20 Ecommerce Customer Service Best Practices to Help You Level Up

Jordan Miller
Jordan Miller
Last updated on 
September 5, 2022
July 20, 2021
20 Ecommerce Customer Service Best Practices to Help You Level Up

Ecommerce customer service can make or break your business. Of course, so can product development marketing. But without great customer service, those efforts can crumble.

Today, many ecommerce companies use helpdesks to manage tickets and organize the customer support team. But without advanced tools like templates and automation, these brands may not be providing the best online shopping experience for their customers. 

In this guide, we'll outline 20 advanced ecommerce customer service tips for small business owners and customer service managers who are ready to scale their service efforts, optimize agents workflows, and upgrade their customer experience into a profit center for their brand.

What makes for great ecommerce customer service?

Great customer service is a broad category, so we broke it down into the major components:

What makes for great ecommerce customer service?

Speed: Fast resolution times and self-service options

According to a study conducted by SuperOffice and Toister Solutions, 46% of customers expect a customer service response time of 4 hours or less, while 12% expect companies to respond in 15 minutes or less. This makes the speed at which your team members are able to respond to and resolve support tickets a key requirement for great ecommerce customer service.

Self-service options are the best way to help customers much faster because they don’t require waiting for an agent. We’ll explain how self-service tools like automated responses and knowledge bases provided instant answers to common questions below.

Convenience: A multichannel approach

Customers shouldn't have to jump through hoops to get in touch with your customer service team. Along with reducing response times, you also need to create an omnichannel experience, or multiple touchpoints so customers can contact you wherever they are: email, social media, text, and so on.

Omnichannel customer support gives customers many touchpoints to speak with your brand

Helpfulness: Clear, correct answers

Perhaps the most obvious element of great customer service, nothing else matters much if the customer service you provide is not helpful. Speed and convenience are great, but your customers won't be satisfied unless their problem is solved.

Friendliness: Consistent voice and tone

If you own an online store, your customer service reps are will directly interact with customers more than any other department. They are the human voices of your company, and it is vital for those voices to be friendly and on-brand at all times.

Measurable: A data-driven approach to help optimize

Great customer service should have clear KPIs that are aligned with company goals such as customer retention and revenue generation that clearly demonstrate how your customer service creates value for the company. If you use Gorgias, that last one is something you can find in the revenue dashboard within your helpdesk software:

Source: Gorgias

Feedback-Focused: To continue improving the customer service experience

Generating customer feedback is one way that customer service generates value for a company. By putting an emphasis on collecting customer feedback via your support services, you can continually improve your product, support, and the overall customer experience.

The impact of amazing customer service on your ecommerce business

The impact of customer service on the success of an ecommerce business cannot be overstated. 95% of consumers say that customer service is important to earning their brand loyalty and retention. And according to our data, return customers generate 300% more revenue than first-time customers.

Repeat customers generate 300% more revenue than first-time customers
Source: Gorgias

Furthermore, 61% of customers say they would leave a brand due to poor customer service. This means that even if your customers love your products, 61% may never buy again after just one bad interaction or disappointment.

On the bright side, 58% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience. So if you get it right, you’ll see customer loyalty translate into repeat purchases and higher cart order values, as consumers would rather buy from you than elsewhere.

Customer service can also have an immediate and direct impact on your sales. Pre-sales tickets are those that come before a purchase. They can be questions about product availability, sizing, style, shipping, and anything else a customer needs to know before making a purchase. If your agents are attuned to these types of tickets, they can offer information and discounts that close more sales, boosting your conversion rate.

By shifting your support team's focus to revenue generation, you can make customer support an even more impactful element of your business by leveraging your customer support services as an avenue for generating sales.

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Top support channels for ecommerce customer service

Every industry has its standards. (For a deeper dive into those standards, check out our posts on customer service statistics and trends.) In the ecommerce world, live chat reigns supreme as the top channel for customer support. 

Depending on the age range of your target customer, email, phone, or social media will come in second place. Older consumers expect to get support via phone, while younger ones expect help on your brand’s social media accounts. The main rule of support is to meet customers where they are.

With all of that said, let's take a look at the top support channels for ecommerce customer service.

Live chat

Many consumers prefer live chat over phone support, and this number is continually rising as more and more Gen Z shoppers enter the market. With live chat becoming the new normal, your customer support strategy should include it as another excellent opportunity to delight your customers.

You can amp up your live chat with automation, whether that’s a chatbot that mimics human support, or a self-service menus that customers can use to find information quickly:

Email

Even at many large and successful ecommerce companies, email is a preferred channel for managing customer support compared with live chat. That’s because email doesn’t offer instant response and allows for a more carefully planned and measured response to customer problems.

However, using email doesn’t mean your customer service team doesn’t need advanced technology. Integrations, automation, and email templates can all come into play for a faster response time via email.

Social media

Many online shoppers (especially Millennials and Gen Z consumers) expect to receive some form of support on social media, which is now considered one of the top customer service channels. There are some downsides to incorporating social platforms into your customer service strategy, including difficult tracking and the fact that negative customer interactions on social media are often broadcast publicly. However, when your team handles social media support well, it’s a chance to show off the great customer experience you provide to followers and potential customers.

In this example, Wonderskin (a peel-away lip stain mask), helps address a customer issue that could have otherwise prevented other followers from purchasing.

Wonderksin monitors social comments and proactively replies
Source: Wonderskin

Phone calls

Larger ecommerce websites will often offer phone support to keep up with customer demand. What’s more, phones are often a fast way to resolve issues.

Best of all, you don't need to have a call center to support customers by phone. With Gorgias, you can forward calls directly to the a team member with a complete history of customer orders and conversations so they know exactly how to help from the jump, whether it’s a new customer interaction or a follow-up.

Gorgias gives you a customer overview so agents always have full context

SMS

Research estimates that 72.6% of internet users will access the web exclusively from mobile devices by 2025. Along with highlighting the importance of optimizing your store and customer support channels for mobile users, this statistic also shows how convenient SMS support can be for many customers.

SMS customer support offers many of the same advantages as live chat, allowing customers to speak with a live representative without having to call your company. And with Gorgias, you can easily offer live chat support via SMS, Facebook Messenger, and numerous other instant messaging platforms.

Click here to read our full guide to customer support messaging.

20 ecommerce customer service best practices you need to implement

You don’t want to provide average customer service. You want to streamline your responses, give real-time support whenever possible, and stand out from the sea of competitors. Here’s how.

1) Select an ecommerce customer service tool specifically built for ecommerce

Offering excellent customer support for your online customers starts with providing your customer support team with the right tools. There are plenty of customer service platforms available today, but not all of these platforms are optimized for online businesses. 

As a customer support platform designed specifically for ecommerce, Gorgias offers all of the tools and features your online store needs to improve the quality and efficiency of its customer support services. Plus, we don’t spend our time stuffing the tool full of features helpful for airlines, hotel chains, and hospitals.

2) Use a helpdesk that unifies all your support channels

One of the most important things to look for in an ecommerce customer support platform is a unified help desk. It’s important to use helpdesk software that incorporates email, live chat, phone, and social media into one platform. An omnichannel platform will automatically pull tickets in from a variety of sources, kind of like a shared inbox. 

This way, as your company grows and expands to more channels, you won’t lose time to agents switching between apps or guessing about past customer interactions.

Gorgias' omnichannel platform supports all support channels

3) Create response templates to improve service quality and speed

Excellent customer service should be consistent. One of the best ways to provide consistent messaging is with templates. 

Now, your average online customer is pretty savvy. They will notice if you’re just replying with a crappy template — specifically, one that provide generic information that isn’t personalized or helpful.

This is why you must create dozens of templates that pull data straight from Shopify (or whichever ecommerce platform you use) to give customers an answer that’s actually helpful. With Gorgias’ templated Macros, you can create templates with variables like [Number of last order] that help customers and reduce the amount of time customer service agents have to spend copy/pasting information:

You could create customer service scripts for these issues and more:

  • Where is my order? (WISMO)
  • Cancel a recent order
  • Update shipping information
  • Refund confirmation

4) Offer self-service options in your live chat and help center

As Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) puts it, “The best customer service is if the customer doesn’t need to call you, doesn’t need to talk to you. It just works.”

That’s the goal of self-service options: provide resources so helpful they resolve customer questions before the customer needs to reach out. Here’s an example of a live chat from Birddogs, which uses Gorgias to speed up customer service with self-service options:

Birddogs has self-service menus in their live chat
Source: Birddogs

Customers can track an order, return an order, or cancel an order without having to interact with a rep. Gorgias’ self-service feature can be added to your live chat and help center, and integrates with other popular apps that manage order tracking and returns.

5) Expand your FAQ into a fully-fledged help center

Most online businesses need a killer FAQ (knowledge base). These can reduce the volume of tickets in online chat and other communication channels. Every six months, take a look at your customer support tickets and hunt for trends. Add more items to your FAQ, such as shipping options, sizing, and return policy questions, for proactive and scalable customer service.

When the time is right, you can upgrade your FAQ to a fully-fledged Help Center with Gorgias, where customers can see more detailed information, organized article collections, and manage orders with the self-service menu. See the below example for a side-by-side of an FAQ page and Help Center:

FAQ page vs. knowledge base or help center
Source: Branch

6) Integrate inventory data into helpdesk responses to convert more online shoppers

Ecommerce brands need to address shopping cart abandonment from every angle, not just with exit intent pop-ups and display advertising. Swift support is a critical part of reducing cart abandonment rates, and online shoppers will bounce if they can’t find help fast. 

Gorgias can do this automatically thanks to its deep integrations with Shopify and other ecommerce platforms. Integrating your inventory and product details into your helpdesk can help reps load up accurate responses quickly to ensure a smooth customer journey. 

7) Consolidate order and shipping data into helpdesk responses for faster resolution times

One of the biggest challenges with helpdesk software is using an outdated platform that doesn’t integrate with your other tools. This means your customer service representatives have to go digging around for information in other systems in order to respond. For example, you might have to look at your email marketing system, inventory and order system, and shipping software.

“The tool is able to make those smart decisions for us and make those replies for us, and that saves so much time,” says Caiden Tuller, Customer Relations Manager at Death Wish Coffee, about using Gorgias to run their ecommerce customer support. Gorgias uses macro variables to pull data from your integrated sources, including your Shopify backend, into your responses.

For example, a response macro template could be something like:

“Thanks for checking in with us! I noticed that your refund was processed on {{refund-date}} for {{refund-amount}}.”

When one of your support representatives wants to use this template, it will preload with the correct information for that customer:

“Thanks for checking in with us! I noticed that your refund was processed on July 2, 2021 for $56.71.”

Then, if they want to, the representative can quickly add some personalization to that response like:

“Thanks for checking in with us! I noticed that your refund was processed on July 2, 2021 for $56.71. Since that was yesterday, you should get the refund by next Friday. Let me know if you don’t see it within a week!”

8) Provide reps with a unified view of each customer

An omnichannel approach is important for any ecommerce store, and one of the biggest benefits of a unified helpdesk is that it offers a bird's-eye view of each and every customer. With Gorgias, your reps can see all outstanding orders, all customer support tickets, and all details on open tickets, including what the customer and other reps have said. 

A customer timeline gives the full context for agents.

This is especially helpful when responding to an angry customer because they'll become even more frustrated if they have to repeat themselves.

9) Personalize responses with accurate customer data

Direct integration with your inventory management, order management, ecommerce platform, and shipping software means that you can quickly write detailed personalized responses with accurate customer data.

Even if you don’t incorporate that data into your written response like the refund example above, this data can still help your team craft personalized responses. For example, a rep could mention “the dress or the shoes” when asking a customer which part of their order they want to cancel. This level of detail really impresses some customers.

10) Respond to comments on your ads and social media posts quickly

“Listening to your customers takes a lot of courage and being able to understand their needs has helped us a lot as a business,” says Rachel Lambo, co-founder of Sade Baron. Social media can be a great source of customer feedback for your online store. Make sure to use an omnichannel helpdesk software that lets you collect, handle, and track social media comments. You should also sort this feedback and deliver it to your product innovation team.

Check out our complete guide to prioritizing customer service requests for more information.

11) Automate responses to repetitive, low-impact tickets

Some of your templates and variables will be so accurate and useful, that you can just trigger them to send automatically. Questions about order delivery (if the order isn’t late) or pre-sale questions about your return policy are just a few examples of responses that your team can easily automate with tools like Gorgias’s Rules.

Gorgias helps automate simple requests, like Where is my order (WISMO)

Rules can also go a step further and automatically trigger actions like cancelling an order upon request:

Gorgias Macros can also trigger Shopify actions.

12) Use customer service metrics to track benchmarks and trends

There are so many customer service metrics you can track to measure your ecommerce customer service success. Some of the top metrics include average response time, average resolution time, support quality level, converted tickets, negative social media comments, and tickets created by channel (shown below).

Gorgias has many dashboards to track your team's performance and revenue contribution

In addition to tracking these metrics, set monthly benchmarks for them so that you can highlight any dips or peaks and resolve issues.

13) Offer shipment tracking and notifications

Sixty-nine percent of customers say that the ability to track their order is a top priority when ordering products online, and shipment notifications are an essential part of meeting these customer expectations. 

Customers should receive notifications when an order ships, when it's out for delivery, and when it's successfully delivered. Automating these notifications is the best way to ensure that customers receive them without overburdening your support team.

You should also create a branded order tracking page, so if a customer clicks on one of your email call-to-action buttons, they go to a branded page. You could put a coupon on this page or feature popular products. You can use an app like ShippyPro or AfterShip to set up both notifications and tracking pages.

14) Improve your checkout experience and shipping cost accuracy

The actual checkout process is a critical component of the customer experience. A better experience has the potential to create superfans and repeat customers, but a bad experience can send people running for the hills. Make sure that your reps notify your UX team if they get an influx of customers complaining about checkout errors and strive to fix them quickly.

Also, shipping costs factor into your checkout process. You can reduce frustration and confusion by using shipping software such as ShipBob or LateShipment.com to provide customers with highly accurate shipping estimates during checkout. High shipping costs is the top reason for shopping cart abandonment, so this is an area to invest some time into to get right.  

15) Add a customer returns portal for printing return labels

Online shoppers expect to receive a return label with their purchase or at least the ability to easily print one online. If you don’t want to add return labels to every package, then you need to offer a portal where customers can print their own. This way, they don’t have to contact support for help with initiating a return. Just make sure you follow ecommerce returns best practices.

You can create your own returns portal with Loop Returns:

Jaxxon's return and exchange portal is powered by Loop Returns
Source: Jaxxon

16) Collect email addresses if you don’t run support 24/7

Small teams are not able to run their live chat 24/7. And you can't answer every question with a templated, automated response.

You don’t want to give the wrong impression during your off hours by just leaving the live chat up with no response whatsoever. So be sure to set up an automated response that collects email addresses.

This way, you can respond to customers who contact your live chat support during off-hours the next day when your support team is working.

Live chat staffed 24/7 with contact form.
Source: Sol de Janeiro

17) Use customer reviews to boost your branding

Customer feedback collected during the customer support process can serve as a helpful roadmap for optimizing your support services, but it can also be a valuable marketing tool. If your support team collects positive feedback from a customer, don't be afraid to use that feedback to amplify your branding.

If you use Gorgias, you can integrate with Yotpo to bring customer reviews into your helpdesk so you have the full context of a customer’s opinion of your brand during every interaction:

See customer sentiment about your brand with Yotpo reviews
Source: Gorgias + Yotpo

18) Provide in-app customer support for your mobile users

We've already mentioned that more and more online shoppers are now searching the web primarily via mobile devices. Optimizing support channels for mobile users is one way to ensure that these customers have a pleasant support experience. However, providing in-app support to your mobile users is another great option.

Offering in-app support makes getting in touch with your support team more convenient and accessible to customers who primarily shop from your store's mobile app.

19) Create a loyalty or reward program to increase customer retention

Improving customer retention and maximizing the average customer lifetime value (CLV) is one of the most impactful ways that great customer service can drive revenue. Offering swift and helpful support will encourage customer retention on its own, but you can improve your retention rate even further with a loyalty or reward program.

Solutions such as Smile.io and LoyaltyLion can help you build reward/loyalty programs that offer customers incentives for repeat purchases, reviews, referrals, and more. These are a fun way for customers to interact with your brand and encourage repeat business — meaning more revenue for your business.

20) Use 3D pictures and detailed product descriptions to minimize returns

In 2021, 16.6% of all online orders were ultimately returned. Ecommerce stores have always had a much higher return rate than their brick-and-mortar counterparts, mostly because customers can't inspect products ordered online before purchasing them.

While there is no way to provide your online customers with a true brick-and-mortar experience, you can reduce your return rate by optimizing your product pages. 3D pictures (or at least multiple, high-quality 2D pictures) and detailed product descriptions will help ensure that customers know exactly what they are getting before they place an order.

Check out Native Union, a tech retailer that smartly shows product compatibility with their product photography:

Native union's contextual product photography
Source: Native Union

Enhance your ecommerce store's customer experience with Gorgias

Optimizing your online store's customer support services offers a wide range of business-boosting benefits. Lower expenses, greater customer satisfaction, and more revenue are just a few benefits that great customer support can deliver.

If you want to level up your customer support with cutting-edge tools such as live chat, automated responses, a unified helpdesk, and much more, Gorgias' comprehensive ecommerce customer support platform is the ideal solution for you. 

See how Gorgias can help you enjoy the many benefits of optimized customer support — sign up for a Gorgias demo.

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