As rising inflation, higher-than-ever customer acquisition costs, and the looming possibility of a global recession continue to weigh heavy on the minds of many brands, driving revenue via great customer service is now more important than ever before. In these turbulent times, many online businesses are doubling down on customer experience to retain and grow business through upsells, repeat purchases, and referrals — all of which offer higher ROI than pursuing new customers.
It’s clear that happy customers are a great path to growth. But how can you create a customer service strategy that leads to happy customers? We’ll suggest 16 tactics below to improve customer service in 2023, including new ways to incentivize your customer support team and self-service resources you can use to reduce customer effort.
What’s the link between customer experience and revenue?
Business leaders often view customer service as a necessary expense rather than an opportunity for business growth. However, every customer interaction along the entire customer journey presents a chance to create revenue for your business. Your customer service team’s exceptional customer service can generate revenue by:
- Answering pre-sales questions to improve your conversion rate
- Encourages happy customers to refer others to your brand
- Create loyal customers through helpful customer support
- Drive upsells and customer retention
According to data from Emplify, one in six customers will leave a company after just one negative customer care experience, while 86% of customers will leave a company after two negative customer service interactions. And 73% of customers will leave a brand after just a few poor interactions, according to a 2022 Coveo report. These negative interactions catch like wildfire and are an early warning of a sinking ship.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though — better customer service can be a huge differentiator for your brand, especially when you consider the value of loyal customers. According to data from 10,000 Gorgias, returning customers make up only 21% of a brand’s customers but generate 41% of orders and 44% of overall revenue.
Examples of excellent customer service
Good customer service entails much more than being willing and able to help solve a customer's problems. If you want to transform your customer service team into a powerful source of revenue, here are some elements of great customer service to strive for:
- Your first-response time is below two minutes and your average-handle time is below one hour: Customers expect quick responses, making first-response/average-handle times two of the most important customer support metrics to track and lower.
- You have clear and lenient return and refund policies: Use Gorgias' refund policy generator to easily create a clear and well-thought-out return/refund policy for your store. (By the way, Gorgias data shows that offering free returns is actually cost-neutral because of the boost in revenue from customer loyalty it provides.)
- You reduce customer effort with self-service options like an FAQ page, a help center, self-service flows, and/or chatbots: Providing customers with self-service options can reduce the workload for your team members and improve customer satisfaction.
- You can clearly present the impact customer service has on revenue: Customer service teams often have to prove their ROI to earn the budget they need for additional agents and new tools, making it important to connect the dots between customer service and revenue growth.
Examples of bad customer service
Bad customer experience comes in many shapes and sizes. But some recurring elements leave customers feeling completely frustrated. Research from Hotjar reveals the top issues that have the most damaging effect on customer experience:
- Long waits and slow response times: If your customers are left waiting for your response for too long, they’ll probably go to your competitor.
- Failing to understand customer needs: Answering customer questions before truly understanding them will result in a frustrating customer experience.
- Unresolved issues and unanswered questions: Leaving tickets unanswered won’t leave a good impression and will leave your customer dissatisfied
- Lack of customer service personalization: Sending out generic responses to customer inquiries only shows that you don’t really care about your customers
Learn more about why customer service matters and how to measure it in this post from our Head of Success & Support: Evaluating Your Customer Service Program: Why, Challenges, and KPIs That Matter
16 customer service tips to improve customer experience
Let’s take a look at our top 16 tips to get your team on the way to creating a better customer experience — and generating more revenue in the process.
1) Incentivize your customer service agents to meet business goals
We already discussed the impact your customer service representatives can have on business outcomes. To get serious about providing the best customer service possible, align your customer service team’s KPIs around demonstrated business goals.
Here are a few business-related KPIs that your team can focus on improving:
Consider going a step beyond setting KPIs and offering bonuses, gift cards, and other incentives for individual agents or teams that reach their goals. It’s common for sales — why not customer support, if they’re also driving revenue through customer interactions?
2) Build a user-friendly customer help center
When customers encounter a problem, they won’t reach out to you immediately. In fact, 88% of customers say that they expect companies to provide self-service support tools so that they can resolve issues on their own.
How can you help your customers help themselves? You need to build a good FAQ page or knowledge base, also called a help center, to help your customers answer their questions without having to contact an agent. Important considerations to keep in mind as you go about designing your help center include:
- Have a clearly visible search bar at the top of every page
- Include a prominent CTA to contact a human agent
- Organize your help center in categories like Product, Shipping, and Returns
For an example of an excellent ecommerce help center that accomplishes all of these objectives, check out our post on FAQ pages and help centers.
3) Use technology to remember 100% of customer details
Every customer has a unique conversation history, order history, and sentiment toward your brand. Whenever you talk to those customers, you should make an effort to personalize the conversation by using their names, acknowledging past interactions, using past order information instead of asking them to repeat it, and so on. Thankfully, technology makes offering this sort of personalized customer service much easier than it used to be.
Tools such as Gorgias’ Customer Sidebar can provide your customer support team with the data that they need to offer each customer a personalized customer service experience:
4) Prioritize complaints and pre-sale actions
Customer complaints and pre-sale actions are high-priority customer service tickets since they can directly impact your company's revenue. Addressing customer complaints prevents customer churn and encourages repeat purchases. Pre-sale actions such as questions about product sizing or your shipping policy present the opportunity to drive a sale home — if your agents answer in time.
You can develop your customer service team to prioritize these tickets manually, or you can prioritize them automatically within your helpdesk. If you use Gorgias, a combination of automated Rules and Intents can automatically identify certain ticket types — like customer complaints, pre-sales questions, or tickets from VIP customers — and flag them as high priority.
5) Only use positive/professional language
Sometimes, it’s not about what you say — it’s about how you say it. This rings especially true for customer service. You must make sure you sound level-headed, calm, and collected whenever you contact a customer.
If you’re delivering bad news, there’s no way to sugarcoat it. You need to be direct and professional about it. At the same time, you should also try to find a way to solve the problem.
For instance, if a customer has ordered something that was out of stock, an automated email telling them that you don’t have the product right now won’t cut it. You should tell the customer when you expect it to be available or perhaps offer some other products instead.
It’s best to have a written procedure for these situations so your customer support agents know how to deal with them without having to worry too much. Of course, active listening is important to hear the customer’s response and settle on next steps.
6) Introduce proactive customer support to your strategy
The classic image of customer support is reactive. When your customers encounter a problem, they come to your customer service reps for a solution. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t approach certain problems proactively.
Case in point: shipping delays. In the past couple of months, ecommerce shipments have increased drastically. Recent reports indicate that there have been 47% more shipments since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. With such an increase, shipment delays are bound to happen.
To keep your customers in the loop, you can send out proactive communication about shipping setbacks. This will set customer expectations right and prepare them for any possible delays.
Another great example of proactive customer service is Gorgias' live chat campaigns, a tool that lets your team automatically reach out proactively to visitors browsing your website to ask if they need help, offer product recommendations or discounts, and guide them through the buying process.
Creating clear product descriptions and convenient self-help resources is another great way to be proactive about customer service and can help reduce ticket volume while also improving the customer experience.
7) Be as clear as possible about your policies
More often than not, customers are worried about the fine print. As a matter of fact, 67% of online shoppers will check a company's return policy before making a purchase. Sloppily-written policies will turn off a lot of customers. Every policy on your website needs to be clearly articulated so users can easily find what they’re looking for.
Creating or updating your refund and return policies? Our policy generator can help you get started. We’re a big fan of the detail and organization of Steve Madden’s return policy:
8) Use automation strategically to dedicate your attention to high-impact tickets
Many tickets that a customer service rep handles throughout the day are repetitive, straightforward questions. Many of your agents are likely spending hours each day simply telling customers where their order is. Answering these common customer questions is a key part of good customer service, but these tickets are not high-impact tickets for revenue generation.
Fortunately, a customer service platform like Gorgias can help you completely automate these tickets so that your team can focus on more impactful tickets (such as escalated complaints and pre-sale discussions).
By creating Macro templates with answers to common questions and automated Rules to trigger with zero agent effort, you can free up your support agents to go the extra mile and provide a more personalized touch to the tickets that matter most.
9) Nurture customer relationships with community engagement
For some, a community engagement strategy consists of asking customers to like their page on Facebook, follow their business on Twitter, and not much else. Having thousands of followers and likes is a good look for your business, sure. But you can’t let those followers go to waste.
Engage your followers and get them talking about the experience with your brand. Then, ask them for some feedback about your business, operations, and employees. You can then use that information to tweak your business.
Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before building a community:
- What do you plan on doing with the community?
- Are you doing everything you can to engage the members?
- What type of information can you get from the members?
10) Use post-interaction surveys to collect customer feedback in real-time
If you’re looking to improve your customer service, you should send a customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey after every interaction. These short, simple surveys give you a snapshot of the quality of customer support you currently offer, which is a great first step toward improving customer support.
Gorgias’ CSAT survey feature can be automatically sent out every time a customer interacts with one of your service reps. After every interaction, customers will get the following simple survey asking them to rate the interaction and, if they want, explain their answer:
11) Train your employees in the areas where your customer service is weak
Many companies don’t place as much emphasis as they should on hiring and training talented customer service reps. Instead, they view the position as an entry-level, outsourceable role that doesn't justify a comprehensive onboarding process. However, if you want your customer service agents to perform like sales associates and drive revenue, then it’s essential to teach them the right customer service skills.
Your customer service reps are the front lines of your company and some of the only employees your customers will directly interact with. When you train customer service reps with an emphasis on revenue generation, you can turn your customer service team into a source of revenue that more than justifies its investment. Rather than simply instructing your agents to put out fires, train them on how to convert customer interactions into sales and promote customer loyalty.
12) Follow up with the customer after they've had a chance to use your product or service
Following up with customers who have purchased your product/service (even if they don't contact you first) has many benefits: For one, it shows that you are committed to their satisfaction, even with their post-purchase experience.
It also provides you with the opportunity to collect valuable customer feedback. This feedback can be used to improve your product and overall customer experience and is something that many successful companies go to great lengths to collect.
Lastly, following up with customers can be a direct source of revenue generation. Recommending additional products to customers based on their experience with a previous purchase is an example of how following up with customers can lead to sales.
The most effective way to follow up with your customers is by setting up an automated email campaign that sends them an email after their purchase. What these emails include will depend on your specific goals (i.e., survey forms if you are trying to collect customer feedback or personalized product recommendations if you are trying to generate repeat sales).
13) Create a customer loyalty program
The more incentives you create for your customers to remain loyal to your brand, the better. While many considerations go into generating high customer retention rates, creating a customer loyalty program is one proven effective option.
Customer loyalty programs give customers a financial incentive to remain loyal to your brand. They also turn the shopping experience into somewhat of a game, where reward points are the goal and making repeat purchases is how you score them. The more creative and fun you can make your customer loyalty program, the more effective it stands to be.
Along with repeat purchases, you can use customer loyalty programs to encourage other customer actions such as referrals, reviews, and survey responses by rewarding these actions with reward points as well.
Software solutions such as Smile.io and LoyaltyLion make it incredibly easy to create and manage customer loyalty programs – and they integrate with Gorgias to pull loyalty data into your helpdesk. These tools allow you to automatically track customer actions and reward loyalty-building actions with points and discounts.
14) Consider offering free shipping to qualifying customers
According to Small Business Trends, 66% of U.S. customers expect free shipping on every online purchase, while 80% expect free shipping if their purchase total exceeds a certain amount.
Even if you have to raise your product pricing by a small percentage to maintain profitable margins, it’s still likely to positively impact both customer satisfaction and your conversion rates. Logical or not, a $50 subtotal plus free shipping is more appealing than a $45 plus $5 shipping.
If you can't afford to offer free shipping on every purchase, offering free shipping on purchases that exceed a certain amount can help you meet customer expectations and increase your average order value. For example, offering free shipping on orders over $100 will encourage many customers who have purchased just under that total to add an extra product or two to their cart.
Here’s what qualified free shipping looks like on apparel brand Woxer’s website:
15) Provide a solution for items that are out of stock
Create a policy for handling customer support tickets regarding out-of-stock products. Just a few ways to head off customer complaints regarding out-of-stock products include:
- Offering customers alternative products
- Placing an emergency order from your supplier
- Purchasing from an alternative supplier
- Offering customers discounts for their inconvenience
Along with offering one or more of these remedies, it’s also important to communicate effectively with customers trying to purchase an out-of-stock product. Follow up with them frequently to let them know the status of their order and when they can expect it to arrive.
Solutions for out-of-stock products can also be proactive and don't always require a customer to contact support. Giving customers the option to sign up for automated email alerts when a product is back in stock is one passive way to generate sales while improving customer satisfaction.
16) Add more customer touchpoints to shift to an omnichannel approach
According to a Salesforce report, 78% of customers prefer to choose between a variety of channels to reach a brand’s customer support. Depending on the issue, their mood, or the company, a customer may want to send a DM on social media, have a phone call, send a text message, or ask you their question on your website’s live chat.
One of the biggest challenges of managing multiple channels is keeping up with messages spread across platforms. That’s why a helpdesk that unifies all these channels is so valuable: Your team can spend less time looking for messages and copy/pasting information, and more time providing quality care across all these channels:
Build a customer service engine that generates revenue
So far, 2022 has presented plenty of challenges for online retailers and 2023 will likely be no different. Moving forward, the ecommerce stores that can leverage customer service to their full revenue-generating potential will be the ones that succeed.
Want to learn more about how you can build a customer service operation designed to maximize your company's bottom line? Check out our CX growth playbook, a free resource that dives into 18 tactics to boost revenue by 44% by improving customer experience, based on 25+ interviews with top ecommerce brands and analysis of +10,000 Gorgias customers.