ecommerce customer service

eCommerce Customer Service: Self-Support is Trending This Holiday Season

Daniel WeissLast updated on February 23, 2023
4 min

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Gifts Your Support Reps Really Want

Even though eCommerce customer service representatives are safe from the threat of shopping mall stampedes this holiday season, they still have to prepare for a period of record-breaking sales and support inquiries.

And right at the top of their professional wishlist are customers who:

  • Understand how your product works

  • Troubleshoot their own support issues

  • Never start fires on your Twitter feed

  • Tell other people how great you are

We don’t have to wait around for these mythical, magical customers to appear, though. We can do our best to create them ourselves.

eCommerce Support Begins Before Checkout

Your eCommerce site should create accurate expectations of what your product can do. In other words: Keep your Marketing and Sales teams accountable.

First and foremost, you want to be sure they aren’t promising something your business can’t deliver. The only thing more frustrating than being unable to use a product directly “out-of-the-box” is learning — during a support inquiry — that you’ve been misled.

(Don’t forget, 95% of customers who had a negative experience will choose to share it with their peers.)

Beyond those basics, you should also be helping online shoppers make better purchasing decisions.

Discuss the difference between various products, tiers, and packages. Share customer success stories. Recommend other, complementary products. (What was the point of Duck Hunt if you didn’t have the right controller?).

Here’s an example from Bellroy. The customer’s first interaction is a visual explanation of what fits in the wallet compared to competitor products.

ecommerce customer service

We see a clear link directing traffic to comparison tools, as well as shipping details listed directly next to the checkout button. Small touches like these proactively answer many customer questions, saving your support agents valuable time for helping more complex inquiries.

Make it Easy to do the Right Thing

No matter how good you get at providing online customers with upfront information, questions and confusion are inevitable.

What you can control is how you direct eCommerce shoppers, and how they access your team.

Make it very obvious where they need to go. Prompts that point toward support should stand out on web pages and order confirmation messages. Now that 75% of brands say they’re competing on customer experience, hiding your contact info in the fine print is out-of-the-question. While technically visible, the message there is “we can be contacted, but we don’t want to be.”

Think about the customer, but know your strengths as a team. With so many connected devices in use today, multichannel communication is important for businesses. However, if you can, try to direct traffic to your preferred mode of communication.

If chat is most convenient for your team, use clever UX that encourages customers to reach you that way. If you’ve hired seasonal agents to work phone lines, put your phone number front-and-center.

A great example of conscious customer support is this Allbirds transactional email.

ecommerce customer service

No matter how well we as a society understand the internet, nobody can wrap their head around the idea that delivery isn’t instant (yet). Allbirds knows we’re impatient, and places a link to track shipping in plain sight. Clearly, they get a lot of inquiries “re: where are my shoes?” and have addressed at least some of these concerns up front.

The same goes for pricing. Allbirds provides their customers with a detailed breakdown of costs. Any confusion regarding the grand total can be remedied with straightforward communication.

But, they know customers will still want to reach out. In the thank you section, they’ve listed three ways to interact with the Allbirds support team.

UI principles show we assign importance to information ordered from left-to-right, and from top-to-bottom. We’re unaffiliated with Allbirds, but we can assume they’d prefer inquiring customers to…

  1. 1. Seek self-help documentation, then

  2. 2. Try their chat feature, and

  3. 3. As an alternative, call their support line

The volume of customers who do find a resolution via self-help will create less traffic for agents. Likewise, those who seek support via chat will create less competition for phone lines. Lower total volume means more time for agents to provide unique and memorable customer experiences.

Invest in Self-Service

And from this previous example, we can see the importance of the first step: On-site help documentation.

The more you can direct customers to effective self-help resources, the more efficient every level of your support becomes. After all, the best support request is the one that’s never made.

To see superior eCommerce customer service in action, we turn to Deathwish Coffee.

eCommerce Customer Service

Deathwish has put serious thought into everything their customers could feasibly need assistance with. Common concerns, like “Shipping & Delivery” or “Returns, Refunds & Exchanges,” are covered, as well as more specific inquiries, like gifts, wholesaling, and even contests.

They’re presenting their clientele with a ton of relevant choices, but yet it all works because it’s orderly and consistent with their branding.

Plus, Deathwish provides their customers with an all-important escape route. If time is of the essence, these caffeinated customers know they have the option to speak 1:1 with a qualified representative. Nothing is hidden, and help is accessible.

eCommerce Customer Service

Also, the team is taking help wherever they can find it. To address inquiries related to their product (specifically strength), they’ve linked to a relevant article, written by a 3rd party. This acts as a great learning tool for customers, as well as a boost of social proofing.

Your Holiday Gift Bag

To recap, a large part of dealing with peak season volume is providing smart self-support. You can guide your customers to online documentation or your preferred communication channels by:

  • Providing a detailed and informative purchasing process

  • Taking into consideration customer questions at every stage

  • Using intuitive UX that promotes self-help

The end goal isn’t eliminating support altogether, but creating evenly distributed demand. Agent workload may still increase but these other measures will keep customer satisfaction high despite the busy season.

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Published on November 6, 2018.

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