Customer service is vital for success in every vertical and industry. Excellent customer service is one of the biggest drivers for customer loyalty, plus it increases both word-of-mouth recommendations and individual shopper revenue.
One recent survey revealed that 59% of consumers will recommend a brand to a friend because of its customer service, and close to three-quarters say they are willing to spend more money when doing business with brands that deliver a great customer experience.
Of course, the reverse is also true. Poor customer service can destroy a business more quickly than any other single factor. The same survey reported that all it takes is two bad service experiences for 42% of consumers to stop buying from your company.
Out of all the balls you’re juggling, customer service is one you can hardly afford to drop.
Despite the universal importance of customer service, it’s safe to say that it’s particularly critical for ecommerce companies.
Loyalty is thin on the ground in the world of online retail, and it’s extremely easy for customers to switch to a competitor.
It’s rare for any given online store to provide a differentiated shopping experience, so customer service is a vital way to set your business apart from the herd.
Good customer service also helps reduce, and even avoid, the incidence of chargebacks, which can be a major headache.
It’s estimated that the chargeback on a $100 purchase ends up costing a digital retailer over $200, and that small and midsize businesses see an average of 2.4% of online orders resulting in chargebacks.
When you deliver good customer service, you nurture more satisfied customers. The happier your customers are in general, the more likely they are to trust you to resolve issues fairly, and get in touch to deal with concerns directly.
They’ll also be more inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt, all of which makes them less likely to resort to chargebacks.
As central pillars of good customer service, transparent return and refund policies, along with hassle-free processes for dispute resolution, can go a long way to deterring chargebacks.
Now that you’ve gained a better understanding of what’s at stake when it comes to customer service, let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that make a customer service program great.
Then we’ll dive into the specific software platforms that business leaders would be wise to consider for their customer service operations.
How to deliver excellent customer service
Here are a few tips to help you deliver top-notch customer service, regardless of the platform you use.
Everyone wants to feel like they matter as an individual, even when it comes to ecommerce purchases. Customers appreciate it when you address them by name, remember their preferences, and tailor your interactions to their specific needs.
They feel valued when agents know their history with your company, and when marketing messaging and special offers are personalized to their previous purchases and interests.
On the flip side, if you fail to identify people right away, forcing them to explain their complaints from scratch each time you interact with them, the damage can be significant.
Customers who experience friction when being handed off across communication channels can grow frustrated quickly, making it all the more challenging to provide a satisfactory service interaction.
Go one step beyond customer expectations by anticipating customer needs and offering them assistance _before _they get in touch to ask for it.
You can use Mention’s social listening tool to discover what complaints your customers have, what they want from businesses like yours, and stay attuned to industry trends.
This way, you can adapt your customer service processes to meet their demands before they make them.
It’s also a good idea to proactively reach out with notifications about people’s order statuses and to offer relevant product recommendations or repeat orders at the right time.
Not everyone chooses to turn to customer support with their complaints, so it’s important to have the ability to find these situations before they turn into word-of-mouth disasters.
If you pick up on a social post where someone is ranting about a bad experience with your brand, it’s an opportunity to chime in and direct them to support channels where you can address their needs and hopefully turn them into advocates.
Deliver multichannel support
Today, people are used to carrying on conversations across numerous channels.
Your customer support should also be able to provide seamless support interactions across multiple communication channels, including phone, email, live chat (with or without chatbots), social media, and in-person support.
What matters is not just the number of channels you cover, but whether your agents can deliver consistency in service quality across each one of them.
As we’ll see below when we delve into the various leading platforms for support management, it’s recommended to use a consolidated inbox that aggregates tickets from your own support portal, chat interfaces, email and social media messages.
CRM integrations can be extremely helpful in this regard as well.
Quick response times demonstrate that you value your customers’ time and are committed to helping them.
To speed up response times and cut delays, make appropriate decisions about which channels you use and how you go about routing tickets to human representatives.
For example, you might want to use chatbots as your first line of response and to deal with simple customer issues like questions about returns policies, inquiries about pricing or changing plans, and checking their account or billing status.
You can use autoresponders that pick up on keywords from incoming support tickets and suggest customers check out relevant helpful content.
Then you can reserve live chat or phone calls with human agents for more complex queries, so you can deliver a quick answer to every question.
Train agents well
There’s no substitute for sympathetic agents who are able to actively listen to customer concerns, understand customer needs, and demonstrate empathy and caring.
It’s just as important to ensure that each agent is fully knowledgeable about your products or services, so that they can successfully resolve customer issues in a short space of time.
Of course, you want your reps to have the ability to implement fixes and refunds, but sometimes the best way to diffuse an irate customer situation is simply to help them feel heard and convey that you care.
Make sure all your agents receive the necessary training before they begin responding to queries and receiving live calls.
It’s vital to always be honest and transparent about your products, services, pricing, and policies. If there are issues or delays, it’s far better to communicate them openly and provide alternative solutions, if possible.
If you can’t resolve the issue quickly, keep customers updated about delays or disruptions. Again, when people know that you care about serving them and are going the extra mile to keep them informed, they’re likely to be less upset about unresolved issues.
Establish a process of continuous improvement
You can never sit still when it comes to customer support. It’s important to regularly monitor and evaluate the quality of your customer service interactions through audits and surveys, and by asking customers for their feedback.
Make sure to put the feedback you receive into action, so that customers feel like their insights are making a difference.
Many of the leading support tools offer analytics to help you strategize operational improvements over time, by correlating support ticket resolution outcomes with various factors like query type and channel.
The best platforms to help you deliver excellent customer service in 2024
Even the best customer support agents and most attentive companies need the right tools to help them make their customers’ dreams into reality.
Here are the top five platforms to assist you with keeping on top of customer queries, efficiently resolving open issues, and raising customer satisfaction levels.
The below descriptions take the latest key product features into account, as accurately as possible, when this article was researched in late 2023.
Zendesk is one of the most comprehensive customer support platforms out there, with all the features you could imagine and excellent integration with over a hundred other channels.
In fact, the main criticism you’ll find is that it’s a bit too much for small teams to master, and the platform’s flexibility means it can take time to customize it for your business.
Zendesk covers multiple communication channels, including Twitter/X and Facebook Messenger, text messages, chatbots, help center tickets, and queries on community forums.
The platform offers a customer portal for self-service support, and advanced automation and ticket routing to speed up response times and increase efficiency.
Zendesk has flexible pricing, where you only pay according to the features you need and the number of agents who’ll be using the platform.
HelpCrunch offers a full range of tools and numerous integrations to streamline customer support operations. Features include support for multichannel communications, and an intuitive chatbot platform that makes it easy to develop and run customer support chatbots.
Auto-messaging features and a simple knowledge base editor allows you to offer more self-service tools for customers to resolve issues independently.
The platform includes a shared inbox, allowing agents to allocate and pick up tasks more efficiently while reducing overlap and tickets that sail under the radar.
The AI editor automates the process of writing messages and help articles, thereby saving time and reducing cognitive load for agents.
With HelpCrunch, you’ll only pay for the features you use, making it cost-effective and scalable for growing businesses.
As part of the Freshworks suite, Freshdesk is one of the few customer service platforms to offer a free-forever plan. The plan covers an unlimited number of agents, although only the most basic features are included.
Its paid plans are also reasonably priced, and you’ll find all the tools you need to deliver top customer support.
Freshdesk offers multichannel support, along with AI-powered ticket responses and automation that helps reduce friction in ticket allocation and issue resolution.
It includes a customer portal, so customers can resolve their own issues, and as a nice differentiator, the platform provides a built-in training program for your customer support agents.
Zoho Desk is another full-featured customer service package. Its support tools include ticketing, a module to streamline building a knowledge base, a self-service customer portal, and live chat.
Zoho Desk also integrates natively with the Zoho CRM and other tools in the Zoho business management suite, as well as with many other tools and platforms.
In addition, Zoho Desk provides advanced automation and easy-to-use options to set routing protocols and workflows, helping reduce the cognitive load and speed up response times. However, these are only included in the top-level plan.
Finally, Zoho provides built-in analytics, so you can track response times and view frequently-occurring customer issues, alongside sentiment analysis to help you keep ahead of customer expectations.
HubSpot Service Hub
HubSpot is best known for its marketing, sales and content management software, but the company also offers an extensive customer service platform for businesses of all sizes.
The platform does have rich features, but it is likely most appealing to companies that already use other HubSpot tools.
Like Freshdesk, HubSpot has a free plan that includes basic features like a shared inbox, ticketing help, and a reporting dashboard.
You’ll have to pay for more advanced features such as a customer portal, social media integrations, email templates, and canned snippets that speed up response times.
While the most advanced automation and conversation intelligence is reserved for the top tiers, simple automation and ticket routing is included in the lowest-level paid tier.
It’s worth investing in excellent customer service
Delivering top customer service is vital for every company to differentiate themselves from the competition, increase customer loyalty, and boost revenue. It’s well worth the extra effort to make customers feel cared for and strengthen their relationship with your business.
Thankfully, there are many platforms with the features you need to improve the service you offer and make it easier to achieve customer experience excellence.