The e-commerce customer service experience has changed immensely over the past year and a half.
Think about it—it feels like a lifetime ago when shopping was a part of your regular routine. You’d make a shopping list, plan your route, and maybe even grab a coffee on the way. Then you’d head out to the mall or a shopping center. Once you’d ticked off everything on your shopping list, you’d head back home and go about the rest of your day.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing though, shopping at brick-and-mortar stores has been greatly reduced, and as a result, customers and companies have taken to online retail in droves. E-commerce has taken center stage as a platform for conducting retail (and even restaurant) transactions without having to leave the comfort of your home.
Most big businesses and retailers had already established their online presence even before the pandemic, but coronavirus accelerated their digital transformation efforts. Many small businesses only began to prioritize online retail after the pandemic struck, but now their e-commerce sales form the bulk of their revenues.
Responding to these changes as a small business owner will mean undergoing a digital transformation to remain competitive. You can establish your online presence by building an easy-to-use website, giving customers access to different types of communication channels to contact you, and offering pre- and post-purchase customer support.
These are things you’ve probably already done offline. In your physical store, you have sales personnel in charge of attending to each client—from giving information about your products to helping them pick out which product best suits their needs.
So how does the e-commerce customer service experience differ from in-person customer service? Let’s take a look.
What Is E-Commerce Customer Service?
E-commerce customer service is a way to support shoppers across multiple communication channels throughout every stage of the customer lifecycle. We define the lifecycle or customer journey as following these steps:
1. Awareness or Reach: How Potential E-Commerce Customers Come Across Your Brand
Maybe they saw your ad while scrolling through social media or while they were researching a specific product or service. Having an accessible website (read: mobile-friendly) makes it more likely that customers will spend more time looking at what you have to offer.
2. Consideration: When the Prospect Is Weighing Pros and Cons
It’s common for people to look for the best bang for their buck. Make sure your website has a detailed FAQ containing all there is to know about your offerings. If your prospect has questions not included in the FAQ, have multiple channels of communication available so they can reach out to you and get an answer in a timely manner.
3. Conversion: The Prospect Is Now a Customer
Conversion means they’ve considered and purchased your services or products, thus becoming a full-fledged customer.
Most e-commerce business transactions stop here, but that doesn’t mean yours have to. The next step is turning your new customer into a long-term repeat buyer.
4. Customer Retention: Re-Engaging with the Customer Post-Purchase
Like any other business owner, you want to keep your customers coming back and continuing to choose you over the competition.
Get in touch with your customers by asking for feedback regarding their purchases. Ask permission to send them newsletters to give them exclusive access to promos and discounts.
5. Customer Loyalty: Your E-Commerce Customers Become Avid and Loyal Supporters
These customers continue to choose your brand and make additional purchases from your store. Plus, they endorse your brand through word-of-mouth and bring in more customers by spreading good, reliable reviews about your brand.
You can promote customer loyalty using rewards programs. One example is allowing customers to accumulate points for every purchase they make, which they can redeem as store credit later on.
These steps don’t have to happen in order, though, as every customer interaction is different. For example, if a prospect reached out because their friend referred them to you, you might skip the first two steps and move straight to conversion.
Your e-commerce customer service team should be knowledgeable about all your products or services and have access to omnichannel communication methods. This means that when a customer submits a query via email or your website, telephone support agents can access the records of that interaction the next time the person calls.
Why the E-Commerce Customer Service Experience Matters
Any direct communication between a customer and one of your e-commerce service representatives can be categorized as “customer service”. On the other hand, the complete set of your customers’ interactions with your company, and their resulting perception and feelings about your services, is called the “customer experience.”
When past customers consider doing repeat business with you, they might only vaguely remember why they previously reached out to your customer service department and perhaps recall some details about their conversations with your support staff. But they will definitely remember how they felt when the call ended because feelings are far more memorable than anything else.
So why does e-commerce customer service matter? Here are a few reasons you should invest in training your sales and customer support teams to deliver an improved customer service experience:
It Helps You Build Brand Authority
A well-informed e-commerce support team makes a customer feel comfortable and secure in their decision to purchase from your company.
It Meets Your Customers Where They Are
A well-designed and accessible website allows your customers to shop from the comforts of their homes. When you undergo digital transformation and make several channels of communication available, your customers are confident they can reach your support team whenever they need help.
You Get Better Customer Retention
While most people will probably be mildly pleased by a good customer service experience, a bad one will leave a long-lasting, bad taste in their mouth. Establishing rapport with your customers increases the chances that they will choose you again for future purchases. It also reduces the chances of them becoming fed up with your service and switching to a competitor.
Your e-commerce business can see a great return on investment (ROI) when your customer support team represents your brand well when interacting with customers. When people have an overall good customer experience, it makes them more likely to become repeat customers. It also makes them likelier to become valuable brand advocates who attract prospects to your online store.
What Defines a Good E-Commerce Customer Service Experience?
If you’re a small business owner or retailer that sells products online, you know how hard it can be to maintain an excellent e-commerce customer experience. When setting out to improve your customer service experience, first identify the areas you need to focus on.
Answering these questions should help you find solutions that will help you improve the customer experience for your brand:
1. Is your website up and running? Is its design accessible, mobile-friendly, and clear?
2. Do you have a detailed FAQ? Does it contain sufficient information about your products and services?
3. Do you have multiple communication channels and a set schedule for responding to queries? This can include email and phone customer support with set operating hours from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
4. Is it easy to find your phone number or dedicated email address for contacting relevant customer support teams?
5. Do you offer trial periods for your services or products? Is there a straightforward process for completing the purchase or returning the product if a buyer is unhappy?
6. How easy is it to check out when making purchases? Do you offer various payment methods (e.g., PayPal, Stripe, Google Pay, Apple Pay, Visa Checkout, etc.)? How easy would it be to request a refund or change in the transaction?
7. Do you follow up with customers after their purchase? Do you use their feedback to continuously improve your customer service experience?
It’s important to remember that—no matter what—the customer is central to your business.
How Land’s End Transformed Its E-Commerce Customer Service Experience
One example of a good e-commerce customer service experience comes from Lands’ End. Originally a catalog-based retailer, it emerged as a reliable online brand by undergoing a digital transformation. It used three methods to evolve: make data-driven decisions, prioritize mobile accessibility, and incorporate AI for competitive pricing.
Long known for its exceptional phone support, Lands’ End’s challenge was to translate that same quality of support to an online setting. It’s been able to consistently provide high-quality customer service to its e-commerce customers by:
- Focusing on omnichannel support
- Sharing customer data across departments
- Integrating its customer service with its CRM
Whether you’re an existing e-commerce brand or transitioning to online selling, it’s vital that you invest enough time and resources to train your e-commerce customer support and sales team. Ultimately, the quality of your e-commerce customer experience will play a major factor in your ability to succeed in the digital marketplace.
How to Improve the E-Commerce Customer Service Experience
Now that we’ve defined what e-commerce customer service is and why it’s important, how do you make it the best it can be to drive customer conversions and loyalty?
1. Be Proactive
The customer lifecycle doesn’t begin spontaneously. You and your e-commerce customer service team need to reach out to existing and potential customers. You can do this by setting up promotional campaigns, advertising on social media platforms, or using email marketing campaigns.
Another way of acquiring and engaging with potential customers is to use social listening, like Casper’s brand monitoring strategy. It looks for and contacts not just customers who @mention them on social media, but it also contacts those who mention specific words in their posts.
By keeping track of select keywords and phrases, the Casper team is able to address customer concerns that might not be noticed by support agents. Then, it can pass this information along to support teams to proactively get ahead of potential customer issues and pain points.
2. Incorporate Personal Touches
Just because you’re selling online doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to know your customers personally. Here are three quick tips for personalizing your e-commerce customer service experience:
1. At the start of a phone or text support conversation, have agents ask for your customer’s name.
2. Teach customer service representatives how to listen to and understand customers’ concerns, as well as show empathy.
3. Train agents to gather as much information as possible about a customer’s preferences. This can include which products they prefer, the time of day they’re available, or their preferred communication channel.
This information can be used to personalize your marketing messages and future support interactions, helping you build long-term customer relationships. When a customer feels valued and understood, they are more likely to return and make additional purchases.
3. Build a Strong E-Commerce Customer Service Experience Team
You’ve probably called a customer service department at least once in your life. You know how tedious and time-consuming it can be. But by having a dedicated e-commerce customer support team with the right tools, you’ll be able to attend to your customers’ needs as quickly and efficiently as possible. This will help you decrease wait times and caller frustration.
Here are a few ways you can boost your customer support team’s performance:
- Train them to use the right digital tools and make these tools readily available.
- Align your marketing, sales, and support teams so they know your products and services by heart.
- Provide your support team with a cloud phone system with integrated CRM tools so they can access all relevant information when communicating with your customers.
- Give incentives for fast and efficient resolution of customer issues and complaints.
Your e-commerce customer support team can boost your business’s revenues by resolving issues quickly and, whenever possible, at first contact. The faster your support team can address customer concerns, the more customers will see your business in a good light, helping you build brand loyalty and inspire repeat business.
As mentioned earlier, your customer experience is how your customers will remember your brand. Building a strong e-commerce customer service team ensures that you’ll stand out from the competition.
4. Measure Customer Satisfaction and Act on Feedback
In step four of the customer lifecycle (the customer retention phase), re-engage with your customers and ask for their feedback. Make sure to ask questions regarding the purchases they’ve made and their overall experience with your company.
A CRM phone integration will let your sales and support teams contact customers from your cloud calling system with a single click. This is a great way to send surveys and feedback forms after support calls. Plus, you can use this data to continuously improve your e-commerce customer service experience.
In the end, your e-commerce customer service experience is what will make or break a prospect’s decision to buy from you.
Investing in the right processes and tools helps to ensure that your e-commerce customer service experience is high-quality, efficient, and also provides continuous value to your business by collecting important customer data across multiple touchpoints.
Aircall offers an innovative and intuitive way for companies of all sizes to create better customer relationships by using customized call center software that can be accessed via desktop, web app, or mobile device.
With features like real-time reporting on how agents are performing, as well as integration with CRM tools, Aircall offers everything you need to build a stellar e-commerce customer service team at a cost that makes sense for your business.
The true value of excellent customer service is creating long-term, repeat customers. Even better is when they attract new business to your online store, churn less frequently, and purchase more often. Use these tips for improving your e-commerce customer service experience, and you’ll have happier customers and higher revenues.
Are you ready to wow your e-commerce customers with intelligent, personalized customer service? Book a demo with Aircall today to find out how our industry-leading technology can help.