When shopping online, almost every customer expects to be able to email your store with any questions, as email is the most widely used communication method online. However, that doesn’t meant that email customer service is the only contact method that your store should provide.
We’ve written about using Help Scout to manage your customer service emails, as it’s a great tool and is easy to use. While Help Scout can be one piece of your customer service strategy, you may want to offer other contact methods for a multichannel customer service approach.
In a recent survey done by Shopify, successful shop owners recommended their top advice and tips for new stores, and almost half of these tips were to provide great customer service.
While email is expected, other customer service channels can either let customers help themselves to find the answers they need, or provide a quicker answer to a question to improve the overall service experience with your shop. Alternatives to email support could include live chat, social media, and Q & A resources.
We’ll also discuss offering phone customer service in the next part of this series.
The most important aspect of customer service is to create a human connection with your customers — the importance of building a quality connection with your customers can’t be underestimated. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve recommended products or resources because I knew the people behind them. If all other things are equal, I’ll always recommend a service or company where I know the people behind it than one I don’t.
Offering customer service channels aside from email can give you more opportunities to get in touch with your customers and communicate with them, helping you to develop that relationship and connection that can be so essential to building a loyal customer base and earning recommendations.
Customer service also gives the opportunity to do things that don’t scale and “wow” your customers. This could be sending a free gift or thank you note to someone who recommends you on Twitter, getting feedback from customers via live chat and implementing it, or impressing customers with the care you put into your sales and fulfillment process.
While quality customer service is valuable, it can be costly. To offer multiple forms of support, you’ll deal with expenses in terms of your time invested (if you do your customer service), employee costs (if you hire someone to do it), and costs for tools you need to offer different types of service.
You’ll also need to appropriately manage customer expectations, which can tend towards expecting fast, 24-hour support that you may not be able to provide until your store is much larger, since chances are you wear several hats within your operation and don’t focus solely on service.
Many live chat services also integrate with text or chat services (like Gchat) so that you can answer questions on the go from your mobile device, letting you answer questions while you do other tasks like pack boxes or ship orders.
Live chat is preferred by many online shoppers, and typically has the highest satisfaction levels of any customer service channel.
Live chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel, with 73%, compared with 61% for email and 44% for phone.
No matter which eCommerce plugin powers your site, you can implement live chat via a WordPress plugin. While I don’t often use live chat, here are some popular and frequently recommended live chat plugins and services:
- Zopim lets you add live chat and automatically trigger chats for about $14 per month per user, and has a free WordPress plugin to integrate with your site.
- Olark lets you use live chat with automatic triggers and ratings, starting at $15 per month (one user), and has a free integration plugin
- Click Desk can let you integrate live chat with a help desk starting at $20 per month, and integrates with your site with a free plugin
- Tidio offers live chat that you can use for free (one user) or for $10 per month (unlimited users and access to mobile app). You can integrate it on your site with a free plugin
If you’d rather use an installable plugin instead of a monthly service, you could also look at using the WordPress Live Chat plugin. This makes it easy to offer live chat while you’re working on your site, such as updating orders or emailing customers.
You’re probably already marketing to customers via social media and maintaining a presence via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or other sites. This can make communicating with customers via social media a natural fit for your company.
Offering customer service via social media can seem like it would be easy, but managing expectations via social media can be very difficult. Almost half of customers expect a response within 60 minutes when contacting a company via social media, no matter when the company is contacted.
While responding to customers via Twitter can be simple, your ability to offer customer service via these channels may depend on what you sell and how complex answers may be. As you start out, you may not get too many questions via Facebook or Twitter, and can thus manage them pretty easily.
It’s also okay to funnel them into a contact form or email if you can’t respond appropriate via message or need more time to respond. A response is usually expected, but that doesn’t mean you have to solve the issue immediately via social media, and can ask the customer to DM you or email you to send a full response later.
Tools like Hootsuite can help you get started for free and make it easy to centralize your social media management so you can respond to all channels from one dashboard. Hootsuite also lets you create views (“Streams”) that let you keep track of mentions, or search for your company name to keep track of conversations in which you’re not directly mentioned. This way, you can respond to any questions or mentions to answer customer questions from one place.
As a small company, it’s unrealistic to be constantly available for customer questions around the clock. The nature of selling online is that customers can visit your store 24 hours a day, and you may not be able to help them while they’re shopping. While live chat and social media can help with immediate questions, you should prepare to help customers outside of the hours you can provide these services.
Maintaining an FAQ section for both your products and general store questions like shipping estimates can help to proactively answer these questions and improve customer during times you’re not available, while also potentially reducing the number of customer questions you receive.
While you answer customer questions, you should track them to determine which questions are asked multiple times and can be organized into an FAQ document on your site. These can be questions such as:
- Which shipping service do you use?
- How long does it typically take for me to receive my order?
- What’s your refund policy?
Linking to this section from your contact page can help you head off common questions before they even get to your customer service team and help your customers easily find the information they need around the clock.
If you commonly get questions for particular products, keeping a Q&A section the product page can also be helpful. This can be a static information that you update manually, or it can be a dynamic section where customers can ask their own questions. A plugin like WooCommerce Product Reviews Pro can help out here by adding the ability to accept and answer questions.
You can also embed a “submit your question” form to make it easy for customers to ask questions.
Providing great customer service when your eCommerce business starts out is imperative to your growth, as it drives customer loyalty and makes customers more likely to recommend your store, helping you grow via word of mouth. It lets you build relationships and human connections with your customers.
However, there are significant costs associated with customer service in terms of time, manpower, and tools. While offering help via email is a great place to start, offering service via other channels can help you get in touch with more customers and improve their experience with your store. Offering Q & A sections on your site or publishing common questions should also go hand in hand with email, and these should be accessible from your site and contact page.
You’ll need to determine which other service channels can fit into your workflow, such as live chat and social media, without impacting the quality of the service experience.