Any eCommerce store, regardless of what software powers it, will need to handle customer service inquiries. Handling these inquiries effectively and quickly is a necessity for your store, as customers expect prompt, useful replies in order to stay loyal to your brand.

In fact, in a recent survey of top eCommerce stores from Shopify, providing great customers service was a key to more sales mentioned by 10 of the 25 stores (and they could provide any tip that was geared towards improving revenue). Rather than focus on marketing or customer acquisition, this advice heavily favored keeping your existing customers happy.

While managing customer service inquiries with a one-person team isn’t too difficult, scaling customer service while remaining effective can be tricky to navigate. This article will focus only on email inquiries, and I’ll tell you a bit more about my favorite tool for managing customer emails: Help Scout.

What is Help Scout?

I use Help Scout every day. Even after using it for over a year, I still love it.

Help Scout helps our team manage all customer emails: pre-sales questions, support inquiries, refunds, and general questions. As I’m sure your customers get in touch with similar inquiries, it can be a life-saver while managing these among several team members. It’s not just something for software companies or tech companies: it’s email “support” or management for any company.

Help Scout makes customer service email management simple for shop employees, and your customers won’t have to create accounts or log into help desks: for them, Help Scout is just email; they get emails and can reply to them. This removes tons of barriers for getting in touch with you or communicating with your team.

Help Scout offers 15 day trials of the service, and pricing starts at $0 and increases depending on the number of users (customer service accounts) you need.

The free plan can be used with 3 users and 1 mailbox, but does not have access to the Help Scout API or reports (which I do love). This plan will also include Help Scout links in the footer of your emails.

If you choose to upgrade to a paid plan, you’ll pay $15 per user per month, and you get access to all features at any level. For a three-person service team, you’d pay $45 per month, and would have an unlimited number of mailboxes, as well as full access to all Help Scout features.

1. Email isn’t Enough: Creating a Service Team

So back up: why do you need something like Help Scout? Why can’t you just share an email account among your team members?

You could. But in my experience, sharing an email account is extremely inefficient. Let’s say you use one Gmail address for all customer service inquiries in your shop. This means that anyone answering these emails has to log into this account to read and respond to them.

Here are some issues that can easily arise from managing one shared email:

  • Emails are sometimes accidentally marked read before a reply is sent, making the status of the inquiry unclear. Has it been answered? Is someone just looking into this? Is it awaiting a reply?
  • If more than one team member uses the account, you can easily send multiple answers to the same customer.
  • There’s no easy way to see previous emails from a customer so you have a history of communication.
  • There’s no easy way to leave notes or questions for other team members. Forwarding emails with notes is insufficient and asking for trouble, as they can accidentally be sent to the customer.
  • There’s no way to “assign” an email to someone on the team, i.e., assign refund emails to someone that can process them.

All of the issues that arise from using a shared email account are solved by a service like Help Scout. It provides basic “ticket” management, as shop employees can assign emails, add internal notes, and view the conversation history for a customer.

You can also create several “mailboxes” if needed to manage different kinds of emails — for example, you could create different mailboxes for each of your brands or departments.

A single email account can work great if one person is answering emails. However, as soon as you add more employees into the mix, managing email effectively becomes far more challenging. Help Scout provides the tools you need to take email customer service to the next level.

2. eCommerce Plugin Integrations

Help Scout has some existing integrations with eCommerce plugins that can augment your customer service management and save your employees time. First, both Easy Digital Downloads and WooCommerce can be used with Help Scout to display customer details right in your Help Scout dashboard. Details on customer accounts and orders drastically simplify your team’s management.

For example, when Yoast integrated Help Scout with their EDD shop, they were able to cut the average time per response down tremendously:

Where our average time per question had been 5 to 7 minutes, having all of our clients’ info easily at hand right in the HelpScout sidebar dropped that to 1.5 minutes.
Yoast

While they used a custom integration to do so, you can get your customer information from Easy Digital Downloads into Help Scout using the free EDD Help Scout integration. This will display customer information such as payments and recent purchases, as well as the payment method used, while viewing a customer email in Help Scout.

Help Scout can also connect to WooCommerce in the same way via the Help Scout WooCommerce app (you can enable this in the Help Scout dashboard).

Help Scout WooCommerce app

This gives you information about the customer and recent orders so your team can more effectively communicate with customers about orders, and links to them on your site for quick reference. You’ll see information like customer lifetime value in the sidebar as well.

WooCommerce can also bring Help Scout to your site using the Help Scout extension. This will add communication management directly on your site. Customers can quickly start a conversation from the “My Account” page and view all conversations here without leaving your eCommerce store.

3. Lightweight with Just Enough Features

Some customer service management systems are clunky or will be overkill for your store’s needs. For example, if you’re only managing pre-sales and support emails (such as refund requests) across a few people, something like Zendesk will probably be overkill.

Help Scout will give you the features you need without lots of features that you don’t. Here are some of my favorites:

  • The reporting is fantastic. You can see details on how long replies take, the handle time for how long you (or a team member) spend on email tickets, emails per team member, happiness ratings (customers can vote whether your responses are helpful), the average number of emails per month, and more. I evaluate these for our team every month using the built-in reports.
  • While Help Scout is easy to set up, there are some advanced features to automate your customer service emails. You can set up workflows to do this for you. For example, you can automatically tag emails based on the subject, date, or other information. I have some emails tagged with “VIP” for customers that email from a certain company or have spent a large amount of money with us.

    I can set up automatic tagging by matching email addresses exactly, or by matching the end of the email address (with the company email).

Help Scout Workflow 1

Help Scout Workflow 2

  • Workflows will also allow you to automatically assign emails to a team member based on subject or tag. This is pretty helpful for emails that come from our contact form, as the subject is pre-filled and the email can be categorized accordingly. This can be useful to assign refund emails to the appropriate team member.
  • You can create custom views based on email data. For example, emails that have gone over 24 hours without a reply can be placed in an “Overdue” folder to ensure they’re addressed immediately.
  • Help Scout allows you to create saved replies and auto replies. Auto replies are simply auto responders for all emails, while saved replies are templates that help you speed up response times for frequent questions.
  • You can view the relationship history for a customer. This will show you all email conversations as well as customer information, and you can even integrate third-party CRMs, live chat software, or other services here to track all communication with a customer.
Help Scout Relationship History

Relationship History

Summary

Do you need to manage customer service emails with Help Scout if your store only has one person managing email? Probably not. However, as your team gets larger and grows with your store, you’ll need the right tool for the job to ensure email management stays effective yet streamlined. When you get to this point, I highly recommend Help Scout.


Cover Photo Credit: Dennis Skley (CC BY-ND 2.0 license)
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Posted by Beka Rice

Beka Rice manages the direction of Sell with WP content and writes or edits most of our articles to share her interests in eCommerce. Or she just writes as an excuse to spend more time jamming out to anything from The Clash to Lady Gaga. Who knows.