Customer Support Best Practices for Online Retailers

Online retailers face many challenges in a constantly evolving market. You have to stand out in a crowd where having the best price or shipping cost isn't enough - you need to excel in customer experience (CX) as well. Understanding and implementing customer support best practices improves business growth, customer engagement and customer retention.

Human Engagement

Customers want a personalized experience that delivers the relevant information they need quickly. For some customers, this means they want to talk human-to-human instead of going through pre-recorded IVR functions or looking through FAQs and knowledgebases. Your customer service representatives are your first point of contact for customers, so it's essential that they are trained to give direct, objective responses to customer inquiries. Gallup found customers who are fully engaged with a company had 23% higher growth metrics than less engaged customers. Customer support needs the tools on hand to effectively engage in a way that is satisfying to your customers, whether that's getting the reps hands-on experience with your product line or implementing help desk tools that make their jobs easier.

Customers want to engage on multiple channels, from traditional phone lines to social media. Customer service needs to be convenient and accessible across all channels, in order to encourage engagement between your reps and customers. The Software solutions such as TweetDeck and HootSuite make it easier to see who is engaging with your brand on social networks, whether any hashtags or keywords are associated with your company, and any negative feedback that should be addressed quickly. Tracking demographic data through CRM or predictive analytics software helps you determine the best channels to focus on, as well as those most cost-effective for your business. Timely and genuine engagement helps build customers' emotional investment in your company, even if they start out irate. The Harvard Business Review found customers were 3 times more likely to recommend a company who created a positive customer support experience.

Establishing Expectations

Every customer would love their inquiries answered immediately, but in a realistic situation most companies have varying response times based on the channel. Outside of incredibly impatient or irate customers, most people contacting your support simply want to know the expected wait times so they don't feel like their message is lost in a black hole. Look at each customer support channel and establish how long they should expect to wait. For phone and live chat, this time is generally set in a matter of minutes. For email, it may be 24 hours. Don't leave the customer waiting to figure out when they will hear back, as it's easy to get frustrated when their expectations don't match yours.

Maintaining Your Brand's Voice

Some customers will never interact with anyone beyond your customer service representatives, so incorporating your brand's voice throughout your CS procedures helps maintain consistency with your brand message and tone. Incorporate specific brand phrasing throughout phone and chat scripts, provide guidelines for acceptable language to use on social media support channels, and push the brand voice through training materials. You want customers to get a sense of who you are, what your mission is, and what you stand for from the CX on up.

Your CX strategy is the cornerstone of your competitive potential in today's business world. Customers have a high bar on what they expect out of customer service, so if they don't get it, they just go elsewhere. Parature reports 63% of customers simply go to a competitor if they have a poor experience with customer support. You don't get a second chance to impress a customer, so make sure their experience matches their wants, needs, and expectations on the first try.



Michael Buenaventura

June 25, 2015