Tips to help get your e-commerce customer service in top shape

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For e-commerce companies, great customer service can be the single decisive driver on the path to growth and success. That’s because direct customer engagement is challenging, human interactions are rare, and those that can provide the personal touch will always stand out from the crowd in the online marketplace.

With competition increasing every day, figuring out how to exceed the expectations of your customers – determining how you can not only satisfy but delight your clients – should be a top priority for your e-commerce business.

E-commerce business owners and managers are well aware of some of the most talked-about models of great customer service, such as Zappos and Chewy. As early as 2013, word had already spread far and wide about the ability of Zappos to “wow” customers, and to keep them coming back for more. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh wrote a well-regarded book on the subject – Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. The story is similar for online pet goods seller Chewy, a company that has seen rapid growth and incredible customer service reviews. (You guessed it, there is a connection between that intense growth and those rave reviews.)

There are, of course, many examples of e-commerce companies delivering in a powerful way for their customers. Entrepreneur and Hubspot highlighted three service leaders, including ModCloth and Swanson Health Products. These companies stand out not just because they do a good job, but because they make the unexpected extra effort. They surprise their customers with amazing follow-through and special attention, and ultimately, they demonstrate time and again that they care.

How can your e-commerce business join these impressive lists? Here are some tips to help get your customer service in top shape.

Use social media to your advantage

It’s critical to have multiple channels in place for your customers to ask questions and seek help, and social media is one of the most important avenues for engagement and assistance. In fact, social media customer service is generally expected among customers who view it as the easiest way to solve product-related problems – and to conduct real conversations.

If you have not done so already, you should consider putting a customer service programme in place for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and anywhere you have a significant presence and customer following. Your social media customer service strategy may involve hiring or training dedicated social media community managers, or expanding the responsibilities of other customer service representatives in your organisation.

The fact is, your customers will likely ask questions and post their problems with your products on social media, and if you are not answering, you are not delivering for them.

Use live chat

Speaking of having multiple channels to help customers resolve problems (or ask questions when ordering), live chat is a must-have service for e-tailers.

By handling everything from sales inquiries to issues with returns and specific product questions, live chat can systematically help you meet and exceed customer expectations. It represents an efficient and cost-effective way to track and manage a good portion of your customer service operations.

Boost your phone support strategy

When questions or concerns cannot be handled online, your customers will call, and you need to be ready to answer at any time of the day. Consider implementing extended hours based on customer needs or seasonal peak-season traffic.

No one likes long wait times, so your ability to meet demand is one more building block for customer loyalty.

Post videos and FAQs

Your business can solve customer problems before they happen by posting informative videos and extensive, clearly-written frequently asked questions. This can also minimise the amount of calls to customer service.

Broadcast a clear shipping and returns policy

If you are in the business of e-commerce, you are by extension also in the business of shipping. Working with the right shipping partner, you have a goal of getting your goods to your customers quickly, cost-efficiently and safely.

But for your shipping to work, you need to ensure that your customers have the right expectations from the very beginning. Your policy should be clearly written and prominently displayed on your site, along with your returns policy. Confusing policies can actually deter sales, while the right approach will keep your customers coming back.

Deliver something extra

Based on your product offerings and business model, consider how you can “wow” customers with unique follow-through. For instance, you might consider providing small gifts to repeat customers, or personal follow-up phone calls and emails. Just be sure that whatever small gift or unique follow-through you move forward with is permitted by your company’s – and your customers’ – compliance policy.

Great customer service is critical for large and small e-commerce businesses alike. And remember, some of the fastest-growing e-tailers are small- and mid-sized businesses. So the next time your organisation wonders whether it has the resources or depth to really excel for customers, remember just how important and profitable the task of customer service really is.

Karla Fanelli is vice president of customer service at DHL Express US. This article was first published on the DHL Expressed blog.