Too many ecommerce brands over-index customer surprise and delight, and neglect what matters for a great customer experience in the process.
Most ecommerce businesses understand that offering great products at a reasonable price isn’t enough. We know that customer experience is key to gaining long-term loyal customers, obtaining reviews and referrals, and growing in the long term. But too many brands believe that a great customer experience means surprising and delighting customers.
Frankly, handwritten notes and freebies don’t make for a great customer experience or a winning strategy. That’s not why customers reach out to your brand, nor is it what drives customer retention. They reach out to support for quick, helpful, effortless experiences. Then (and only then) should you put the cherry on top with surprising, delightful extras.
Why “surprise and delight” is not a viable customer service strategy
Top-notch customer support is like an ice cream sundae, and efforts to thrill customers are the sprinkles and cherries on top. Sprinkles and cherries are great, but they don’t make for a satisfying sundae on their own.
Customers won’t be that amused if you make them wait on hold for 45 minutes and greet them with lighthearted jokes. Likewise, you’ll make a customer feel frustrated if you spend your budget on freebies but ignore implementing customer feedback about the product.
More than anything, customers who contact a brand’s customer service team want their problems solved quickly and well. Fast, helpful, low-effort experiences are the base of your sundae, and any extra efforts to delight the customer are sure to fall flat if you can’t do that.
Customer service interactions tend to drive disloyalty, not loyalty
According to Emplifi, 49% of consumers have left a brand in the past year due to a poor customer experience. Also, according to The Effortless Experience, an influential customer service book by best-selling author Matthew Dixon, customer service interactions are 4x more likely to drive customer disloyalty than they are to drive customer loyalty.
If 20% of support interactions leave customers delighted and 80% leave customers frustrated, your greatest opportunity is to reduce frustration, not chase after hard-to-achieve delight.
Ecommerce customer delight isn’t linked to loyalty (and it’s expensive)
The Effortless Experience also reveals that going “above and beyond” isn’t even what drives that 20% of loyalty-building interactions. While companies assume exceeding customer expectations generate superfans, customers are generally just as satisfied when companies simply meet their expectations.
And 80% of companies who use customer delight as a strategy say they spend heavily on providing this delight: More overhead from giveaways, VIP kickbacks, refunds, and policy exceptions. Given that these delightful experiences don’t correlate to customer loyalty, this is not money well spent.
Support’s biggest impact is to mitigate disloyalty by reducing customer effort
If we zoom into what drives customers away, the most common issue is a high degree of effort — not a lack of gifts or delightful conversations. Common reasons for high-effort experiences include:
- Multiple contacts to resolve an issue
- Repeating information
- Getting transferred between channels
The negative impact of these high-effort experiences is staggering. According to The Effortless Experience, a whopping 96% of customers who had high-effort experiences feel disloyal to those companies afterward.
To put it simply, most companies are trying to go “above and beyond” before they effectively provide the baseline of customer service, which is a helpful and low-effort experience.
How to minimize customer effort: The better version of surprise and delight
The key to customer retention is reducing customer effort. 94% of customers intend to purchase after a low-effort experience compared to a slim 4% after high-effort experiences, making it an essential part of a best-in-class customer experience. Lowering customer effort involves designing an intuitive user experience, decreasing the number of steps required to complete tasks, improving reply and response times (along with other key customer support metrics), and using forward resolution in support.
Here are five more quick wins to reduce customer effort in ecommerce:
1) Offer self-service functionality on your website
88% of customers expect your online store to offer some kind of self-service. Self-service resources could be as simple as a frequently-asked questions (FAQ) page or more interactive functionality to manage orders without having to reach out to customer support.
For merchants using Gorgias, you can set up a Help Center that does both in just a few clicks. Customers can read articles about your brand and shipping policy, and check their delivery status (which they do an average of 4.6 times for every order) instantaneously.
Here’s a great example of self-service order management on Steve Madden’s Help Center:
2) List answers to pre-sales questions in a help center
Once you have an FAQ page or customer knowledge base, one type of question to proactively answer is pre-sales questions. These are questions potential customers have while mulling over a purchase in their heads before hitting “Place order” at checkout:
- Is it the right size for me?
- Is it compatible with products I already own?
- Can I return it if I’m dissatisfied?
- Will it arrive before the holidays?
If customers have to reach out and wait for an answer, they might just abandon the purchase and look for another online retailer that better addresses their questions. At least, that’s the case for the 63% of customers who attempt to solve issues on their own before reaching out.
So, don’t delay in making clear sizing guides, shipping policies, returns policies, and other self-service information that your customers need to confidently make a purchase.
3) Use forward resolution in customer support to avoid unnecessary follow-ups
Forward resolution is the practice of solving anticipated issues for customers before the customer even thinks to ask.
Let’s look at a real-world example: A customer inquires about shipping times to their local region. The support agent can see they have items in their cart that are on pre-order and, while answering the customer’s question about shipping time, also tells them that pre-order items are sent separately and that they can track delivery status through self-service. The agent has answered the initial question and forward-resolved two potential issues — reducing effort for the customer.
If you can, audit multi-touch tickets from the past few months to understand which questions tend to have natural follow-ups you can proactively answer. Then, add that follow-up information to your templates, or Macros if you use Gorgias, to improve your customer experience.
Here’s a Macro that not only answer’s a customer question about the location of an order, but lets them know when that order will be shipped:
4) Know more, ask less
One of the most damaging mistakes is making customers repeat themselves. Agents need that information to do their jobs well, but asking a customer to repeat their story at every juncture is a surefire way to damage a valuable customer relationship.
Instead, give customer service representatives all the customer context they need from the jump. Gorgias’s customer sidebar gives agents valuable context like purchase and communication history (from Shopify or BigCommerce), reviews information, cart data, social media engagement, and much more so customers don’t need to constantly retell their story.
5) Make your support more convenient with automation and omnichannel
To answer questions faster, consider using a customer support platform with automation features to help your team move faster and automatically respond to repetitive customer questions. Gorgias’ automated system can help you prioritize customer service requests, tag the appropriate agent, and close no-response tickets so you spend less time on admin work. And, with the help of pre-written Macros, automated Rules, and chatbot-like self-service flows, you can send instant, personalized responses to questions like, “Where is my order?”
Additionally, explore expanding to an omnichannel or multichannel customer service strategy, which gives customers more touchpoints for your brand. Customers value the convenience of texting your brand, calling your brand, and hearing from you on social media. If you’re only available via email, you will likely lose customers due to high effort.
6 ways to delight ecommerce customers (once they have a low-effort experience)
Don’t get us wrong, customers usually enjoy an extra bit of pizazz or a freebie. And those sprinkles can even boost your brand’s conversion rate in the short term and boost customer loyalty in the long term — as long as they’re not associated with a high-effort experience.
Take a look at the following customer delight strategies and consider adopting them only once you’ve developed a low-effort customer experience as a foundation.
1) Offer free shipping (the new normal for customer satisfaction)
According to a 2021 survey, 66% of customers expect free shipping with every online purchase. This means that free shipping is often more of an expectation than a bonus — thanks, Amazon. Nevertheless, offering free shipping to your customers can still be a great way to encourage customer delight in many cases.
Customers love the word “free,” even if the money that they are saving is only a few dollars. In fact, many stores can raise their product pricing slightly to make up for shipping costs and still see a boost in conversion rate from offering free shipping.
If you can’t offer free shipping to every customer, setting qualifying amounts is a good way to delight customers with free shipping while also driving higher average order values.
Woxer is one ecommerce brand that offers free shipping on all domestic orders and some international orders. Plus — another best practice — Woxer makes this information easily accessible as a Quick Response in their live chat widget.
2) Launch a customer referral program
Creating a customer referral portal or program offers dual benefits. For one, it helps your brand attract new customers by encouraging them to refer their friends, family, and colleagues through word-of-mouth advertising. Along with introducing your brand to new potential customers, referral programs can also be a great way to blow away your customers: Everyone loves the opportunity to earn discounts and rewards!
If your ecommerce company has a strong net promoter score (NPS), you’re positioned to launch a referral program, capitalize on that goodwill, and delight your customers. If you want to start a referral marketing program, check out tools like Extole which systematically reward customers who bring you business via word of mouth.
3) Post user-generated content on social media
Recognition is its own reward, and a shout-out on social media is something most customers enjoy. Highlighting customers who use your products, positive customer reviews, and other delightful interactions allow you to celebrate customers and add social proof to your social media profile. It also reduces the number of content marketing materials you need to produce on your own.
Marine Layer’s Instagram is full of customer shout-outs and other user-generated content that your brand may be able to pull inspiration from:
4) Use loyalty programs to reward VIP customers
Like a referral program, a loyalty program rewards customers for repeat purchases and continued brand loyalty. If your customer experience is already smooth enough to bring in repeat customers, delighting those superfans with rewards is a strong strategy.
If you already use Gorgias, you can integrate loyalty platforms like LoyaltyLion to make the customer experience even more seamless. For example, esmi Skin Minerals uses Gorgias and its integration with Loyalty Lion to bring loyalty data into Gorgias and provide even more personalized, automated service to shoppers. Thanks to this powerful integration, esmi achieved a 58% boost in brand loyalty program enrollment and a 2X increase in average loyalty program member spend.
5) Celebrate customer milestones for loyal customers
Even if you don’t have an official loyalty program, you can celebrate your VIP customers at key milestones like birthdays or the anniversary of their first purchase. On top of sharing some warm and fuzzies (and maybe free product), one benefit of this kind of celebration is to potentially get a shoutout from customers on social media for your surprise.
Check out our CX Growth Playbook to learn how to implement this tip with Zapier, plus read about 18 other tactics to drive growth through customer experience.
6) Optimize proactive customer service across the customer journey
One way to delight customers is to move beyond purely reactive customer service, which requires customers to reach out to get help. With proactive customer service, a combination of directly reaching out to customers and creating self-service resources, you can help more potential customers, reduce cart abandonment, and improve your brand’s customer experience.
Proactive customer support could include self-service resources, like those described above. It also includes non-intrusive chat campaigns, which let you automatically reach out to customers who display certain behaviors to offer support. For example, you could reach out to customers who linger on a product page to ask if they have questions about the product or need a recommendation on sizing.
Here’s what Ohh Deer, an online retailer that sells delightful stationery, says about chat campaigns:
“With chat campaigns, the goal is to remove any customer equivocation and get the customer to the product they really want.”
– Alex Turner, Customer Experience Manager at Ohh Deer
Delight and retain your ecommerce customers with low-effort support
The key to great customer service isn’t some sparkly delight. It’s efficient, convenient, and helpful support that customers can access in a variety of ways.
With Gorgias, ecommerce brands can access the tools and integrations they need to automate time-consuming tasks, provide instant answers, and reduce the number of times customers have to write in and wait for your customer support team’s answer. Through our platform, your customer support team becomes more than just a team to answer customer questions — it becomes a revenue-generating machine.