Top 11 Best Practices for eCommerce Customer Service
Best Practice Factors
Though commerce itself has changed greatly within the last decade, it’s interesting to note that customer values have not. In fact, from shoppers’ perspectives, the most important customer service factors still are:
- Effectiveness and speed of assistance.
- Service convenience.
- Friendly associate attitude.
Of course, online businesses operate in a uniquely different way than in-person retail stores. However, eCommerce entrepreneurs do well to consider their performance in each area, evaluating their use of the tools and resources available exclusively to online sellers.
Now, let’s discuss each area in further detail, and discover the practices you need to implement when it comes to eCommerce customer service.
1. Effectiveness & Speed of Assistance
It’s not a surprise that shoppers want service quickly. These days, we’re conditioned to want almost everything available instantly. So, how can you ensure that your customer service is not only provided quickly but effectively as well?
Best Practice #1: Unify Customer Service with an Omnichannel Helpdesk
To provide fast customer service without sacrificing quality, many business owners have successfully implemented an omnichannel support desk program. This way, any brand representative can instantly pull up:
- A detailed record of past and current customer inquiries, tickets, and conversations
- Current and past orders, with shipping data
- Other personal customer information and details
With an omnichannel helpdesk, customer service representatives no longer have to hunt around the office or pull up multiple different applications to find information on a customer. By compiling all information in one, streamlined platform, associates can provide accurate, helpful service at exceptionally fast rates.
Best Practice #2: Automate as Much as Possible
Because automations are triggered automatically, they can instantly address a question or concern — you can’t find much faster service than that. Plus, automations reduce the amount of human effort needed to resolve a customer’s inquiry, which means that more customers can receive a response at a faster rate. Here’s our favorite, easy-to-use automation integration for Shopify!
Triggered email responses based on keywords are a great place to start with automations but don’t hesitate to go further. For example, interoffice organization, ticket tagging, support workflows, and post-purchase prompts are just some of the valuable ways you can save your time — and that of your customers’.
However, while some areas of business are easily automated, it’s important to show some balance to avoid sacrificing the quality of service. Remember, customers want fast and effective service; speed is less important if the results suffer because of it. In areas where more personalization is needed, consider partially automating processes, like an auto-fill template option that allows your customer service reps to quickly choose the data with which to fill an email.
Best Practice #3: Track & Monitor KPIs for Continual Improvement
Analyzing your KPIs (or, Key Performance Indicators) is a great way to evaluate on a quantifiable level where you stand in terms of customer service. By tracking applicable metrics over time, you can gauge the areas in which you provide satisfactory service, as well as those that need some work.
Here are 19 of the most important KPIs specifically for eCommerce customer service and some actionable ways to improve them.
2. Service Convenience
At one point or another, most of us have run into a headache while buying online. The problem is further compounded if customer service avenues are difficult to locate or use. For shoppers to feel fully confident in purchasing from your online store, and especially for them to want to return, it’s crucial that your customer service channels are convenient.
Ways to Offer Your Customers Convenient Service
- Best Practice #4: Customer Return Portal — These days, internet-savvy shoppers don’t want to wait for a company representative to email a return label when an item doesn’t meet their needs. Rather, consider setting up a helpful, easy-to-use Customer Portal with the option to initiate a return if need be. (Earn bonus points if you mention this portal in the purchase/shipping confirmation email!)
- Best Practice #5: FAQ & Help — Make your customers well-aware that they can search in your FAQ or Help sections to find answers to common inquiries. However, be sure to update these information banks regularly with trending questions, new policies, or other relevant items.
- Best Practice #6: Self-Service Options — Offer your customers the ability to help themselves with carefully selected self-service options. Small prompts like “track an order” or “cancel an order” work well placed before contact fields (like in a live chat box or on the FAQ page.)
- Best Practice #7: Automatic, Important Notifications — Customers expect regular communication about their orders, and providing it automatically is a convenient, welcomed feature. On the purchase screen, make sure to have your customers opt into email or text updates. Then, send relevant messages when the purchase is completed, the item ships, and when it’s out for delivery, just to name a few.
3. Friendly Associate Attitude
Approachable friendliness is extremely vital when it comes to crafting meaningful connections with shoppers. So while the rule to “never greet a customer without a smile” works in traditional retail, how can you display the same attitude when you’re behind a computer screen?
Best Practice #8: Create Well-Designed, Well-Written Response Templates
To ensure tonal continuity and above-average friendliness in every support instance, design a variety of response templates for use in emails, text messages, chat boxes, or even on social media. Short phrases work well, from which associates can then pick and choose to quickly compile a friendly response. Be sure to use warm, positive, and on-brand language in the greeting, body, and closing.
However, don’t repeat the same messaging copy in every response template, nor use the same template multiple times with the same customer. Internet shoppers are adept at identifying insincerity, and sending them the same template over and over likely will negate any positive effects of friendly brand tone. Teach customer service associates to edit the template to provide a genuine response that still fits your standards.
Best Practice #9: Tailor Responses to the Customer
Add a touch of personalization to support responses by mentioning applicable customer data when pertinent (like referencing items in the same order, loyalty rewards, or delivery status.) This level of service tends to impress shoppers and fosters a sense of loyalty, despite being connected only through the internet. However, always remember to prioritize professionalism over friendliness — don’t overstep boundaries, make assumptions about the shopper, nor in any way pry into their personal life uninvited.
Best Practice #10: Provide Accurate Pricing & Helpful Reminders
No one likes surprise fees, no matter in-store or online. So to deliver positive service and leave your customer feeling pleased, always provide the most accurate shipping estimates possible. Many business owners have integrated their stores with third-party shipping cost calculators to reduce confusion — on both the business and customer sides. Intuitive Shipping is our favorite choice.
Moreover, just because you’re not in a physical store, it doesn’t mean you can’t provide the same, helpful service one might expect to receive there. Update your site regularly with helpful, informative reminders of sales, shipping deadlines, low stock quantities, or other time-sensitive details. For example, just as a sales associate in a store might gesture to a rack of clothing on sale “for this week only,” you could feature a category of clothing on your homepage with an eye-catching image, elaborating on the sale terms.
Best Practice #11: Cultivate a Warm, Attentive Social Media Presence
The advent of social media and its integration into our everyday lives has created an interesting dynamic between businesses and customers. Often, customers take to social media to describe their experience with a company, elaborating on things they may never have expressed to the company previously — sometimes for the good, and, unfortunately, sometimes the opposite.
Use this unique opportunity to cultivate a warm, attentive social media presence. Reply quickly to customer engagement — whether good or bad — to show that you care about your customers and their feelings. Don’t forget to stay true to your core customer service practices when addressing issues on social media. No matter the cause for comment, utilize positive, on-brand, and professional language to encourage positive communication and, ideally, turn negative experiences around.
Implement These 11 eCommerce Customer Service Best Practices Now
At the end of the day, customers just want effectiveness, convenience, and friendliness when it comes to customer service. By coupling the 11 eCommerce customer service best practices in this article with a great product and solid marketing strategy, you can rest assured that your online store will continue to grow steadily — gaining plenty of loyal, happy customers along the way.