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Ecommerce customer service 101

Jessica Farelly
By Jessica Farrelly

In the competitive world of ecommerce, the products you sell are no longer enough to make your store stand out. Online retailers need to create a seamless shopping experience to drive conversions and keep customers coming back for more. One often overlooked aspect of this experience is your ecommerce customer service. It has the power to make or break a sale, and can be the deciding factor in whether a disgruntled customer leaves for a competitor – permanently.  

Just look at ecommerce shoe retailer, Zappos. Besides footwear, the brand is known for its customer-first ethos. This customer-obsessed culture has paid off; 75% of Zappos’s sales are from returning shoppers. And, in 2009, the shoe retailer was acquired by Amazon in a $1.2 billion deal

By focusing on customer support, Zappos became one of the top ecommerce retailers in the U.S. in a relatively short period. This seemingly simple concept was novel to the world of online retail when Zappos pioneered it, and has since become a case study at top business schools.

The good news is, you don’t need an MBA to create a memorable customer experience. This primer to ecommerce customer service will set you on the right track with FAQs and a list of the tools you need to meet – and exceed – shoppers’ needs.

Ecommerce customer service FAQs

Why is customer service important to the ecommerce experience?

Imagine walking into a brick-and-mortar store with a specific product in mind. You search the aisles and can’t find what you need, so you look for an associate to help you. The only associate you can find is working the cash register, so you have to wait in a long line to get your question answered. Feeling frustrated, you decide to look for the product at a different store. 

Just like customer service affects the shopping experience at a brick-and-mortar store, it can also bolster or ruin a digital shopping experience. If customers have to wait on hold on the phone for hours to get simple questions answered, or are unable to get assistance altogether, they likely won’t make a purchase and may write off your store.

What does an intuitive shopping experience have to do with customer service?

When you give shoppers everything they need to take action on your website, they’re less likely to reach out to your ecommerce customer service team for help. Cover your bases by:

  • Creating intuitive website search and navigation features to help customers find what they’re looking for.
  • Sharing shipping, returns, and payment information on an FAQs page.
  • Creating comprehensive product pages that include multiple photos, detailed product descriptions, composition information, measurements, and reviews.

Reduce the need for shoppers to reach out to your customer service team by making it easy for them to find everything they need.

How can I optimize my “no results found” page?

If left blank, your “no results found” page can be a digital dead end that leads customers to bounce. When optimized, this page can keep shoppers on your site, connect them to useful resources, and boost sales.

Include ecommerce customer service contact information on your “no results found” page, as well as links to other useful pages to help customers get back on track. 

Insights to shape your ecommerce strategy in 2021

ecommerce report

The four customer service solutions every ecommerce retailer needs

Enhance your ecommerce customer service experience by giving shoppers multiple ways to get in touch. Equip your store with all of these support channels to deliver convenience.

Pro Tip: Many of the tools we suggest gather customer interactions across all of your support channels so you can keep track of them in one place.

1. Live chat customer support

What is it? An instant messenger chat service that customers can access as a widget or pop up on your website.

Considerations: Decide whether customers will interact with chatbots, support specialists, or a combination of both. Consider whether you’ll offer live chat support 24/7, or only during certain times. If the latter, which time zones will you service?

Tools: ZenDesk, Freshdesk, Kayako

2. Email customer service for ecommerce

What is it? Customers submit questions via your website or through their email provider and receive a response via email

Considerations: Do you have enough customer support staff to answer emails in a timely fashion? Consider creating a form on your website with several category options to help route the inquiry to the right customer support specialist. Create an autoresponder for the initial email that links to FAQs and lets customers know when they can expect to hear back from you.

Tools: Front, Freshdesk, ZenDesk

3. Phone support for online shoppers

What is it? Customers call a phone number and speak to either a person or an automated message to get help. 

Considerations: What balance of automation versus access to an ecommerce customer service representative will you strike? Decide when your phone support team will be accessible and make those times known on your website. Provide wait time estimates and call back features to keep customers happy and informed. 

Tools: Aircall, Talkdesk, Five9

4. Social media ecommerce customer service 

What is it? Shoppers get in touch with retailers through their social media channels via direct messages, tags, posts, comments, and tweets. Social media is no longer just a marketing tool; it’s becoming an increasingly popular support option. In fact, 33% of American millennials have used social media to reach a brand’s customer support team, Microsoft reports

Considerations: Some social media platforms let you automate chatbots to cut down on human labor. Some inquiries are too complicated to handle over social media, so consider routing complex cases to the phone or email. Use a social media tool or customer service platform to aggregate all incoming and outgoing messages.

Tools: Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Hootsuite, Conversocial

Deliver accessible, exceptional ecommerce customer service to stand out

Increased competition in the world of ecommerce has made it challenging for retailers to distinguish themselves. Offer customers omnichannel support options via live chat, email, phone, and social media to ensure every shopper can contact you through their preferred method. By providing outstanding customer service, your store can create a memorable shopping experience that will keep shoppers coming back.