880 words|3.4 min read|

Part of our ongoing Ecommerce Update series

As an ecommerce business, you tend to focus on things that directly affect your customer’s online shopping experience, like functionality, features, design, and pricing. How much does customer service matter?

Turns out, it matters a lot.

According to a survey by RightNow, 89% of customers stop doing business with a company or brand after a poor customer service experience. It’s not just a few people who care about customer service; it’s a significant number of people. A LivePerson report found that 83% of online consumers need some level of customer support. That is quite frankly a number that ecommerce businesses cannot ignore.

So how did this whole question arise? It happens to come up a lot during our annual comparison of BigCommerce vs. Shopify vs. Volusion. Customer service is one of the major categories that we compare and also one that seems to bring on a heated debate with our readers and clients. When an ecommerce platform is purchased, every new user has tons of questions regarding the installation, setup, management and customization. Some companies, like BigCommerce and Shopify, have excelled at meeting customer needs while other companies, namely Volusion, have struggled to meet demand. Our scoring reflects this divergence and plays a big part in which ecommerce platform a customer ultimately chooses.

Ecommerce customer service compounded by social media

In a world where customers demand good service whenever they want it, ecommerce business owners need to keep up. Just because you hide behind a computer screen doesn’t make you exempt from offering quality and timely support. If you offer poor service, it will be reflected in poor sales.

This is especially crucial in the age of social media where one poor service experience can gather steam rather quickly and implode on your business. Take for example the FedEx employee who was caught on video throwing a computer monitor over a property fence. The video racked up over 9 million views and FedEx was forced to respond with apologies on their blog, Twitter and more.

According to an American Express study, consumers are twice as likely to share a bad customer experience, as they are to share a good one. Compile that with the belief that it takes 12 positive experiences or reviews to make up for 1 negative experience or review and it shows you how quickly things can get out of hand.

4 simple ways to improve ecommerce customer service

We’ll be the first to admit that it takes time (and a lot of work) to get it right, but it’s really quite simple. Here are 4 things you need to do and good companies to help you do them:

  • Be available by phone! Seriously people. Despite the Internet’s amazing potential, the telephone is still your business’ lifeline. Offering tech support via phone (preferably 24/7) will help you solve big issues right away so that people aren’t mulling over the problem. We recommend:     

            Grasshopper – easy, basic phone system ideal for small business

            RingCentral– full business communication infrastructure at your fingertips

  • Create a Knowledge Base or Help Desk: An online resource center that can solve common customer issues is the best way to minimize customer support costs. This resource hub can hold ‘how-to’ guides, video tutorials, or any other suitable module that explains your website, products and/or purchasing/shipping process with ease. It’s also a good place for people to submit RMAs. Once you create all this, we recommend using organizing and support software, such as:     

            ZenDesk– well-known service that streamlines your entire support process

            FreshDesk– newcomer offering relatively same service in a new package

  • Try live chat: You’re customers are online, so you should be too. Think of live chat as the in-store greeter. It syncs up brilliantly with ecommerce and helps close the gap between offline and online stores. Best of all, your customer service reps can turn it on or off as needed. We recommend:     

            Olark– easy-to-use, albeit pricey; it’s popular for a reason

            Zopim– less expensive, although less features, good for starters

  • Sales email follow-up: It’s important to show people you care about their business, especially after they make a purchase. It makes them feel like they’re part of something special, almost like a VIP. Send an email that thanks the purchase and asks, “How do you like the product?” or “Anything else you need?” It’s a nice, easy touch point you won’t want to forget. For setting up an email auto-responder, we recommend:

            Mailchimp– it’s free or very inexpensive, so there’s no excuse

            Aweber– another good system, equally good in our opinion

With these customer service elements in place, you’ll be ready to support all your customers and, in a worst-case scenario, defend your business from a PR disaster. These are 4 very easy tasks to accomplish yet so many ecommerce companies still don’t do it. A lot of the hesitation comes down to time and money, but knowing how important customer service can be to an ecommerce business should definitely overcome that. Remember, good customer service leads to good reviews, which in turn leads to more sales!

Do you have another ecommerce customer service recommendation? Please let us know using the comment section below!


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About the Author: Jason Corgiat

I started building websites in 1999. Through the years I've worked with hundreds of businesses in various verticals and have built, implemented and managed digital strategies for companies of all sizes. My education is not formal and neither are my methods. Chances are, I can add value to your organization from day 1 but I'll let you be the judge. I'm a proud father of 4, luckiest husband in the world, and enjoy the occasional gym session. How was that for a bio?

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