Ecommerce customer service — 9 best practices
Ecommerce offers a variety of benefits, like the ability to engage with customers 24/7 and reach buyers across the globe. But running an ecommerce business also presents a unique challenge — managing customer service requests in an online-only environment. Although ecommerce customer service is similar in many ways to customer service in a traditional business environment, ecommerce businesses face particular pressures that don’t apply in conventional contexts.
To help you deliver outstanding ecommerce customer service, this post will discuss:
- What ecommerce customer service is
- How customer service is different in ecommerce than retail
- The benefits of good ecommerce customer service
- 9 best practices for ecommerce customer service
- Common ecommerce customer service issues
- How to improve your ecommerce customer service
- What to look for in ecommerce customer service software
What is ecommerce customer service?
Ecommerce customer service (sometimes referred to as ecommerce customer support) is the process of assisting online customers at all stages of the buyer’s journey. It extends from helping potential buyers find the products they are looking for to assisting customers as they complete purchases to resolving issues that may arise with a product or service after the purchase is complete.
Since part of the general appeal of ecommerce is the speed and convenience that it brings to the customer journey, ecommerce customer support must also be fast and responsive. Businesses must react quickly to customer requests through whichever channels customers prefer, such as social media platforms, chatbots, and support forums.
How is ecommerce customer service different from retail customer service?
Although virtually every business needs to provide customer support of some type, ecommerce companies face some unique requirements.
- Availability. Online shoppers typically expect support services to be available 24/7, just as they expect online stores to be available around the clock.
- Support channels. Ecommerce businesses must deliver support services through multiple channels like their own websites, social media forums, and possibly third-party support forums.
- Responsiveness. In addition to expecting support to be available 24/7, online shoppers expect prompt responses to service requests.
- Limited connection. Communications can be more difficult in online contexts because support staff can’t interpret customers’ body language, tone, and so on.
To meet these customer support challenges in an ecommerce setting, data is key. When you have accurate data about each online shopper, you can deliver fast, personalized support via whichever channel the customer prefers — even if you lack the context that comes with in-person services.
The benefits of good ecommerce customer service
When you leverage data to deliver excellent customer service, you gain important benefits for your business.
Chief among them is a higher rate of trust from your customers. Building trust without face-to-face interactions is tough, but it’s possible when you deliver quick, personalized support. And doing so is likely to yield higher revenue as well. American Express reports that 69% of customers indicate a willingness to spend more with a company that delivers great customer service.
Good customer support also correlates with higher customer acquisition and retention rates.
- The same American Express study found that 60% of customers will abandon a brand after experiencing two or three instances of poor service, but fast response times help to prevent high rates of customer churn.
- Likewise, a Microsoft report discovered that 95% of customers identify customer service as a major consideration when selecting and committing to a brand.
Delivering great customer service can save your business time and effort in the long run too. The faster you can address customer problems — and the more efficiently you can manage data related to customer service — the less time you’ll need to devote to support operations.
9 best practices for ecommerce customer service
While accurate customer data is the foundation for great customer service, there are a number of practices ecommerce businesses should consider when putting that data to use as a means of serving customers.
1. Emphasize response time
The faster you respond to support requests, the better. Given how easy it is for buyers to click to a competitor’s site if you don't respond fast enough, response time is arguably the single most important factor in ecommerce customer service.
Some types of support channels, like LiveChat, may require quicker responses than others. But you should make fast responses a priority across all support channels and all types of requests.
2. Offer multichannel support
Providing support through multiple channels is critical for ecommerce customer service. Customers may reach out for service from any number of devices, and they may try to connect using either your official website or a third-party service, like a social media platform or a support forum maintained by another company. Knowing how customers are trying to engage and ensuring that support is available on each platform is critical for positive ecommerce support experiences.
Be sure to also keep in mind that the nature of support requests may vary across channels. For example, customers who connect via LiveChat are likely to expect an instantaneous response to fix an acute problem, whereas those who reach out using email may expect at least several hours’ wait for help with a less time-sensitive issue. Still, the faster you respond in any channel, the better.
3. Provide self-service
For some customers, the best support experience doesn’t involve direct engagement with support staff at all. These customers want a self-service support experience in which they find a solution on their own. Self-service support can feel empowering to customers because they feel like they are part of the solution — leading to the ultimate positive experience.
Enable self-service support by making information readily available to customers via FAQ pages and product knowledge bases where customers can seek out information without ever having to connect directly with your staff. For example, be sure to clearly spell out your policies on issues like shipping and returns to preempt those common support requests.
4. Use personalization
The best customer support experiences are personalized and tailored to each customer’s unique needs. Personalization helps customers feel valued and builds trust. An Epsilon study indicated that personalization increases the likelihood of purchases for 80% of consumers.
Personalizing support experiences is easy as long as you collect the right data about your customers. If you have information such as the customer’s journey and purchasing history on hand, you can factor those details into support operations to deliver highly personalized support.
5. Listen to customer feedback
Customer feedback is critical for identifying opportunities to improve your ecommerce customer service. Feedback forums also provide customers with an outlet for their frustrations and underscore your commitment to listening to them — even after a support request is complete.
Maintaining forums where customers can post about their experiences is one way to demonstrate that you take customer feedback seriously. Consider responding to customer posts with personalized public messages to demonstrate not just to the customer who posted the message — but to your consumer base in general — that you care what customers think.
6. Use templates
Templates make it significantly easier to document and organize information during customer support requests. They also allow you to standardize your response to common questions, saving time and ensuring consistency.
That said, it’s important to personalize messages wherever possible, even if you use templates. Avoid making responses sound robotic.
7. Build a great customer service team
In many ways, your customer support services are only as good as the team that delivers them. Having competent, well-trained staff to respond to requests is essential for delivering good service.
And getting the right team is about more than just hiring the right people. You should also make sure that staff members understand your product and your customers. Be sure to determine how many support roles you require and whether you need different types of customer support agents for different products or services. In general, the larger your business is and the more products it offers, the larger and more complex your support staff will need to be.
8. Automate where possible
Even if you have the world’s best customer support team, you’ll still want to make their work easier and more effective by automating as much as possible. In particular, automate redundant processes and administrative tasks like looking up customer contact information or order histories.
As with template-based communication, it’s important not to allow automation to result in processes that feel robotic to customers. Make sure that live, human support is readily available for situations where automated processes run into problems. For example, if a chatbot can’t understand a customer’s query, you’ll want a staff member on hand to take over and ensure that the support request is fulfilled.
9. Be flexible and constantly optimize
No matter how good your customer service practices are, they will need to evolve over time. You need to constantly review your processes and look for opportunities to improve. Adopt a customer service mindset where customer satisfaction is your top priority, rather than sticking to unchanging customer support workflows.
Common customer service issues in ecommerce
As you evaluate your support operations, be on the lookout for common issues that ecommerce businesses face when managing customer service, such as:
- Frustrating return or refund processes. Returns are a common pitfall for ecommerce customer service since customers can’t simply walk into a store to return an item. Make sure customers can complete returns quickly and in as few steps as possible.
- Failing to meet customers on their desired channels. Some customers want to chat online. Others prefer the phone, email, social media, and so on. You want customers to be able to reach you through their desired channel.
- Not knowing the customer. Each customer is unique, and your service process should reflect that. Again, personalization is key to delivering top-notch support experiences.
- Not keeping customers up to date. The more information you can provide about the status of items like a shipping or refund request, the happier the customer is likely to be. Automation is a great way to provide visibility for customers.
- Slow problem-solving. Customers expect to be able to submit support requests and receive service just as easily and quickly as they can complete purchases on an ecommerce site. Make sure support is available whenever customers request it.
How to improve your ecommerce customer service
Optimizing ecommerce customer service starts with monitoring customer feedback and running customer analytics. With these insights, you’ll know what needs to be adjusted, and you can make those improvements right away.
For example, customer feedback monitoring and analytics allow you to identify support requests that take longer to handle than they should. You can also determine whether specific types of requests are associated with slow response times and implement better support services for those requests.
Monitoring and analytics also help you to be proactive. You can identify issues like a failed product purchase and reach out before a customer contacts you about the issue.
Personalization is also much easier when you have customer data on hand. The more you know about a customer’s activity, preferences, purchasing history, and so on, the more opportunities you have to tailor your engagement to that customer.
What to look for in an ecommerce customer service software
Because the ability to collect and analyze data about customers is so critical for delivering fast, personalized customer service, you need the right ecommerce customer service software on your side. Look for solutions that deliver:
- Multichannel support. You must be able to understand customer behavior across all support channels.
- Analytics and reporting. The more data you can collect and analyze about customers, the greater your ability to provide excellent support.
- Lifetime customer history. Purchasing data should be as complete as possible, reflecting the customer’s entire lifetime as a buyer at your company.
- Integrations. Your support software should integrate with your ecommerce platform to make data movement and analysis seamless.
- Live chat capabilities. Integrated chat features let you talk directly to your customers through your support software.
- An easy-to-use interface. Make life easier for your customer support team with a great user experience.
As you evaluate which features you need, consider your business size and the types of products and services it offers. A small business with a limited customer base may not have as much data to collect and analyze as one that serves hundreds of thousands of buyers.
Getting started with ecommerce customer service
Delivering amazing customer service is the key to maximizing customer satisfaction, increasing retention, growing your revenue, and more. And the more data you have about your customers, the easier it is to deliver that experience.
That’s why smart businesses turn to Adobe Commerce, powered by Magento, to supercharge customer support operations.
Learn more about how Adobe Commerce provides the real-time data you need to help solve customer problems quickly and easily by taking a two-minute product tour.