Abuse) the Power of Automation
As mentioned above, automation can be a great resource if you are short on hiring staff. AI tagging and routing conversations can be used on your communications channels like emails, social media, SMS, and chat during peak shopping periods. Automation can lower churn rates, and also increase customer satisfaction.
However, automation won’t have answers to all your customer questions, especially if they are complex in nature. The goal of automation should be to guide customers to the right answer. And if AI machine learning technology cannot find the right answer, a customer service representative should be available as the next step.
The aim of your automation system should therefore not be to answer all incoming inquiries.
One example of a marketing chatbot is on HubSpot.com. They use a funneling process, where users get to their answering system by being asked “Do you mean A or B?” If a customer clicks B, then HubSpot asks a further question, “Do you mean C or D?” and so on so forth.
This way, customers can often find answers. But if they cannot, the bot will ask if they would like to contact customer support via email or a call back. By offering human support, HubSpot provides a sense of security if a customer’s inquiries cannot be answered by AI alone. This also boosts customer loyalty by ensuring that automation does not replace customer relationships.
4. Create a Record-Breaking FRT
When a customer reaches out, they want a quick reply. First Response Time (FRT) is a metric that refers to the amount of time customers spend waiting with a question or issue before being answered. As you would expect, having a low FRT often leads to lower customer satisfaction.
This also means that no matter what an inquiry is about – a damaged product, a refund, or an exchange – you should answer inquiries as fast as possible.
But how much time do you have to respond before a customer becomes frustrated? According to Gorgias, you have about 120 seconds on a live chat, just over an hour on social media, and up to 24 hours via email.
To create an FRT benchmark, you’ll need to understand two key metrics:
1. The total time it takes to respond during a selected time period.
2. The total number of responses sent during the same time period.
Then divide the top figure (total time) by the bottom figure (number of responses) to give you a single amount of hours, which is your average FRT. This is the number you’ll aim to lower to increase your team’s first response time!
Gorgias studies show that the customers who respond within 10 minutes have a conversion rate of around 28%. Below they did a study that showed if you respond in under 2 minutes, it can make that conversation rate even higher.
5. Be Proactive (Not Reactive)
Proactive customer support is all about identifying and resolving customer inquiries before they become problems. This means proactively reaching out to a customer if you know they are struggling with an issue. This puts your customers at ease, and can also prevent unnecessary customer service requests.
For example, if you foresee a logistical issue like an increased shipping delay, you should reach out to let your customers know. You can also have a chat popup with daily reminders on weather, transportation, or any other factors that may cause setbacks to your quality of customer service. Chat allows you to answer questions before they are even asked. They can self-serve themselves through chat or you can already offer a limited promo code to drive conversion as seen in the options below.
Proactive customer service plays an important role in increasing customer retention and happiness. This can include immediately notifying customers of any errors or glitches, or simply going out of your way to improve a customer’s experience without being prompted.
You can do this by sending a message on a channel your customer prefers. For example, you could send an SMS message (if the customer opts in to receive SMS) with a notification that the shipment is 2 days delayed. Or you could connect via email with the latest update on your customer’s shipment information, and the reasons for the delay.
By going above and beyond for your customers past the point of purchase, you can prove your brand is trustworthy. Offering customers solutions to problems before they arise will increase customer loyalty building stronger consumer-brand relationships.
6. Meet Your Customers Where They Are
The more channels you are on (SMS, email, social media, chat etc.), the better you’ll be able to reach your shoppers. Many users, for example, may prefer using Instagram or Facebook Messenger to communicate over email and phone.
Taking an omnichannel approach allows you to be everywhere, and anticipate customer inquiries from all angles. By being available wherever your customers are, you won’t miss out on valuable opportunities.
To do so, adopt technology that can integrate your communication channels into a single viewing platform, and keep track of inquiries.
For example, Georgias’ ecommerce help desk can track support requests on Facebook Messenger and Instagram, and merge a ticket to identify a customer’s buyer history directly from Shopify. In addition to sending a personal message that notifies a customer that a customer representative will get in touch with them shortly, the technology can automate and share discount codes like “10% off your next purchase” to be shared directly in a chat.
Additionally, mobile messaging apps are on the rise. According to Gorgias, 61% of consumers message businesses regularly, and 69% of consumers said being able to message a business helps them feel more confident. This is another reason why it’s important to be active on social media messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger. Customers may message you to learn more about a product or service, get support, or make a purchase.
7. Make it a Purchase to Remember
Your goal should be to solve your customers’ problems, while also implementing smart technology tools that will allow for a seamless and personalized experience. By tailoring your conversations to accommodate individual requests as to what they are looking for, you can increase customer satisfaction and conversions on your ecommerce website.
This is why it’s important to build snippets that your customer service team can use to personalize responses in messages. Here are a few examples:
- Customer events: Thanks for your first order with us, and for being a valued customer for over a year.
- Time of the year: Happy Monday, have a great week, and Happy Holidays!
- Name of the customer: How can I help you, Dianne?
- City where a customer lives: I see you’re based in Texas, I’d love to visit!
- Thank you for writing in: Thanks so much for getting in touch.
By building a list of snippets to share with your team, your agents can edit them or create their own to add a personal touch to messages. And the more personal you are with customer data points and the way you respond to them, the higher the response will be as well.
8. State your Return and Exchange Policies Clearly
Processing returns and dealing with customers on a case-by-case basis can be expensive for your business operations, and tiring for your customer service team. In some cases, a poor return policy can create negative sentiment, and even prevent you from scaling your business.
This is why it’s important to ensure your return policy benefits your customer and increases the customer experience, thereby leading to a higher retention rate and long-term revenue growth. By offering easy returns and exchanges to customers, positive reviews and recommendations about the buying process will pay off as free marketing for your business.
Write a clear exchange and return policy. This will help customers become aware of your procedures before and after making a purchasing decision. Here, you can let customers know if you have extended the duration of returns for the holiday season.
By reducing ambiguity, you’ll increase customer satisfaction and lower customer inquiries around returns and exchanges. If you’re wondering how to write your policies, Business Insider provides stellar examples from 31 top retailers from last year’s holiday season.
9. Gather Feedback From Your Community and Customers
On social media, you can ask community members about their experience with your brand. By getting feedback on your business, you can better understand how to improve your business operations to increase customer satisfaction. For example, you can reach out to members on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Another way to get direct feedback from your customers is through a customer satisfaction survey. This is one of the best ways to determine how well your team is supporting your customers.
10. Set Customer Service KPIS so you can Improve Them
If you don’t measure the success of your customer service team, you’ll have no idea how good or bad your employees are performing. This is why it’s critical to set KPI (key performance indicators) and track them.
Here are a few KPIs you can use to track performance for your ecommerce customer service:
- Tickets created, replied and closed
- Messages received and sent
- Resolution time
- Conversion Rate
- Total Sales from Customer Support
In addition to these measurements, you can measure your employee engagement levels. If your employees are satisfied with their job, they will likely perform better. You can lessen their employee workload or change up their tasks to help keep them motivated.
Get your Ecommerce Customer Service Experience Up to Speed
By following the above tips, you can acquire and retain more customers, boost positive customer reviews, and increase your ROI this holiday season!
Want to increase customer satisfaction and gain repeat customers? Contact our team to learn how Diff partners with Gorgias to grow retail ecommerce businesses through exceptional customer service.
This article originally appeared in the Diff Agency blog and has been published here with permission.