How to deliver exceptional ecommerce customer service

Customer service plays a key role in the success of your business, from customer acquisition right through to retention. Marc Schillaci, CEO of Actinic, discusses how to deliver exceptional ecommerce customer service

Although the old adage ‘the customer is always right’ goes a long way, there’s a lot more you can do to deliver exceptional customer service. A report by American Express revealed that 3 out of 5 customers were willing to give up a former favourite brand for a better customer experience.

The transition of satisfied customers to loyal customers can save your company thousands of pounds on acquisition costs, improve your brand reputation and boost sales as they keep coming back for more. Excellent customer service is also a great way for small businesses to take on the big boys. You might not be able to compete with big companies on price, logistics or resources, but you can offer a personalised experience they simply can’t match. While ecommerce sites may not have the advantage of face-to-face interaction, there are plenty of other ways to offer a first class service to your customers.

Here are some fundamental starting points for honing your customer service skills and ensuring every customer has a fantastic buying experience on your site:

The FAQ section of your site is the starting point for great customer engagement. You can provide plenty of useful information to customers, all the facts they need without them having to leave your site or contact you directly. Make sure your FAQs are detailed and clear, as information needs to be quick and easy to find. You don’t want your site visitors giving up and going elsewhere. Informative FAQs will also save you time spent answering questions, which is always a win-win situation.

After you have set up the FAQ section you can look at what channels your customers use to interact with your business. It is then in your best interest to have consistent customer service support available across those channels, including email, phone, helpdesk, contact forms and social media. By providing a consistent customer experience across all channels you strengthen your brand voice and ensure that the customer knows that however they choose to contact you they will have the same high quality experience.

To succeed at multichannel customer service you should have the ability to track all customer interactions across all involved channels. By ensuring easy access to a customer’s purchase or communication history from any device, you’ll save your team and the customer’s time whenever queries or complaints arise. For example, a customer who calls you to follow up on an email they sent will expect the person on the phone to have access to that email. A good CRM solution is the ideal reference point for all customer interaction. The additional benefits of tracking customer interactions is having more data and insights to analyse, which will not only improve future customer relations but help support your marketing efforts too.

Social media has become a customer service must-have. More and more people are choosing to interact with companies on social media, by asking questions, sharing content and recommendations, and complaining too. Social media allows you to connect with customers outside the ‘traditional’ customer service channels, which also gives you a little freedom to interact in a less formal manner. Social media gives you an opportunity to have an insight into your customers that you can use further to develop your service skills through a better understanding of your customers’ expectations, needs and dislikes. Social media also gives you the opportunity to further disseminate your content, find industry influencers, and grow and strengthen your brand identity.

One thing you’ll learn pretty quickly from social media is that timely responses are vital.  This is something that should be reflected in all your customer service actions. It seems more relevant on fast-paced social media platforms as they are highly visible, and followers that participate on your accounts will expect a response, even if it’s a just a little thank you. You will also need to react positively and clearly to any negative comments that may appear. According to Salesforce, 88 per cent of customers are less likely to buy from companies who leave social media complaints unanswered. Timely responses aren’t just important on social media but via email, helpdesks and post (yes, some people do still use Royal Mail). With ecommerce, there someone physically waiting to instantly answer your question face to face, but if you can respond in an effective and timely manner to customer queries or complaints, then you are showing their custom and satisfaction is important to you.

Finally, ask your customers for feedback. They are best placed to ask about what they liked or didn’t like about your service and give you the chance to adapt and improve. Even if you receive some negative feedback, it will still be useful, and the positive feedback can be used in testimonials or for marketing content (as long as you have permission to use it). You can send surveys via newsletters, polls via twitter and you can ask customers to leave reviews, which are also a great trust element to encourage new customers to buy from you. Find out as much as you can about how your customers feel about your products, service and brand, and use this information to fine tune and strengthen your business.

Great customer service isn’t just for the benefit of your customers, it can be make or break for your business. If you take care of your customers, they’ll take care of your brand by spreading the word about how great you are and continuing to do business with you. As the business author, Michael LeBoeuf said: “A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.”