The Complete Ecommerce Startup Guide: Offering Amazing Customer Service

Customer service is hugely important. As a new business, the kind of support you offer your shoppers can literally make or break you.

Table of Contents:
The Complete Ecommerce Startup Guide

  1. An Introduction to Ecommerce
  2. Defining Your Niche, Strategy, and Goals
  3. Picking an Ecommerce Platform
  4. Setting Up Your Store
  5. Designing Your Website
  6. All About Ecommerce SEO
  7. Offering Amazing Customer Service
  8. Time to Launch!
  9. Ecommerce Marketing Methods
  10. Common Mistakes to Avoid
  11. Long-Term Ecommerce Website Maintenance
  12. Further Reading & Additional Resources

A report published by Accenture offered some eye-opening statistics on customer service:

  • In 2013, 66% of consumers reporting switching service or goods providers solely because of poor customer service experiences.
  • Of those, 82% indicated that the companies could have done something to keep them from switching (but they didn’t!).
  • 26% of consumers—that’s 1 in 4—have posted a public negative review of a brand online in the past year.
  • 28% of consumers indicated that reviews on social media (both positive and negative) swayed their purchasing decisions.

As you can see, customer service for ecommerce websites is more important than ever. Thanks to social media and public review sites, word travels fast, and a negative review of your brand or products can be seen by anyone.

Although you can’t prevent mistakes or keep some hard-to-please customers from publicly critiquing you, you can—and should—go the extra mile to offer stellar service to all of your customers. By doing so, you’ll not only increase the likelihood of positive reviews, but also set yourself apart from your competitors.

What Kind of Customer Service is “Amazing”?

Unbelievably, your business will stand out just by offering quick, friendly, and reliable customer support. However, here are a few examples of ecommerce businesses that take it a step further:

  • Online shoe retailer Zappos gets around the “but I can’t try them on!” concern by offering fast shipping and free returns.
  • Headphones manufacturer Skullcandy offers a lifetime warranty that gives customers 50% off new pairs of headphones if they send in an old pair that has stopped working.
  • Amazon offers store credit to Amazon Prime customers who don’t receive their orders within the promised two day window—even if it wasn’t their fault.

How can you go above and beyond for your customers? Give it some thought. Although you may not have the budget to offer free shipping, there is still definitely something you can do to stand out and increase customer loyalty.

Another important part of great customer service is the method by which it’s offered. Let’s explore your options for resolving complaints and satisfying your customers.

Customer Service Options

There are a few options for customer service that you may want to explore. Here’s a brief review.

Call center: A traditional support channel like a customer service rep or call center can help quickly resolve issues in a personal way. However, it can be costly to staff a call center, and you may not have a large number of calls coming in at launch. For some businesses, though, a phone call is the only way to get things done.

Email support: Email is becoming the preferred method of support for busy, on-the-go people who want help, but don’t have time to make a phone call. It’s also the easiest for business owners, who may have to answer questions themselves. Customers still expect a quick response via email, though, so you should avoid treating this channel as an “I’ll get to it when I get to it” type of thing.

Live chat: Live chat can help resolve issues presented by impatient customers who want results now. However, it requires constant attention, and a giant queue could present a problem for both the person offering support and those waiting to get it. You may want to test live chat to determine its viability prior to any permanent implementation.

Social media: Since not everyone uses Facebook, Twitter, and other social media options, it should not serve as your only source for help. However, it may work well as a secondary or backup channel. See the section below for more.

So which option is right for you? It depends on a variety of factors. If you sell edible or perishable products, you should definitely have a phone number, since issues with these items will likely need resolved very quickly. Live chat can be viable for stores that have frequent minor inquiries—like “can I add something else to my order?” or “when will this ship?” Email is generally a good choice for everyone, but your customers won’t wait forever for a response, no matter how much they like you.

To decide how to deliver customer service, consider doing some tests for the first few months after you launch, or look around at competitors’ websites to see what options they offer.

Using Social Media for Customer Service

If you create a presence on social media, even if you don’t intend to use it for customer service purposes, you may find that customers naturally gravitate toward your Facebook or Twitter account for this sole reason. It may be easier or faster for them than email, or they may dislike making phone calls and waiting on hold to speak to someone.

Whatever the reason, you should be prepared to use your social media accounts to address and resolve problems, especially as your presence grows online. Here are a few tips for doing this:

Respond as quickly as you can. Studies show that customers expect a response on social media within an hour or less. Although this may be unrealistic for busy times or weekends, consider enabling notifications on your cell phone so that you can be informed as soon as there’s a new post or tweet from a customer.

Offer alternative contact methods. Some customers may visit your social media pages for help if they can’t find a phone number or email address on your site. Include this information in your profiles to help them out. Also, Facebook has a Page messaging option that, when enabled, will allow a form of private messaging between users and Page administrators. This is a great way to resolve problems without having them go public!

Offer to take the conversation offline when appropriate. While it’s good to be transparent about the way you’re resolving issues, you don’t want your Facebook or Twitter feeds flooded with angry messages. Politely ask for complaints or long discussions to be moved to a phone call or email.

Always keep your cool. Some customers may be incredibly difficult to please, or may make unreasonable demands. Preserve your public image by keeping cool, even under the most stressful situations. Ask “what can I do to make things right?” or “what else can I do for you?”

With our chapter on customer service completed, it’s finally time to take the next big step: launching your store!


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