Exceptional Customer Service is Key to e-Commerce Success

When Facebook attempted to launch chatbots for Messenger in 2017, they racked up a 70% failure rate! Not a great start to automating customer service, especially at a time when customers were really starting to demand more, and expecting exceptional customer service as a given. It’s a particular characteristic of e-Commerce, where next day delivery has become standard and unified, multi-channel customer care is just the norm. Indeed, good e-Commerce customer service is no longer enough – it needs to be exceptional, it needs to delight customers with ever more special experiences, not just satisfy them with the customer service standards of the past.

And the statistics confirm this – did you know that 3 out of 5 customers never complete their purchases due to poor customer service? And that 82% have stopped doing business with a company because of bad customer service? These are staggering figures when you correlate them with the age-old mantra that it costs up to seven times more to attract new customers than to retain existing ones.

Thankfully, help is at hand, and more so now for small and medium sized e-Commerce businesses than ever before.

What exactly is bad customer service?

But before we get into how to fix the problem, it’s worth taking a step back to understand exactly what ‘bad customer service’ is. And there’s method in this madness – in fact, it’s part of the solution. Say for example, you’re looking to improve your online returns process, or are even starting from scratch in setting this up. A great way to get things started here is to run an internal workshop where you bring together a core team of people to work on a solution. A technique that works for a lot of companies is to kick things off by having everyone give a recent example of their own bad customer service experience – whether it’s receiving a delivery late without any notification, or not being able to return goods in a store when the website clearly states this is possible. Have each member of the team explain their own experience of poor customer service, and also why it frustrated them, and write abbreviated versions of these up on a whiteboard as you go.

Then comes the hard part – review the cases and ask yourselves this question – does your company do the same? Be honest here… where does your company fall down – the same areas or similar ones at least?

To give a rough idea, here are some examples of areas of customer service that quite often result in a poor customer experience:

  • Lack of responsiveness – customers no longer want to wait for days on end to receive an answer to a query. They expect almost immediate resolution and so even tools such as social media channels can help here.
  • FAQs being too lengthy and convoluted - the answers very often aren’t covered in a concise way and can be difficult to apply to individual circumstances. It’s often useful to apply the grandmother test here – can your grandmother understand it and if not, simplify the wording and/or process.
  • Lack of personal interaction when it matters the most – this doesn’t have to be at every stage of the process, in fact, far from it. But personal interaction at key stages can often turn a bad experience into a great one.
  • Information such as return or exchange policies or order status being difficult to locate online and on the company website. Customers very often want to self-serve for lots of e-commerce related tasks. This is great for cutting down on the more manual customer handling tasks, but it does mean you need to get internal governance processes in order and make sure that teams are clear about who owns what on your website.

So why do these problems exist?

But before we go too far into the solutioning, let’s remind ourselves of why these problems exist, because it’s predominantly due to a couple of key issues that can, with the right solutions, be overcome nowadays.

Customer demands are constantly changing

Firstly, there’s the not-so-small issue of customer demands being in a constant and rapid state of flux – new channels become available nearly every year, more and more services are ‘on demand’, and life for consumers is just generally much busier. This all has a knock-on effect to the world of customer service – fundamentally, it needs to deliver when, where and how the customer wants it.

Legacy systems and processes

Many a Customer Support Manager will know that whilst the objective has always been to make things as simple and ‘easy-to-use’ as possible for the customer, enabling it in the past has often been complex.

For example, solutions in the past very often required large technology investments to manage CRM or data records – investments that were not readily available to small and medium-sized organisations. Further, these solutions overpromised and underdelivered – for example, they didn’t update in real time and therefore resulted in customer support agents not having the information they needed, when they needed it. The result was employees becoming very frustrated with tech that just didn’t perform. Add to this the fact that many business processes are still very manual and require heavy resource investments - these manual processes make it even harder for customer support agents to cope at peak times when customer queries can be high.

Exceptional customer service doesn’t happen by chance

Luckily, help is at hand. And it’s been greatly accelerated in recent years by the amount of data that’s become available and that can be used to improve automated systems. For example, understanding customer preferences to provide personalised recommendations, or using customer address details to serve up geolocation features. Along with the increase in data, there’s been a huge acceleration in processing speeds – so things that took days or even weeks in the past can now be done in true real-time.

Further, companies are becoming more and more savvy about how to blend automation and human interaction - for example, by using chat and messaging apps monitored in the background by customer support experts. This has additionally led to the fact that customers have gotten used to dealing with automated services and chatbots – they know what to expect with them, appreciate that they are immediate and can help resolve problems quickly, and over time, they’ve come to trust in a support mechanism that does now indeed deliver. Indeed, in a recent report by Drift, it was found that baby boomers (as opposed to millenials) actually believe chatbots to be more helpful for 24-hour service.

When it comes to modern solutions now available, the market is really starting to show substantial change and progress, with new solutions becoming available that overcome the hurdles of the past. Firstly, some of these modern solutions are a lot easier to set up and monitor, making them much more accessible to small and medium-sized businesses. They very often don’t require training and can be enabled with one-click interactions, again making them much more attainable for smaller teams with stretched resources.

In terms of the crucial or foundational functionalities to look out for, these include:

  • Best-in-class chat and live chat features – these can support with the more banal or frequent questions that customers often have when browsing websites. Not only do they therefore provide assistance right away, but they can even be used to reduce shopping cart abandonment rates. Chat features are also proving to be a top lead generation tool for B2B brands.
  • Next-generation chatbots and AI powered customer support – the algorithms that support chatbots are now much more sophisticated, so much so that customers now find it difficult to distinguish between human and bot support.
  • Integrations with social media – to support the unified multichannel experience that customers so often demand, it’s crucial that your automation platform integrates with your social media handles. This essentially provides you with a service channel that your customers are likely to already be on. And it’s great for brand building as it lets others see just how responsive and helpful you are!

So how can your e-Commerce business go the extra mile?

The question is, with so many modern solutions now available, how can you ensure your business stays ahead of the competition and goes that extra mile to delight your customers and retain them as life-long advocates?

Well a lot of the solutions now on offer are within easy grasp of even the smallest of e-Commerce businesses. These include:

  • Taking advantage of personalisation solutions – these are now extremely easy to deploy, but they can provide your customers with custom services and communications that will make them feel appreciated and deliver against the exceptional customer service that they demand.
  • Using real-time logistics and delivery monitoring with relatively easy solutions such as live GPS tracking – when integrated with ordering systems and customer contact details, this can enable you to catch problems early and notify customers well in advance of late deliveries and the like.
  • Making use of good product visualisation techniques – especially for B2B e-Commerce, where quite often the customer experience lags behind that of the B2C market.
  • Automating repetitive tasks that agents dislike doing – look for the frequent tasks that a bot can do instead. And then let your agents do the fun or complex things. Not only will this improve your customer experience, but it will help motivate employees too.

79% of agents feel that handling more complex customer issues improves their skills and offers more opportunities for career growth.

Going a step further with disruptive technologies

For those companies looking to go one step further and blaze their own trails in delivering exceptional customer service, a plethora of options exist. These include:

  • Using Real-Time Natural Language Processing to detect when a human should intervene in an automated or bot-led process, For example, if the customer is browsing your site in search of specific returns information and their bot interaction is triggering angry words and frustration, a human can intervene to smooth out the process and deal with the query directly.

Letting AI do the larger number crunching tasks – if your e-Commerce business is one that gathers a lot of data, then you can leverage AI to spot behavioural patterns in purchases or customer queries, which in turn can be used to offer customers recommendations and offers.

Using voice-led solutions to allow customers to order goods. It’s very early days on voice-activated customer service, but it’s slowly starting to become more mainstream, with Benefit Cosmetics being the latest big brand to take advantage of the trend.

It may be given, but poor customer service really does negatively impact a customer’s experience, and both the short- and long-term impact of this can make or break a business. But with so many solutions now available, particularly ones that are truly accessible to small and medium sized e-Commerce businesses, there’s really no excuse not to be delivering on an exceptional customer service that equates your brand to a customer smile.

Learn more about how Botfuel can help you deliver a better customer experience today.