Providing great multi-channel customer service isn’t easy. Customers expect to be treated consistently no matter where and when they interact with your company, thanks to the precedent set by successful retailers. They also expect fast service and effective solutions, even when they can’t provide complete information about their problems.
These complexities can quickly strain a customer service team, especially when that team tries to function without the necessary tools. Spreadsheets turn into monstrosities. Sticky notes with names and callback reminders litter every cubicle. Staff provide inconsistent answers, and customers are constantly put on hold. All of this leads to lost repeat business and negative online reviews, which can quickly paralyze a growing business.
How can companies adapt to the demands of modern customers service? They can either increase the size of their support team, or they can adopt technology that helps their team process issues more efficiently.
After working with thousands of retailers who chose the latter, here are the ways we’ve seen technology underpin a great customer service experience:
Quicker Access to Customer Information
There’s nothing more frustrating than finally getting through to a service representative only to be put on hold while they look up your information. By using telephony software that’s integrated with your system of customer record, call handlers can swiftly navigate to find the information they need. And when that system of customer record is integrated with other business units (fulfillment, billing/invoicing, inventory, etc.), your reps will be set up to provide fast answers.
Even when they have a near perfect shipping rate, the most common question our merchants receive is “Where’s my order?” Instead of answering that with a series of follow-up questions (When did you place it? On our website or..?), customer service reps can simply take a name or reference number and pull up the order, along with a full timeline of every interaction the business has had with it — when it was shipped, the tracking reference, notes from previous calls, etc.
Take Care of Your Hero Customers
A business should strive to provide a great experience for all customers, but from a strictly financial perspective, some are more valuable than others. Those high-value customers should be given superstar treatment (calls from the owner, immediate escalation to a manager, free shipping, etc.). Without a connection between sales reporting and customer service data, top customers are likely to live in someone’s head or a spreadsheet, both of which are unreliable.
A system with full sales history as well as contact information (CRM + order management) will help service staff immediately understand the level of support they need to provide a customer and how to budget their time. Should they spend five minutes and direct the caller to a self-service web portal, or half an hour and provide a complete solution? The lifetime value of the customer should (partially) inform that decision.
Reduce Call Volume with One-to-Many Service
Businesses can significantly reduce their volume of customer service inquires by adopting one-to-many communications for common problems and frequently asked questions. A quick win example would be adding instructions to track an order on the Contact Us page of your site, or attaching usage instructions for top-selling products to their order confirmation emails.
The right technology will help customer service teams report on and identify common support questions with a data-driven approach instead of relying on memory. Some helpdesk solutions (Zendesk and Freshdesk, for example) will actually prompt the customer with suggested answers and articles as they are typing their question.
More Ways to Connect with Customers
Different segments of customers prefer different channels for reaching out to a customer service team. Without the right software and communications infrastructure in place, managing multiple avenues of contact will be almost impossible. Requests will get lost, and customers won’t receive the level of attention they deserve.
We have worked with some businesses that got so desperate, they made their phone number difficult to find in order to funnel customers to email. Multichannel customer experience should never be sacrificed in favor of a one-way workflow when so many great tools exist to unify customer communications.
There are a number of great customer service tools on the market that consolidate incoming requests. One that we really like and use for our own customer support is Zendesk. The important thing to consider as an e-commerce business is how your customer service tools will integrate with your customer sales and order management technology. Look for a system that will provide a single access point for staff. This will lead to more efficient customer service, happy customers, and eventually, more sales.
Scott Hill is head of product marketing at Brightpearl and knows the retail management system inside out after five years with the company. Scott is focused on helping independent merchants grow their business with the help of powerful technology.