As rising inflation and the looming possibility of a global recession continue to weigh heavy on the minds of many retailers, driving revenue via great customer service is now more important than ever before. In these tumultuous times, many ecommerce stores are doubling down on the customer experience to retain and grow business through upsells, repeat purchases, and referrals — all of which offer higher ROI than pursuing new customers.
If you would like to grow your company's revenue in a way that requires minimal risk and investment, creating a revenue-driven customer service strategy presents many considerable benefits. This article will cover everything you need to know to nail customer service and drive revenue in 2022.
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 presents a chance to create revenue for your business. Whether it's happy customers providing word-of-mouth referrals, promoting customer retention and repeat purchases, or creating upsells, exceptional customer service can generate revenue in various ways.
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.
Despite the importance of customer service, nearly 20% of brands have seen a drop in customer experience quality. These statistics highlight that better customer service can be a huge differentiator for your brand when many companies are struggling to provide the swift, personalized, and effortless service that today's consumers have come to expect.
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 the elements of great customer service that you will want to achieve:
- Your first-response time is below two minutes and your average-handle time is below one hour: Patience is a virtue that few of today's customers possess, making first-response/average-handle times two of the most important customer service metrics to track
- 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 draw a clear line between better 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 five things 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 another online store.
- Failing to understand customer needs: A lack of understanding of your customers’ questions will result in a poor customer experience.
- Unresolved issues and unanswered questions: Failing to answer an inquiry won’t help you leave a good impression and will leave your customer dissatisfied.
- Too much automation and a lack of human touch: Although AI can help you with many tasks, it can’t possibly answer all of the questions your customers have.
- 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) Set KPIs for your customer service agents
Companies that don't measure the success of their customer service don’t know how good or bad their reps are. To get serious about providing the best customer service, you need to set clear KPIs and track them.
Here are a few KPIs that should be in your next CX report:
- Tickets created, replied, closed
- Messages received, sent
- Resolution time
- Conversion rate
- Total sales from support
Besides the KPIs above, you should also measure your employee engagement to make sure that your employees are satisfied with their job. This will help you lessen the workload of some employees or give them different tasks to keep them motivated.
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 help center to help your customers find what they’re looking for. Important considerations to keep in mind as you go about designing your help center include:
- Keep your visitors’ navigation options at a minimum
- Have a clearly visible search bar at the top of every page
- Prominent CTA to contact your CX or Sales team
- An FAQ section that answers all of their questions
For an example of an excellent ecommerce help center that accomplishes all of these objectives, check out this Gorgias-run help center from Brumate.
3) Use technology to remember 100% of customer details
Every customer you have wants to feel important. They want to know that they’re a priority for your business, and personalization is one of the best ways to make customers feel important. Thankfully, technology makes offering customized personal service much easier than it used to be.
By automatically collecting customer data and making it easy for your customer service agents to access, customer support solutions 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 churn and encourages repeat purchases. Pre-sale actions such as questions about a product present the opportunity to make a sale.
You can instruct your customer service team to prioritize these tickets manually, or you can prioritize them automatically with AI tools. Gorgias' Intents and Sentiment Detection can automatically identify customer complaints and a wide variety of pre-sale actions so that the tickets that have the biggest impact on revenue can be flagged 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.
6) Be proactive instead of reactive
By its nature, customer service is a reactive job. 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 daily emails about the weather, transport, and other factors that could potentially cause setbacks. This will set customer expectations right and prepare them for any possible delays.
Another great example of proactive customer service is live chat campaigns. Using solutions such as Gorgias' live chat campaigns, a customer service representative can reach out proactively to visitors browsing your website to recommend products 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.
[Link to proactive customer service article]
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.
Our policy generator can help you make things easy to read. You just need to enter your email and policy model and your policy is written in a matter of seconds.
8) Use automation strategically to dedicate your attention to high-impact tickets
The vast majority of tickets that a customer service rep handles are repetitive, straightforward questions. In fact, 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, the right customer service platform 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 automated workflows and canned responses to common customer questions, you can improve response times free up your support agents to go the extra mile and provide a more personalized touch to the tickets that matter most.
9) Don't forget about 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.
Here’s what you need to do: 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) Actively collect customer feedback
Speaking of gathering feedback, let’s say a few words about customer surveys. Although they provide a great way to get feedback, they can be annoying for some customers. People simply don’t like to log into a portal to answer a few questions.
That’s why you should embed your surveys into emails and send them out directly to your customers.
Gorgias’ Customer Satisfaction Survey feature can help you find out how well your customer support reps are doing their work. These surveys can be automatically sent out every time a customer interacts with one of your service reps.
11) Train your employees on how to provide excellent customer service
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 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) offers several benefits. For one, it shows that you are committed to their satisfaction and can be an excellent way to improve a customer's 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 one 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 some time 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, 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 make LoyaltyLion make it incredibly easy to create and manage customer loyalty programs. These solutions allow you to automatically track customer actions and reward desirable actions with points and discounts, creating a customer loyalty program that practically runs itself.
14) Consider offering free shipping
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.
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) Offer "try before you buy" for your ecommerce store
One of the drawbacks of ecommerce is that it doesn't allow customers to see products in person before purchasing them. It's an issue that leads to a lot of product returns and customer support tickets, but you can mitigate it with a few innovative solutions.
Offer customers the option to buy now and pay later. This eases concerns about purchasing products online. While this policy may not seem much different from a lenient return policy, many customers will be hesitant to trust return polices due to bad past experiences. The idea of trying out a product before providing payment is much more appealing.
If you don't think the trial model is right for your business, there are still ways to provide customers with a more brick-and-mortar shopping experience. Augmented reality software that lets customers "try on" clothing and quizzes that provide product recommendations are two innovative examples of how ecommerce stores can use technology to match shoppers with the right product. Similarly, making sure your product descriptions are detailed and accurate will also go a long way toward preventing returns, as customers know what to expect.
Build a powerful customer service operation that generates revenue
So far, 2022 has presented plenty of challenges for online retailers, driving home the importance of a business model optimized for revenue generation. 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 40% by improving customer experience, based on 25+ interviews with top ecommerce brands and analysis of +10,000 Gorgias customers.