Customer service dictates your customers’ entire experience with your brand. When you pair a memorable experience with a product that resonates with people, you've got the recipe for attracting repeat customers.
I’m Eli Weiss, the Senior Director of Customer Experience & Retention at Jones Road Beauty and a proud Gorgias Ambassador. After working in customer experience roles for almost a decade, I’ve learned the best ways to build strong customer relationships and teach teams to do the same.
This is the first article in Gorgias’s Intro to Ecommerce Customer Service series. We’ll go over the basics of ecommerce customer service, setting up a successful customer service program, the challenges, and the best tools for customer service teams.
What is ecommerce customer service?
Ecommerce customer service combines the power of support agents with self-service resources to assist online shoppers throughout their experience with a brand. It includes everything from pre-sales and purchase questions to returns and exchanges.
The traditional view
The old-fashioned approach to ecommerce customer service is like a game of whack-a-mole ––– it’s reactive. The goal of customer service representatives under this traditional view is simply to resolve issues.
This may have worked back when call centers were the primary customer service channel, but today, brands and marketing are so entrenched in our lives that customers want authentic experiences with whoever they do business with.
The cutting-edge view
Today, ecommerce customer service is about giving customers the full VIP treatment. Customers don’t only matter once they send in a complaint. The goal is to provide them everything they need from the get-go so they don’t ever have to complain.
What a successful ecommerce customer service program looks like
Picture a well-oiled assembly line of seamless interactions, happy customers, and glowing reviews. It's like having your own customer service dream team who know the best techniques to keep your customers satisfied. But to get to that point, you'll need some key ingredients.
Below are the top six elements an ecommerce customer service program should have to succeed.
1. Builds customer loyalty
Customers rave about brands that not only align with their values, but give them zero friction throughout the buying journey. When you create thoughtful customer experiences at every point, it will be a no-brainer for customers to stick with your brand, instead of moving over to a competitor.
Here are the building blocks to gaining customer loyalty:
- Maximize pre-sales moments. What does customer experience look like when customers aren’t contacting you? Take this opportunity to reach out to customers with an email, text, or chat message to grab their interest.
- Elevate the voice of the customer. When you make changes, how will your customers feel? Are you updating your pricing or return policies? Represent your customers in all internal meetings and discussions because the decisions you make will affect them.
- Create honest, customer-centric policies. Update your customer service policies to answer all of a customer’s potential questions. Leaving anything out is likely to decrease brand loyalty and bring you a barrage of complaints.
2. Offers proactive support
Make the first move and don’t wait for your customers to contact you. Taking a proactive approach involves not only initiative and common sense but research.
Here are a few ways you can deliver proactive customer service:
- Ask for customer feedback at every opportunity. Feedback is the basis of delivering effective support. Ask for feedback at every point of the customer journey, from on-site pop-up surveys to customer reviews.
- Track live statistics. Taking note of metrics like the total number of tickets being opened and resolved within a time period can help you identify trends or issues so that your services can be more efficient.
- Celebrate customer moments. It’s easier to keep customers than find new ones. Make sure to recognize your customers on their birthdays or anniversaries by giving them discounts or gifts.
3. Offers omnichannel support
Online businesses can make the most out of their digital presence by offering omnichannel customer service. This is a multi-channel approach to support and includes assistance given on email, live chat, chatbots, voice, and social media.
When you use a helpdesk with omnichannel support like Gorgias, you benefit from:
- More customer engagement. Offering multiple support channels allows you to reach customers of all demographics.
- A streamlined workflow for your agents. With all conversations in one place, agents don’t need to split their attention between multiple tabs.
- An easier time scaling. A helpdesk makes it easier for growing ecommerce platforms to take care of their customers in an organized fashion.
4. Delivers rapid response times
Customers just want answers. Meet their expectations by providing solutions as quickly as possible. Ultimately, this means getting your internal customer service operations right before the questions even roll in.
Here are some ways to hike up your first response times:
- Train your support team thoroughly. Training your agents on customer service skills, brand voice, and exposing them to potential customer questions will ensure they have the foundation to handle both familiar and new inquiries.
- Auto-assign your tickets with Rules. Automating ticket management makes sure your inbox is organized and easy for your agents to navigate. Rules allows you to sort your tickets when certain conditions are met.
- Use Macros and scripts. Simplify responses by using customer service scripts (called Macros on Gorgias), so your agents can stop doing repetitive, manual work and get straight to delivering good customer service.
5. Includes useful & easily accessible self-service
Customers shouldn’t always need to go to your support team for answers. Empower them to find their own answers with self-service options like a Help Center, knowledge base, or FAQ section. It’s a win-win: your customer support team dodges a pile of tickets and your customers have an answer in seconds.
Don’t forget that self-service options should be easy to access, too. Put them front and center, like on your website’s menu or as a fixed element at the bottom right corner of all webpages. Customers should be able to find what they need with just a few clicks.
6. Always measuring & improving
You'll want to dig into your customer service metrics, like response times, customer satisfaction scores, and feedback from your customers. Measure it, analyze it, and figure out where you can refine customer service even more.
Maybe your response times are extremely slow, and you need to start using automation. Maybe customers are complaining about a confusing checkout process. Whatever it is, your customers are your cheat sheet. Use the feedback to make improvements, and implement those changes.
💡 Note: Contrary to what online customers think, customer service agents, and even leads, don’t know everything. Their goal is to continuously learn about how to improve the customer service experience with the help of customer feedback.
5 common challenges of ecommerce customer service
Challenging customers and questions are part of the job. But if you’re struggling to handle what you feel should be an easy fix, you may not have the resources you need.
To mitigate those problems, I’ll show you the solutions to the five most common challenges in ecommerce customer service.
1. Too many customer inquiries
❌ Problem: Your inbox is full of customer questions and you don’t know where to start.
✅ Solution: Prioritize tickets by urgency based on each customer’s message and whether the customer is a new or returning customer.
On Gorgias, you can create a Rule to automatically tag tickets into their appropriate categories. For instance, tickets that contain complaints can be automatically identified and tagged as “high priority,” while “where is my order?” tickets are tagged as “low priority.”
The benefits of automating ticket management leads to better managing customer expectations, response times, and makes it easier for you to keep loyal customers.
2. Not enough agents to handle customers
❌ Problem: You have a small team of agents and too many customer inquiries to resolve in a timely manner.
✅ Solution: Automate your recurring tasks so your agents can handle more important interactions.
With Macros, app integrations, and Automation Add-On, routine tasks like organizing your tickets, sending scripted responses, and checking up on customers can take seconds. When agents don’t need to handle repetitive work, they can focus on delivering more thoughtful support.
📚 Related reading: 14 best customer service software for every kind of business
3. Too many support channels
❌ Problem: You have too many tabs open and customer conversations to track.
✅ Solution: Integrate all your communication channels under one platform.
An omnichannel strategy is the easiest fix, which Gorgias specializes in. By combining your email, social media, SMS, and phone support in one platform, your attention won’t be split across multiple tabs, allowing you to provide personalized customer service no matter which channel a customer chooses.
4. No customer feedback loop
❌ Problem: You routinely send customer surveys but don’t know how to effectively apply the feedback.
✅ Solution: Determine the most important issues to resolve, create an actionable plan, and share your findings with the appropriate teams.
Collecting customer feedback is pointless if you don’t know what to do with it. The main purpose of feedback is to gain insights that can resolve issues or bring forth new questions.
Most CX teams have one of two problems:
- Not collecting enough data and therefore not having the answers to customer questions
- Collecting a lot of data but not synthesizing it effectively and sharing it with the right people
Bridge the gap between data collection and insights by sharing your learnings with the appropriate team members to inspire them to take action. In essence, it’s about translating critique into innovative support methods.
5. Tough customers
❌ Problem: A customer is wrong but insists they’re right, and you don’t know how to reply properly.
✅ Solution: Acknowledge their frustration and provide them with the correct information by using positive language.
Surprise, surprise — customers are not always right but it’s important stay respectful even during tense conversations. You shouldn’t outright tell them they’re wrong, instead do the following:
- Thank them for writing. Let them know your brand values all customer feedback to ensure your interaction starts off on a positive note.
- Acknowledge their frustration and issue. Give them the peace of mind that the agent they’re talking to understands them and can lead them to a resolution.
- Provide multiple solutions. Chances are, your customer has already browsed your website for answers, so be sure to offer alternate solutions and resources in addition to the most obvious ones.
- Escalate the ticket to a customer service lead. If the customer is still not satisfied, direct them to a specific agent that could provide them with more information.
- If necessary, make an exception. Some issues simply can’t follow your policy and may be better solved with a refund, discount, or novel solution. Allowing exceptions for returning customers can be the means of retaining them.
📚 Related reading: How to respond to angry customer emails
How to improve ecommerce customer service with a helpdesk
If you could invest in just one tool, make it an ecommerce helpdesk. Having a single hub to manage customer conversations and order management streamlines the customer experience.
I've tried almost every helpdesk out there, and Gorgias is by far the most intuitive helpdesk I've used. Gorgias goes beyond the basics of a customer service tool by giving you the ability to talk to customers across multiple support channels, manage tickets efficiently, and handle customer queries all within Gorgias's easy-to-use interface.
Try it out for yourself with their interactive tour:
3 ways top-notch customer service can boost your bottom-line
Delivering exceptional customer service isn't just about addressing inquiries. It's a reimagining of your brand’s overall experience that directly impacts your financial success. When customer service is your priority, it leads to repeat purchases, a boost in your repeat customer rate, and the creation of customer ambassadors.
1. Drive repeat purchases
Your CX team has the 411 on what your loyal customers love about your product and what they'd like to change.
This data is invaluable for your retention team when crafting engaging campaigns and creating educational content post-purchase to ensure they know how to use the products they ordered.
2. Create customer ambassadors
Customers are more likely to remember your brand if you initiate moments that cause happiness after they use your products.
How exactly do you do it? You introduce a bit of surprise and delight to the online shopping journey instead of sticking to the script. You want to delight customers with memorable moments — without overdoing it to the point of being predictable.
When I worked at OLIPOP, one of my favorite moments was when a customer ordered 20 cases of OLIPOP for her wedding. However, our shipment was cutting it close to their wedding date. To compensate for the panic our newlyweds might’ve been feeling, we asked them for their wedding registry and got them a shiny new waffle iron.
3. Boost onsite conversions
When potential customers are given speedy support, it’s easier to turn window shoppers into brand new customers. A well-integrated customer service strategy can remove obstacles and can push browsing customers into making their purchase.
How Gorgias has helped top ecommerce brands grow revenue
Delivering great customer service might involve some experimenting. With the right tools, you can help your customers feel more connected to your brand overall.
If you're in search of ecommerce customer service software, give Gorgias a try. Gorgias is designed specifically for ecommerce businesses and their customer support needs.
At OLIPOP, we were able to decrease our first response time by 88% in the first two months of using Gorgias — even when our ticket volume doubled. And our revenue? It grew over 1200%.
If you want to learn about how we accomplished this, read the OLIPOP case study.