How Growing eCommerce Brands Maintain Strong Customer Service
As your business scales up, your customer service team is bound to experience some growing pains. More customers means more questions, more complaints, more touchpoints. In turn, this means you will need more staff, more training and more tools to keep your customers happy.
That’s why AJ Agrawal, Founder of Verma Media, says designing an exceptional customer service policy is one of the most important things a growing eCommerce brand can do. If customers feel they cannot easily communicate with the brand or express their frustrations, they will turn to social media — and possibly to other brands.
Below are three things every brand can do to ensure they’re giving their customers excellent service, even during periods of rapid business growth.
1. Keep the Customer at the Center of Your Business Model
Customer satisfaction and delight are what make businesses grow. That’s why it’s important to protect customer happiness at all costs.
Smaller eCommerce brands tend to have a natural capacity for forging personal connections with customers thanks to having fewer staff, more accessible executives and a smaller customer base. Brands at this level are acutely aware of the impact that one customer can have on a business.
As eCommerce brands grow, some struggle to keep that original human touch alive. Keeping this “intimacy at scale” is crucial for growing business, says Nathaniel Ru, Chief Brand Officer at Sweetgreen. “There are all of these cautionary tales about startups or restaurants that grew massively, transforming into slow-moving corporate entities where quality takes a nosedive, products become more bland, customers are no longer at the center, and employees feel less involved and inspired.” It is important for brands to avoid this progression toward flavorless products and customer service.
Instead, they should look to other brands that have successfully navigated those waters before. Tanya Dua at Business Insider writes that the rapid growth of brands like Dollar Shave Club, Casper and Warby Parker largely is due to the customer experiences those brands provide. They keep their focus on their relationships and emotional connections with customers as they grow — and customers reward these businesses with their loyalty.
A concept like customer loyalty can seem ambitious when those customers’ expectations grow by the day. But nailing customer experience — from the initial buying journey on through to support — is what brings those customers back for more. Daniel Keyes, research associate at BI Intelligence, says 79 percent of people perceive their experiences with a company to be just as important as its products and services. Failure to deliver great customer experiences across the entire buyer journey will result in lost customers.
Providing amazing customer service is a huge part of the customer experience, and can make the difference between a loyal advocate and a frustrated one-time customer (who leaves bad reviews).
To scale your eCommerce business, your customers’ happiness must always remain the priority. To do that, you need the right tools and the right people.
2. Put the Right Tools Into Place
As you implement a scalable customer service strategy, you need to consider how your eCommerce platform supports your plan. The platform must offer communication tools for your customer service team and support external communication integrations.
Chip R. Bell, a customer loyalty consultant, advises to incorporate customer-friendly processes — i.e. processes defined by their lack of friction. Automated messages, phone mazes and delayed ticket resolution all add up to friction for the customer. Reduce these, and customers will be pleased.
One way to reduce friction is to use in-app messaging. Ashley Sefferman at Apptentive writes that in-app messaging allows teams to communicate with customers to answer questions and resolve issues without greatly interrupting their daily lives. Customers can easily ask questions about their orders or product issues, resolve their concerns and move on with their day.
If you can empower customers that way, you will be ahead of most companies. As Autumn Sullivan at Big Sea notes, three-quarters of consumers believe it takes too long to actually connect with a person when they contact customer support. “There is no moment more critical in the buyer’s journey than a moment of difficulty,” Sullivan writes. “If your company can quickly acknowledge, address and overcome that difficulty, you win business and affinity.” Live chat and chatbots can help your team respond quickly to your customers’ needs. As your business grows, it will be necessary to decide on low-friction tools to integrate with your store.
Just remember that the tool’s purpose is to remove friction, not get in the way. “Technology should serve to make your products and services easier to use, be invisible, and enhance the experience with you,” says Sue Reynolds, founder of Carmine Media. “If it doesn’t, get rid of it and let a human take the wheel.”
3. Hire and Train Customer-Centric Staff
Hiring employees who will foster a customer-centric culture is one of the most important steps toward delivering great customer service.
When growing your customer support team, it is important to consider how each employee’s personality and character will enhance your organization’s goals. “To find customer-centric recruits, you’ll want to create opportunities in the interview process for candidates to be able to tell specific stories about their interactions with customers in past positions,” writes Firas Kittaneh, Cofounder and CEO of Amerisleep. “This includes examples of how they’ve turned irate shoppers into delighted promoters.” You will want to find people who have a caring personality, but also the ability to problem solve.
Matthew Dixon, Lara Ponomareff, Scott Turner and Rick DeLisi at Harvard Business Review write that hiring the right team and training them with the right mindset and skills is key to building killer customer service. In their study of almost 1,500 contact center representatives across multiple nations and industries, they found that most managers tend to hire people with high levels of empathy. But they also need to hire “controllers,” or people who take initiative, solve problems and direct customers without needing to follow a script.
Effective training is also important. The same researchers found that trying to deliver customer service training in a mechanical, procedural manner tends to fall flat. Think planned meetings and weeks of managerial observations, followed by rounds of structured coaching. People lose track of key details when training is delivered this way.
Instead, the researchers say that organic coaching, delivered in short-burst intervals on regular workdays, is most effective. That lets managers deliver immediate constructive feedback to employees right in the moment. Those are the lessons that stick.
Don’t Let Your Customers Feel Ignored
Everybody has had the experience of waiting on the phone for hours, being transferred from one representative to the next, with a few disconnects in between. Don’t allow your customers to endure that. Make sure your business is equipped with the right tools and people to take care of your customers well.
You want your customers to walk away feeling as though you’ve made their life easy. More importantly, you want them to know that there are helpful humans behind your brand — and that those humans deeply care about their customers.