Anyone who’s ever worked in ecommerce understands the importance of customer support.
Even in the rare case that a company’s products or services are unequivocally the best, it’s still the case that one mishandled support ticket can easily generate enough bad feeling to lose a customer forever.
Of course, no business has unlimited time and resources, and customers can be very demanding, so what are you supposed to do? Is there some perfect approach that will keep everyone happy?
Well, no. Your business will always produce some unhappy customers, no matter how hard you try. But by understanding what is expected of your customer service, you can prioritize optimally and get the best possible results.
Here’s what you need to focus on delivering.
Appropriate response times: I’m purposely not dictating a time limit here and this is why: The required speed of a response will always depend on the situation. Let’s look at two scenarios from a consumer’s perspective:
First, suppose you’ve ordered medicine from a pharmaceutical company and, though you were promised it would arrive within one working day, that day has passed and you haven’t received anything. It’s a fairly common product, but getting it quickly is very important to your well-being.
You log a complaint, ask why the delivery didn’t take place and demand that they rectify the situation immediately. In this case, speed is absolutely imperative. If they don’t resolve the matter quickly, you’ll never shop with them again.
Second, imagine that you’re a long-time user of a custom T-shirt production store and you email them a list of questions about what they can and can’t do. There’s no rush, and as long as you get detailed answers, you’ll be happy getting a reply two weeks down the line.
You should take this variability into account when prioritizing your customer service tickets, and when deciding your schedule. 24/7 availability isn’t always necessary, but it can be a nice perk if you can make it happen.
Automation that hasn’t been taken too far: Automation is a wonder, but it can be taken too far and this is often the case when it infiltrates the customer support world. It can be hellish to deal with chatbots, automated reply systems, and other similar technologies. They can misinterpret or misunderstand and the often display limited functionality.
Balance human and machine for the best customer experience
That’s why you need to have real people handling support tickets. And that’s why it’s best to make it clear to customers that they are dealing with humans and why it’s important to give your human employees sufficient freedom in their approach, so they stand out as human.
Live chat systems can work extremely well, but use them carefully; they’ll just put people off if they come across as robotic. Having identified support staff also allows for exceptional above-and-beyond service. Should a member of the customer service team take some initiative to resolve a major problem, they would engender goodwill towards the company in general.
Can chatbots have something to contribute? Depending on the nature of the queries, absolutely. Just make sure they don’t dominate proceedings.
Meaningful progress: Sometimes a customer support request will hit what feels like a dead end. Replies become sluggish, updates become vague, and the customer begins to feel that he or she is wasting his or her time. That’s when they start to see the support process as useless, thus losing faith in the reliability and trustworthiness of the entire company.
To avoid frustrating your customers, make sure that every reply you send or update you offer has something meaningful to say. What has been done to address an issue? What’s the next step? Does the customer need to provide any more details?
It’s unacceptable to simply tell a customer that you are “working on” their problem. Worse still is appearing indifferent to their concerns and complaints. There are few faster ways to damage brand loyalty.
Accurate records: Closely retailed to the frustration of meaningless updates, is the inability of some customer support teams to keep track of the fundamental details of a customer’s issues.
If I’m asked to provide my order number for a representative to locate my order, that’s no problem; I’ll gladly give it. If I speak to them again the next day about the same issue and give them my support ticket number only for them to again request my order number, that’s a different story, and I will be highly displeased.
Aside from ticket numbers and identity confirmation details, I should only need to provide any given piece of information once. Anything else would have me wondering if I were dealing with indifference, malice or simple incompetence.
So make sure you stay on top of what’s happening with all your support cases, and make the process of handling them as pain-free for the customer as you possibly can.
Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and freelance writer with far too many frustrating customer service experiences under her belt. You can read more of her work on her blog Victoria Ecommerce.