24. June 2019 Blog

How important is customer service in e-commerce?

With the constant focus on acquiring new customers, customer service is often an overlooked area of e-commerce. Such an approach, however, can eventually lose you money. See how important customer service in e-commerce is, and make sure you take appropriate measures to offer outstanding support to your customers.

There are many different links in a chain that all contribute towards a successful online store. To start with, marketers need to come up with new and innovative ideas to promote a brand, store or product. The sales team, on the other hand, is responsible for making sure that the clients choose those products eventually. Still, there are plenty of other factors too, such as the quality, design and functionality of the website, and any technical difficulties that the visitors might experience. However, one that sometimes tends to get forgotten about, since it doesn’t directly relate to sales themselves, is customer service. 

Whilst the damage of providing poor, or even non-existent customer service should be quite obvious, it’s important to remember about the benefits of providing great customer service - which include boosting sales in the long run.
 

The growing importance of customer service

According to Microsoft and its “State of Global Customer Service” report, 54% of consumers had already higher expectations for the level of customer service provided than they did a year before. Furthermore, not only does the obvious factor of loyalty between a customer and a product influence a buyer’s choice of brand, but 96% of respondents regard the standard of the customer service as a decisive matter too. Meanwhile, 72% of those questioned in the Microsoft survey expected brands to have a full set of information on each customer’s personal data, purchase history and their level of overall satisfaction. The bottom line is that customer service is more important than ever before, and so brands that fail to take care of it are likely to get left behind by those that do.

Stand out with great customer service

It’s easy to think that the main goal of customer service is to provide support to customers. After all, that’s what it’s about, right? Well, that may be true for businesses that have an online and a physical presence, but it’s not necessarily the case for solely e-commerce businesses. For these, the entire customer experience takes place on their website, where the design, content, and functionality has to try to replace the atmosphere of a physical shop and personal interaction with staff. One way to do this is by providing an outstanding level of customer service, which allows you to build up relations with consumers, makes you stand out from the competition and encourages your customers to keep coming back. 

Building relationships with clients and gaining their trust takes time, but it ultimately pays dividends. A client who has a satisfying interaction with customer service is likely to return to that brand and may spread a positive word, whereas a dissatisfied customer is sure to shout about it from the rooftops - turning themselves plus friends and family towards your competition instead. Data from Help Scout back up this point, by saying that 86% of customers will never return to a store where they have an unpleasant experience - without leaving any feedback about it. Only 4% of customers actually write about it though, which means that it can take some time to receive satisfying feedback. Recommendations are therefore an important source of gaining new clients, so you may try to benefit from some as part of your customer service provision by sending personalized messages and discounts to your existing customers.

The growth of online shopping

Online shopping used to simply be a way for consumers to purchase a product that they had already seen and perhaps tried (on), in a brick-and-mortar store first. Nowadays, however, there is a trend towards people exclusively shopping online and visiting high street stores less and less frequently. There is also a market online for impulse buys, when consumers see an ad or just some inspiration on a website or social media and make a purchase that they weren’t actually looking for. 

People’s expectations for e-commerce have changed too - perks such as free delivery are more often than not considered to be a necessity now rather than a wow factor. The same goes for customer service - while providing great interaction with clients needing support used to be considered as a major selling point for a brand, it is now the bare minimum. Customers demand the ability to contact a representative for help and assistance at the touch of a button with an almost immediate response on social media or email. If your company can’t meet these demands, it’s likely to lose customers to the competition at some point. 

Providing a great customer experience

Your online store needs to pass certain criteria in order to be a user-friendly and functional place for e-commerce:

  • Offer a variety of payment and delivery options,
  • Make sure that your online store is secure. In particular, you need an SSL certificate,
  • Streamline your website for fast loading, disabling any pesky plugins that may slow everything down,
  • Provide a direct link to customer service options - web chat, social media platforms, phone line, and help center, etc.,
  • Implement effective up-selling and cross-selling at the checkout,
  • Communicate transparent delivery and return policies.

Good practices and tools for customer service

You can help to avoid some common complaints with regards to customer service by following a few guidelines and taking advantage of appropriate tools:

  • Provide instant answers without direct contact first. Where possible, try to offer a solution before a client even needs to contact the customer service team. A lack of time or money to build a self-support knowledge-base isn’t a great excuse - since, in the long run, it will pay off by reducing the number of requests and tickets sent to the support agents. Even just answering a few FAQs or publishing some native content on your site can help, but you can improve upon this with tools which allow you to easily build a help center or customer feedback platform.
  • Streamline customer service experience. You should have a database of information - including personal data, purchase history and previous communications - ready at hand when a client makes contact. Consumers will quickly end up annoyed and frustrated if they have to repeat the same details over and over, getting passed from agent to agent. This process can be automated and simplified with tools such as CloudTalk, a cloud-based call center that shows you exactly this kind of information on an individual customer card appearing in real-time when they phone. A solution such as this can be integrated with social media platforms or external e-commerce systems, and actually helps to improve personalization by allowing customer service representatives to focus on providing a personalized experience rather than completing processes.
  • Use the same platforms as your clients. Some users prefer to make contact using different communication channels than others, as they are entitled to. Unfortunately, this means more work as you need to cover all of your bases. A customer who raises an issue through Facebook Messenger wants to, and should, have it answered there. It’s no good directing them to Twitter, let’s say, where they may not even have an account. Have a presence on multiple social media platforms and handle issues wherever they are reported, without directing clients elsewhere - and potentially causing them to shop elsewhere instead.
  • Implement organized internal communication. This is necessary to maintain and develop an efficient customer service team, and a couple of tools will really come in handy with it. Stackfield offers a reliable solution for exchanging messages, managing files and delegating tasks. 

Summary

Great customer service no longer makes you stand out from the crowd in a positive way, it is rather a necessary provision that makes sure you don’t get left behind by the competition. Building a customer relationship in the online world is more difficult and takes longer than in brick-and-mortar stores, but doing so is incredibly beneficial in the long run. Providing consumers with an amazing online experience helps to increase sales, build brand loyalty and customer retention, and ultimately leads to fewer issues or complaints and also increased satisfaction.