eCommerce Customer Service Guide

eCommerce businesses have the luxury of functioning like standard retail companies, but without the significant overhead of managing a storefront. However, this also means that eCommerce companies need to have a more responsive online support and service center to meet high customer expectations.
In this guide you’ll learn everything you need to know about eCommerce customer service, including strategies, common issues, how to build your customer service team, and the software technology that you’ll need to run a best-in-class department.

What is eCommerce Customer Service?

eCommerce customer service (sometimes spelled e-commerce customer service or Ecommerce customer service, or known as eCommerce customer support) is the combination of strategies, people, and technology used to provide customers of online stores.

How is eCommerce Customer Service Different from Retail Customer Service?

eCommerce customer service differs from retail customer service because of a variety of factors. These factors include:
  • Mobile – With 70% of Americans shopping online having a customer support that prioritizes mobile is a must. This means online chat, click-to-call, and SMS text support have quickly become a norm for modern customer experience strategies.
  • Time to Respond – For eCommerce businesses, your competitors are literally one-click away. If your potential customers have questions about your product, your service agents need to be able to respond immediately their omnichannel customer service software. In fact, consumers expect a response from in app live chat support in under a minute!
  • Higher Expectations – Following time-to-resolve, in general, eCommerce shoppers have unnaturally high customer expectations of online brands. For example, consumer expectations around email resolutions have also increased from over 12 hours to under 3 hours. Expectations for online brands don’t stop there. Everything about your online experience must be as convenient as possible. That includes the shopping, cart, review, shipping, and recommendation experience.
  • Time to Resolve – The goal for customer service is to increase customer satisfaction. That means time-to-resolve customer issues is at the forefront of your service team’s tasks. It’s also top-of-mind for your customers. With time to respond becoming quicker, consumers also expect their issues to be resolved faster-than-ever before.

eCommerce Customer Service Software

When building your customer service department, or simply upgrading your processes to meet modern expectations, your customer service platform will be key.
With eCommerce businesses requiring faster response and resolution times, leveraging a seamless omnichannel ecommerce customer service platform will be essential. Seeking out a software system that includes integrated Voice, IVR, live chat, email, SMS, and lifetime conversation history will be critical in converting your call center into a profit center. Below are the basic customer service software requirements you’ll need for your eCommerce business.

eCommerce Customer Service Software Features:

  • A people-centered system. This means your software platform should treat visitors and customers as people, and not as tickets that are tracked in outdated ticketing systems.
  • Lifetime conversation history – Your ecommerce customer service software should house a customer’s entire purchase and conversation history in a centrally-located system for agent’s to access.
  • Integrated voice and IVR. Regardless of the increasing trend to towards live chat and SMS, Voice and IVR are still essential. A system that includes both is a must-have for e-commerce businesses.
  • Customer facing self service knowledgebase. Empower customers to find the answers to common questions that they have without having to call or be routed to support agent.
  • Web and In-App chat. As an eCommerce retail business, your online store must-have live web chat. This is one of the fastest-growing support channels, and your customers will be expecting to have their questions answered within minutes.
  • Social. With your eCommerce business taking a more active role in social media marketing, you’ll want to provide your customer service agents with the capability to offer social media customer service. This means they can respond to customer requests/questions on Facebook or Twitter directly from their support system.
  • Seamless, unified communications. All of these great features mean nothing if the experience isn’t seamless for customers. This means that your customer service platform must have a truly seamless experience where consumers can chat with you on the phone, take the conversation to email, and resolve it via SMS without being routed to different agent’s or having your agent’s miss a beat.
  • Integrations. As your e-commerce business grows you’ll want to ensure that you customer service system can scale with you. This means having customer service integrations to other best-in-class software platforms like Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, and more.

Building Your eCommerce Customer Service Team

If you have already selected a customer service platform for your eCommerce team, then you’ll want to start thinking about the people and roles you’ll want for your team.
The size and roles of your team will vary depending on the size of your business and how many requests you receive on a daily basis. For example, a call center or customer service agent can realistically handle 20-50 calls per work day depending on the scope of those calls. Using that metric, you can determine how many customer service agents you should bring on to your team to ensure all customer issues are handled in a timely manner.

Common Roles on Your Customer Service Team

Below you’ll find the most common roles of a ecommerce customer service team and their general responsibilities. Keep in mind your customer service department is not limited to these roles, but most e-commerce businesses we’ve seen include the following:
  • Customer Care Agent also known as Customer Service Agent , eCommerce Customer Service Representative or Customer Service Specialist – Customer service representatives or agents are your company’s first line of defense. They are customer-facing roles that interact directly with customers and potential customers to answer any questions or resolve any issues they’re experiencing. Typically, you can leverage your customer service representatives across all communication channels.
  • eCommerce Call Center Agent – Call center agents are similar to standard customer care or service agents, however some support teams have teams entirely dedicated to fielding inbound calls.
  • Remote Customer Service Representative or Remote Call Center Agents – Remote customer service representatives and agents fill the same role as their standard counterparts. However, with businesses increasingly moving to distributed models, and eCommerce businesses opting for lower overhead, remote customer service reps will likely compose a majority of service teams. Read more: Remote Contact Center Agent Job Description
  • Customer Service Supervisor or eCommerce Customer Service Manager – Customer service supervisors or managers oversee the training and day-to-day operations of a team of customer service or contact center agents. They are also responsible for the monitoring of performance and ensuring positive customer satisfaction levels.
  • Multilingual Customer Support Specialist – A multilingual customer support or service specialist fulfills the same duties of a standard customer service representative with the exception that they can serve customers who speak various languages.
  • Director of Customer Experience – The director of customer experience is tasked with the overall strategy that ensures customer satisfaction and propels the company forward using feedback from consumers, agents, and more.

Taking Your eCommerce Customer Service Team Remote

If you’re an eCommerce retail company, then you’r already operating in a fairly distributed model from the consumer-side. In an effort to further reduce operational costs and overhead, we’re seeing more eCommerce companies move their service and support to fully remote models. Below are a few best practices for taking your eCommerce customer service remote:
  • Offer all customer service channels via the web
  • Empower autonomous customer service with built-in knowledge bases and self-help
  • Centralize customer service team collaboration and teamwork
  • Implement customer service solutions that support and enhance remote teams
  • Take onboarding and training of remote hires seriously
Click here to find a complete guide to taking your customer service team remote.

Best Practices for eCommerce Customer Service

Whether you have built your ecommerce customer service team, or not, you’ll want to ensure you have these best practices in place. These ecommerce customer service best practices enable you to easily scale your team to growing demands.
  • Start with documentation. This includes everything from building out your self-service knowledgebase to live chat scripts for your team. Documentation gives your team a process and procedures to turn to when they have questions, as well as the documentation customers need to answer important questions in a timely manner.
  • Delivery and Shipping Policies. Nothing irritates customers more than unclear shipping and delivery policies. With Amazon having implemented same-day and 2-day shipping, it’s up to your brand to clearly communicate shipping policies to your customers, or risk losing them.
  • Return and Warranty policies. In some cases, your ecommerce business will have returns. What your return policy is will be a strategic decision. However, these policies should be clear and made known to customers from the get-go.
  • Sizing information. If you sell clothing, then it’s important to provide more information than is necessary with regards to sizing. Customers have countless brands to choose from, and making it clear what will and will not fit them is of the utmost importance in their buying decision.
  • 360 degree customer service. As a best practice you’ll need to use customer service software that offers a complete and lifetime view of the customer. You’ll also want to prioritize a system that does away with outdated ticketing and case system and leverages a people or customer-centric platform.
  • Offer live chat. Today’s modern buyer requires immediate resolution to questions. If your self-service documentation does not have that answer, you’ll need customer service agents on live web chat available to handle any and all questions.

How to Improve eCommerce Customer Service

If you’ve already implemented the above best practices, and are still wondering how to improve eCommerce customer service, then use the tips below.
  • Be multichannel. Gone are the days where simple phone support would suffice for your customers. Nowadays, modern consumers need to have their questions resolved via eery channel be-it phone, SMS, email, live chat, app chat, or more. Implement a platform that has a unified communications system that enables agents to speak with consumers across all channels without ever skipping a beat.
  • Proactive customer service. Being proactive can go along way towards customer satisfaction. If you want to improve your customer service, then it’s only natural to become more proactive with your strategies. Set up automated communications and followups when your customers receive their products to ensure there are no issues. This can help reduce the number of negative reviews and create a positive experience that will keep customers coming back.
  • Offer 24 hour support. Consumers are now shopping at all hours of the day. Especially in eCommerce. To improve your customer service, you’ll want to build out a 24 hour support line to address questions at all times.
  • Measure customer satisfaction. Use customer satisfaction scores to collect customer feedback. Continuously measure to discover areas of weakness or improvement.
  • Keep it personal. Leverage modern customer service technology for eCommerce to enable your agents to personalize every interaction. By leveraging an entire conversation history, your agents can proactively reach out and improve the customer experience of every customer.

eCommerce Customer Service Training

Whenever you expand your eCommerce customer support team, you’ll want to make sure every member is properly trained on the best practices for responding to and handling customer requests. Below are a number of resources you can use to train your eCommerce customer support team.

eCommerce Call Center Do’s and Don’ts

Within your eCommerce call center you’ll want to be careful of the activities that you do and don’t do.
  • Do use a multichannel strategy in your eCommerce call center.
  • Do not limit yourself by using piece-meal software systems.
  • Do leverage online chat.
  • Do not only use phone support.
  • Do provide a personalized experience for each customer
  • Do not treat every customer as if they don’t matter.
  • Do train your e-commerce Call center to use empathetic tones and language.
  • Do not treat every customer interaction as a defensive battle.
  • Do leverage your IVR to properly route calls to the agent that will resolve it the fastest.
  • Do not create an infinitely long IVR tree.
  • Do give customers the option of resolving their problems via other communication channels if your call center is experiencing a high call volume.
  • Do not force customers to wait and listen to hold music for over 5 minutes.

Customer Service Issues in Ecommerce

You’ve built your customer service team, chosen software, know the best practices and do’s and don’ts, so what’s left? There are a number of common customer service issues in eCommerce that you should expect to face.
  • Not delivering an omnichannel customer experience. Customers purchase and communicate across multiple and different touch points. One of the most common customer service issues in eCommerce is communicating with customers across all of them. Oftentimes you’ll find eCommerce companies opting for only web chat or email support, and not offering phone to lower overhead costs. This is a common issue that fails to address 57%+ of the market that wants to be able to reach support via phone.
  • Maintaining customer loyalty. With so many brands and choices for customers to choose, maintaining brand loyalty is a common issue that faces eCommerce support teams. Part building loyalty is gathering customer feedback and using that to improve your products and services. Customers love knowing that their opinion matters to your business, and you take every word they give you into consideration.
  • The giant headache of a return, cancellation, or refund. For most customers, returning a product for a refund is an absolute headache. They have to go through the process of locating a return label, printing, and then shipping the item back, all within a specified return date! This is a common customer service issue in ecommerce that can be quickly addressed and mitigated by providing all of the information needed to customers clearly in a followup email. This way everything is accessible for them to make a return quickly.
  • Knowing your customers and providing personalization at scale. After speaking with several hundred customers per week, agents can become robotic in their communications. This customer service issue is easier to address through technology. Providing an “at-a-glance” customer communication system that allows your agents to see the entire communication history of online visitors in a single view. This enables agents to quickly review the history and make the experience as personal as possible by referencing past dialogues.
  • Not Solving problems instantly. Online shopping is about convenience. When your online visitors have questions, you need to be able to solve them instantly.
  • Managing customer expectations throughout the delivery process. From the time a customer purchases your product, until it’s delivered, is a metaphorical “black hole.” Most customers have no visibility into the products whereabouts during this time. This is an opportunity for your customer service department to thrive by providing personalized updates based on your buyer’s common inquiries. This means understanding what questions they will ask and providing automated messages with the information they’re looking for strategically.
  • Seasonality and peak purchase times. During peak seasons, your customer service team may experience high call volumes and wait times. During peak times, you’ll want to implement safeguards such as leveraging your IVR to route calls to appropriate agents, as well as offer customers other channels of communication such as live chat or text. You can read a complete guide on strategies for managing high call volume here.

Final Thoughts: eCommerce Customer Service

A vast majority of customer service issues you’ll experience in e-commerce will revolve around time-to-respond and time-to-resolve customer questions. Having a modern customer service platform that is built for personalizing the customer experience is an absolute necessity for today’s demanding consumers. Gladly provides a single tool for seamless communications across all channels (social, email, phone, SMS, etc), enabling you to deliver service that is radically personal. You can learn more by requesting a demo here.
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