Ecommerce Customer Service 101: Benefits, Support Do’s and Don’ts, and More

Jordan Miller
Jordan Miller
Last updated on 
September 4, 2022
September 8, 2022
Ecommerce Customer Service 101: Benefits, Support Do’s and Don’ts, and More

Excellent customer service is a vital part of any business — but especially ecommerce businesses. While online shopping it only takes a few clicks to leave your store, abandon a shopping cart, and check out your competitors with just a few clicks. And at any point, customers can easily decide to check Amazon for cheaper prices.

Fortunately, your customer service can play an important role in your brand’s growth. After having a great customer service experience, 93% of customers are likely to return to your store and 90% are likely to purchase the second time around according to Hubspot data. Those stats — plus benefits like reviews, — are why we believe happy customers are the best fuel for growth. 

In this article, we’ll explain why ecommerce customer service is a great investment for online stores of all sizes. Then, we’ll give you a primer on some best practices, common pitfalls, and metrics to evaluate your brand’s service (with plenty of suggestions for further reading on specific topics).

What is ecommerce customer service?

Ecommerce customer service is the combination of customer support agents and self-service resources to help online shoppers throughout their experience with your company. Ecommerce customer service spans the entire customer journey: from pre-sales questions asked by first-time visitors to support required during the purchase, delivery, return, and exchange process. 

The impact of customer experience in customer journey

What can ecommerce brands gain from a successful customer service team

Solid customer service will lead to loyal customers, which will help your company grow and ultimately drive revenue. Let’s dive into more specifics around what else your ecommerce platform can gain from a stellar customer service team. 

Benefits of customer service

Happier customers (who make repeat purchases)

Happy customers come back again. They also buy more when they do come back: our customer data shows that while only 21% of customers are repeat customers, that small group places 46% of orders and generates 44% of a brand's revenue. Add all that up, and repeat customers generate around 300% more revenue than first-time customers.

A top-tier customer service team is a key part of offering a customer experience that furthers customer loyalty and keeps happy customers coming back again and again.

More customer ambassadors that generate reviews and referrals

Another way loyal customers can help your small business see success is by providing reviews and referrals. This could range from formal reviews on Google and other review sites to positive reviews on your product pages and referrals. This social proof and brand exposure mean your loyal customers funnel additional repeat customers through your site to the checkout page.

The majority (77%) of consumers read online reviews, so if you keep your long-term customers happy, you can almost guarantee they will speak highly of your brand — online and offline.

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Valuable customer feedback to help improve the product and customer experience

Long-term customers who experience great customer service from your brand will be more likely to provide feedback that can help improve your company’s product and customer experience. 

You can ask for brief feedback via net promoter score (NPS) or customer satisfaction (CSAT) surveys that your team can email to your “superfan” customers, or in a more informal and personalized way via phone or direct email. This often makes customers feel special because it shows that you are interested in their opinions and thoughts. 

Live chat can be a valuable source of customer feedback

More sales by creating helpful resources and proactively engaging shoppers

The most effective ecommerce customer support teams don't just wait for customers to ask questions to be helpful. They can also help create clear return policies, publish FAQ pages and help center articles, and proactively chat with customers to ask if they need any information (or discounts) to make a confident, informed purchase.

Proactive live chat helps customer service drive sales

Resilience against difficult economic conditions

If your main growth plan is to attract new customers, you’re rising ad costs, increased competition, poor customer targeting, changing customer expectations, and reduced spending from recessions. Regular repeat purchases are a more sustainable path to recurring revenue. 

In their 2022 Future of Ecommerce report, Shopify reports that going forward, “Community and customer retention will be what many DTC brands lean on to thrive.”

Ecommerce customer service channels

One of the biggest differences between traditional customer service and ecommerce customer service is the different channels available. Primarily, traditional customer support is phone-based, email-based, or in-person. Ecommerce companies have all of that plus some more modern communication channels: live chat, social media, and instant messaging for starters.

The best ecommerce customer support teams are able to offer most, if not all, of these communication channels to meet customers wherever they’re at. And a unified helpdesk can save your customer service representatives hours each week by bringing all these channels together into one hub:

Gorgias helpdesk unifies all support channels in one platform

Let's break down a few of the most common ecommerce customer service channels to help you decide which ones make the most sense for your brand to offer.

Live chat

Live chat is a way that online customers can chat with a member of your customer service team via your website. It's a great way for ecommerce businesses to provide real-time customer support and further enhance the customer experience. 

Live chat is great because customers can get immediate support while browsing your website. They don’t have to dial a number or open their email client. Plus, with the right helpdesk software, you can upgrade your live chat to include self-service flows or proactively reach out to customers to offer support and discounts.

Gorgias also lets you use better-than-chatbot technology to automate your responses to simple requests, such as tracking a customer’s order or triggering a refund of a customer’s most recent order:

Learn more about how your customer service team can use live chat to support customers and drive sales. Or, if you want to research live chat software, check out our list of the best live chat tools for ecommerce.

Social media

Ecommerce websites and social media go hand-in-hand: we’re willing to bet your brand already has a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to build brand awareness and engage with customers. But social media isn’t just for advertising and selling products: your customer support team can meet customers where they are by answering comments and messages on these apps. 

Monitoring and responding to queries on all these platforms can be time-consuming. But the right customer service platform can centralize all these conversations so you don’t have to swap tabs to respond to social messages.

Gorgias integrates with Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Twitter, and more

Check out our guide to social media customer service to learn how to enhance your customer experience with Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more. 

Messaging apps

Similar to social media, many consumers use messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, SMS, and Instagram DMs for more than just communicating with friends and family — they expect to be able to message brands directly. 

Like live chat, these channels are extremely fast, which customers appreciate. But unlike live chat, your customers don’t have to wait with your website pulled up for you to respond. They can carry on with their day and check their texts whenever it's convenient for them. 

Check out our guide to customer service messaging to learn more about these conversational channels.

Email

Email is one of the more traditional forms of ecommerce customer service, and it probably isn’t going anywhere soon. Many customers choose email out of personal preference, plus it’s a better format for long-form responses or to answer questions that may take a few days since customers expect some latency with emails.

Email is also a great tool to send customers post-purchase information, like purchase confirmations. It can also be an effective place for your customer service team to upsell customers with product recommendations and share help center content that’s relevant to a customer’s problem. 

Manage email from within the Gorgias platform

Check out our list of 16 email templates to improve your email support.

Phone calls

Though many consumers are not picking up the phone to dial their favorite brands’ customer service teams, providing great phone support still adds a lot of value. Ultimately, the number of customers who use your brand’s phone support will largely depend on the demographics of your customer base and how in-depth the customer requests are. Plus, for more complex questions, jumping on the phone to talk an issue out is one of the fastest ways to come to a resolution.

Learn about four major benefits of adding voice support to your ecommerce store.

FAQ pages and help centers

Customers love self-service options like FAQs and knowledge bases (also called help centers) because they expedite the support process. Why? Because it's faster for customers to search for an answer to their issue and find a solution than it is to contact a live agent, explain their problem, and wait for a resolution. That’s why 88% of customers expect some kind of self-service portal.

These self-help options also remove a bulk of the burden from your support team, too. You can create FAQs and knowledge bases that address many common questions and issues, which will prevent customers from contacting your team as much so your team can spend more time on more complex questions.

FAQ pages and Help Centers are both valuable customer self-service resources
Source: Branch

Check out our full guide to FAQs and help centers for examples, tips, and more.

Blog content

Blogs can also be a helpful aspect of your ecommerce brand’s customer service strategy. They can give your customers additional context surrounding your products and position your brand as an industry expert.

Check out our guide on how to use a blog to support your store’s growth.

Common ecommerce customer service challenges

As much as every company’s customer service teams want to be prepared for anything, there are still inevitable challenges that will arise when building a team to provide customer care and further business goals. Some common ecommerce customer service challenges include:

Check out this post for a more detailed breakdown of these challenges — and some actionable solutions to prevent them.

Ecommerce customer service do’s and don’ts

Building a successful customer service program isn’t a simple project, and there are a ton of considerations to make to ensure that your customer satisfaction (and your team’s ROI) stays high. We've outlined some do's and don'ts to help keep your team as efficient and helpful as possible. 

Ecommerce customer service do’s

  • Have a proactive approach to the customer experience: Many customer service teams adopt a reactive attitude where they wait for customer questions to start providing support. But proactive customer service, a combination of directly reaching out to customers and creating self-service resources, is a more scalable way to help potential customers, reduce cart abandonment, and improve your brand’s customer experience.
  • Promptly respond to priority tickets: Ninety percent of customers rate an “immediate” response as important but your team can’t possibly be prompt for every ticket — especially as you grow. Create a measurable service level agreement (SLA) for the customer service team that outlines your response time goals for each channel, first-time vs. VIP customers, and urgent tickets vs. those that can wait.
  • Be polite, friendly, and helpful: Even if a customer service agent doesn’t have the answer a customer is looking for, they can still create a positive customer interaction. It may be as simple as apologizing and assuring the customer that you’ll pass along the feedback. In these situations, the customer is much more likely to feel that they’ve had a good experience than when dealing with a customer service agent with an "I don't know, and I don't care" attitude. 
  • Track and analyze your support team’s performance: If you don't track and analyze your team's performance, you’ll miss out on valuable data that can catch issues before they become too big and detrimental to your online business. Gorgias’ live statistics and support performance dashboards can help you do just that.
  • Have an omnichannel/multichannel customer service strategy: Your team should develop multiple support channels to give your customers many touchpoint options for your brand. You can widen the net of customers you appeal to and reduce the amount of effort that goes into a customer support interaction.
Gorgias pulls all support channels together under one platform

Check out our post on customer service best practices for more suggestions.

Ecommerce customer service don’ts

  • Tell customers they are wrong: There are definitely situations where customers will not be right. However, telling them they’re wrong never ends well. This is where de-escalation training can come in handy.
  • Ignore customer feedback: Customer feedback is a goldmine for a brand’s growth. If you don’t take the feedback to heart and think about implementing some of it, you will most likely continue hearing the same negative feedback over and over again — which will lead to unhappy customers. 
  • Treat customers like a number: Nobody likes to be treated like they are just another sale. When interacting with customers, customer service team members must treat each person respectfully and provide personalized responses tailored to the situation.
  • Forget to follow up with previous customer tickets: Sometimes, customer service representatives will forget to follow up on tickets — we’re all human. However, instead of letting this become a regular occurrence, implement some processes to reduce it. You can set up reminders for important ticket conversations or even use contact form technology that captures customer information in your chat for later follow-up on email. 
  • Spend too much time on low-impact tickets: Getting sucked into tickets that don’t impact the overall customer experience, such as “Where is my order?” tickets or questions about your return policy, can be a huge waste of time and take your team members away from more valuable tasks. This is where self-service resources and customer service automation can help. 
Gorgias Macros give automatic, personalized responses to repetitive questions.

How to evaluate ecommerce customer service

The best customer service programs have a good process to benchmark and measure their performance with concrete customer support metrics, so they can communicate their impact to the rest of the team and continuously improve. 

Here are 12 powerful customer service key performance indicators (KPIs) that can help with the evaluation of your customer service program:

  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT): This tracks how satisfied your customers are overall and usually is found by sending out a customer satisfaction survey asking customers to rank their satisfaction on a scale from 1 to 5.
  • Net promoter score (NPS): As mentioned earlier, brand loyalty often equals free promotion, so tracking how likely your current customers are to promote your brand can be helpful when tracking the size of your customer base. 
  • Customer retention rate (CRR): Retaining customers is always less expensive than finding new customers, so finding your company’s CRR is necessary for your ongoing data analysis. 
  • Net retention rate (NRR): Also known as net dollar retention (NDR), this metric is the percentage of recurring revenue retained from your existing customer base over time. 
  • First reply time (FRT): This metric, also known as first response time, is how long it takes one customer service rep to respond to a customer inquiry. This can be helpful to track when identifying what your customer service team’s response “goal” should be.
  • First call resolution (FCR): This metric is used mainly in call centers. It measures customer support team members’ ability to resolve a customer’s problem or questions the first time without requiring a follow-up conversation. 
  • Average resolution time (ART): The less time customers have to wait to have their issues resolved, the happier they are. This is why it’s important to track the average resolution time of your customer service team members. 
  • Total resolution time: This metric is the time between when a customer interaction initiates and when it is complete — the life cycle of a customer inquiry. 
  • Customer effort score (CES): CES is how much effort a customer has to put in to resolve their issues with your company. You can measure this by sending out a simple questionnaire to customers asking how easy or hard their experience was interacting with the company. 
  • Conversation abandonment rate: As much as you don’t want to think about it, customers will abandon conversations with customer service staff. Tracking and analyzing this may show where your team needs to put in more effort or change strategies.  
  • Contact rate: The contact rate is the percentage of active customers who ask for help in a given period. It's good to analyze this metric when thinking about whether or not to add more customer service agents to your team. 
  • Backlog: Also known as revenue backlog, this metric determines how much revenue will come into your business, based on the rate you can turn browsers into buyers. This is essential for ecommerce brands to track, and a helpdesk with revenue statistics can help. 

Read more about these 12 KPIs and tools to help you measure them.

See how top ecommerce brands optimize customer support with Gorgias

Providing customer service can take some trial and error, but with the proper tools and processes, you can ensure your customers have an outstanding experience with your brand and come back for more. 

If you’re looking for ecommerce customer service software (also called a helpdesk) that supports your customer service team, try Gorgias, the helpdesk specifically built for ecommerce:

Want to see some examples of the impact Gorgias has on real ecommerce businesses?

Ready to upgrade your Shopify, BigCommerce, or Magento store with Gorgias? Book your demo today.

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