E-Commerce Customer Service: Why It’s Important And How To Master It In 2021

The pandemic has already left its imprints on many different areas of our lives, and e-commerce is not an exception. Although in this context, the impact of COVID-19 is often seen as positive because of the unprecedented sales boom, this is exactly what brought some new challenges that not everyone was truly ready for. 

Rapidly changing shopping habits and growing customer expectations have forced online businesses to rethink the way they operate. This put a spotlight on customer service as one of the differentiating factors in the competition.

With so many businesses shifting online, thus providing shoppers with a wider variety of choices, the product itself doesn’t play the lead role in purchasing decisions anymore. Attentive, fast, and reliable customer support has become equally, if not more, important.

In this article, you will learn why providing great customer service should jump to the top of your to-do list this year, how does it influence customer experience, and find out what to focus on to achieve the best results in 2021. Ready? Let’s dive in.

What is customer service and how important is it?

To put it simply, customer service is a direct interaction (or series of interactions) between a specific business and a customer that can happen before, during, or/and after a purchase.

Although you are most likely familiar with the term, what you might not know is that 74% of customers actually base their purchase decisions on customer service alone, according to Hubspot.

E-commerce customer service is that one direct touchpoint that can place an image of your business into a prospect’s head forever. When done right, it can boost customer experience, increase customer retention rates, and positively affect their loyalty to the brand. 

On the flip side, failing at customer service might be the reason why they’ll never come back and, worst-case scenario, share their bad experience with your potential customers.

Why customer service will be different in 2021

The widespread COVID-19 crisis has left people more vulnerable, less secure about the future, hence more mindful about the money they spend. It means that more often than not, they’ll be looking for a real value and will be willing to support those who also sell great experiences rather than just offer a good price. 

As the number of people shopping online is growing immensely and the new, “pandemic-inspired” customer behavior continues to stick, their expectations for the brands don’t get any lower either. The opposite, actually – customers now expect an error-free shopping experience and better, faster, and seamless customer support. 

What’s even more important, customers know that there are so many options out there that they don’t mind switching for the competitor once the slightest issue occurs.

And that’s why focusing on the quality of your product or services only might not work in the upcoming year. To meet the needs of your customers, you’ll have to put them first.

6 ways to achieve great customer service 

  1. Provide real-time customer support

As social media and instant messengers now dominate the way people communicate online, naturally, these channels have found their place in business, too.

This also explains why more often than not, customers expect to get their answers almost immediately, just as they would when reaching out to family or friends. And that’s probably why the use of email for customer support issues dropped by 18% in the last 3 years, according to Hubspot.

Although it might be difficult to say how quick is actually quick enough (since it might also depend on different industries or simply how urgent is a specific request), it’s important to focus on just being there for your customer. 

Whether you can solve the problem or not, let them know that. If there’s no one available to address their issues at that particular moment, inform them when they can expect to hear back. This will always be more appreciated than a late reply and will likely help you earn more trust.

2. Take advantage of customer service software

No matter how good your customer support representatives are, juggling hundreds of inquiries daily might be a real struggle without the right tools. Not only that – trying to deal with this manually simply prevents your customers from receiving the support that they expect.

There are three main reasons why customer service software should be one of your team players:

  • It boosts the performance of customer support agents. The main purpose of such software is to centralize all the necessary information and keep it easily accessible in one place. This way, the customer support agent might get a comprehensive image of each case, and provide more thorough, faster help, without the need of jumping from channel to channel.
  • Saves time. Customer service software usually comes with convenient internal tools like comments, automations, templates, etc., that can noticeably reduce the time a customer service rep spends per inquiry.
  • Improves teamwork. It can also be a great collaboration tool that allows different agents or even other team members to share best practices and experiences so that the customers would get the best possible answers.

Examples of such tools could be help desk ticketing systems or CRM software that allow agents to start solving the occurred issues immediately rather than waste time researching them.

3. Keep your customer support team motivated

These are the people who are at the forefront of your business. Really, as that one direct touchpoint with the external world, the customer support team can either encourage your customers to purchase from you again or leave them disappointed. 

Did you know that the majority of customers actually fall in love with a brand and stay loyal just because of great customer service reps? So how to keep them this way?

Customer service quotes

Although it might sound a bit shallow, spreading some well-picked customer service quotes around the office or sending a daily email might give customer service reps just the right amount of inspiration to keep rocking at their jobs. 

Share positive feedback

Let’s admit it – being a customer service rep is probably not the most pleasant job on earth since they have to talk mostly about problems on a daily basis. Providing them with some positive feedback from customers can actually validate their efforts and give them a reason to continue doing their best.

Find out what makes them stick

Asking customer support reps what motivates them in their jobs (whether personally or in a form of a survey) can help improve their performance, learn where they see value at their jobs, and use this information to keep them inspired in the future. Besides, even the fact that you listen to them can go a long way in terms of employee morale.

4. Give customers an option for self-service

Self-service allows customers to find the answers themselves, quickly. Based on Vanilla’s research study,  79% want businesses to offer such a possibility to be able to solve their problems without having to contact a customer support representative. This number clearly indicates that self-service is no longer something that’s just nice to have – it is something that customers expect.

If you’re wondering what options you have here, there are plenty. Some of the most popular ones include an FAQ page, knowledge base, or, for example, online discussion forums. 

The key is to make them all very clear and easy to navigate. For instance, if you’re creating a knowledge base, put some extra thought into the structure, include a search bar, visuals (screenshots and maybe even videos), update your content regularly, and don’t forget to make it SEO-friendly. In this case, it will not only meet customers’ needs but might also help new ones discover your business.

5. Personalize, personalize, personalize

Personalization has always been something that can win the heart of a customer, and the fiercer the competition, the more important it becomes today.

Personalizing your customer service can actually bring more benefits than you might probably think of. It isn’t limited just to addressing customers by their name – personalization can actually help you identify specific segments of customers and create experiences that are targeted directly at them, thus offering your customers exactly what they want.

And if you’re wondering what they actually want, the latest reports show that customer demands for personalization have grown exponentially. They want personalized recommendations.

They also expect companies to know who they are and what they purchased without the need for explaining it themselves. As per latest Hubspot reports, 85% of customers want human representatives to be aware of their past interactions with a chatbot, and more than half of them admit that it’s an advantage not to have to repeat themselves at all.

Even though it might sound like a lot, personalizing experiences for customers can be truly rewarding. It’s likely to pay off with increased customer satisfaction and better engagement, hence might boost customer retention, loyalty, and overall business growth. 

6. Listen to what your customers say and improve

As an insider, you will never be able to see your business the way your customers do. That’s why customer feedback is crucial for the further development of a company.

First and foremost reason to ask for it, is that feedback can help to identify the aspects of the product that need to be improved. You might not always be able to see it for yourself, but those w

It won’t necessarily be the nicest thing you’ve ever heard, but negative feedback can bring just as much value to your business, helping you turn it into a positive outcome. Or as Bill Gates once said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Besides, asking for feedback will make your customers feel involved, valued, and happy that their opinions matter, which is of no less importance for building good and long-lasting relationships.

Conclusion

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, e-commerce has been experiencing unprecedented growth that, likely, will leave a long-lasting impact on the whole market.

Therefore, growing customer needs and expectations come with new challenges that online business owners should be ready to face in the upcoming year. The pandemic increased the demand for convenience, speed, and transparency.

Putting together customer service processes in place can make it a lot easier to overcome those obstacles while still driving business success and growth in 2021.

This is a guest post contribution by Renata Liubertaitė. Renata has been working with content for more than 5 years now. She started as an editor at a popular online entertainment magazine that mostly covers light, heartwarming topics, she then switched to writing copies for e-commerce. Currently, she writes content for Shopify apps – Senderium and HelpCenter app, aimed at making e-commerce merchants’ lives easier.

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