The Basics of Turning Customer Support in eCommerce into a Profit Center

Natalie Miller
Natalie Miller
June 3 · 10 min read
mustard yellow background with brown wooden icons displaying different forms of communication in the form of internet, google maps, telephone, social media or email

Customer support is always a bit of a touchy subject for business owners. They want to offer great customer service, but they don't know how to. They’re often afraid that their customer support is doing more bad than good for the bottom line, as they are often seen as a cost center exclusively.

As with most business operations, you need to have a strategy in order for things to go well. In this case, you need to understand the fundamentals of customer support, have a genuine interest in assisting customers and maintain consistency in communication with your customers.

It is true, customer support is often dreaded and seen as a sinkhole of money by sellers/business owners. Yet, good customer service can boost your business positively in many ways and have a big impact on your bottom line.

Let’s look at the external ways that having great customer support can benefit your business:

Good customer support – How it benefits your business externally

  • Your customers will be happier with your service.
  • There will be more brand loyalty from your customers, due to your helpfulness.
  • The image / reputation of your business will increase among customers and the general public.
  • Acquisition of new customers will be more likely, due to your better reputation and word-of-mouth marketing.
  • Customers will turn into long-time fans of your brand, due to trust being built between buyer and seller.

This will typically all lead towards higher customer lifetime value for your business, as well as advantages in acquiring new customers, leaving an immediate impact on your revenue.

Now, let’s look at the internal ways that having great customer support will benefit your business and staff:

Good customer support – How it benefits your business internally

  • Guidelines / Templates will need to be prepared which means that staff members will have a nice and easy to follow instruction sheet to follow, making their day-to-day lives at work easier.
  • There will be an unanimous ‘brand tone’ set up which staff members need only follow to maintain consistency and continue to achieve success.
  • Internal staff morale will increase as they will be doing a good job for the business, and therefore they are doing a good job for themselves too
  • It will alleviate pressure on all fronts, each department will feel the happiness and trust that customers have with the company, and therefore more pride will be instilled in each staff member.
  • It will thus also be easier to hire and train good support employees, as well as keeping them with your company.

If all these positive aspects are starting to seem interesting to you, and you’d like to understand more about what customer support truly is all about, then continue reading.

Let us outline the fundamentals of customer support. If you take only one thing out of this blog, then let it be the below four words. Remind yourself of these every time you speak to a customer, and you are almost guaranteed to succeed in both assisting them and offering great customer support.

The fundamentals of customer support

  1. Speed
  2. Convenience
  3. Helpfulness
  4. Friendliness

Now, we would like to expand on the above-mentioned four areas of customer support fundamentals. How can you put these four areas in practice? What do they look like in your everyday business life?

Here are the most important things to look at when trying to wow your customers with great support:

1 Get organized

In order for your customer support journey to be successful, you have to get organized. Your team needs to have a list of guidelines and templates that they can work off. It is important that your customer support team has a tone, a voice, and an image to follow.

They cannot reinvent the wheel with each time that they speak to customers. They need to be able to offer consistent and helpful service each time they speak to a disgruntled customer.

It is the job of management to put guidelines into place and into action. The customer support team will then carry out the instruction of management here, making their own choices within the parameters they have been given. This is a good time to take advantage of your HR Manager, who has been trained in the best ways of being helpful while also staying effective.

If you feel like the guidelines or templates that you have in place are not useful, then test them before chucking them and starting all over again. A clever practice is to set up a ‘trial scenario’ within the team.

Get a bunch of people across different departments to role-play being ‘a disgruntled customer’ and being a customer support team member. Go through a specific scenario and see how the template that you have provided your customer support team member with works. If you see room for improvement, then apply those. If people within the round come up with clever ideas or useful tactics of helping the customer, then include them into your template / guidelines and implement it.

2 Be available where your customers are (convenience)

When it comes to offering your customers a great service in customer support, it is important to be available through the channels that your customers like to use. These can include but are not limited to:

  • Online chat (with or without bot service)
  • E-mail
  • WhatsApp
  • Social Media
  • Phone Calls
  • In-person visits

Customers will always choose the path of the least resistance. They would rather not jump through hoops to get in touch with you. Customers often have questions before making their purchase and good customer support is always there for them, securing revenue along the way. They will have one or two ideas of how they want to contact you, and those are the two avenues they will try first. If they have something serious to complain about, they will tend to be more persistent. However, if they are trying to contact you to ask for advice on one of your products before they make their final purchase, and your business is not easy to get hold of, they will most likely go to one of your competitors to make that purchase.

3 Know their history (helpfulness)

You need to know the history of your customers. It's invaluable for support agents to know the buying history of your customers and when they reached out to support and what this was about the last time (even if the last request came through another channel of communication). This helps to give faster and better answers. (e.g., the support agent can look at live shipping info to quickly answer the typical “where is my parcel” question).

Knowing the history of a customer's purchase, as well as the communication history that this client has had with support agents, will stop the customer from needing to repeat themselves over and over again. It is not in the best interest of your business to rely on needing the customer to repeat the issue they are having over and over again, as this will only lead to increased customer frustration.

You want to achieve customer satisfaction. Therefore, you need to ensure that the customer explains the issue once only, and from that point forward, your business’s customer support agents have to be actively invested in only offering solutions.

4 Enable self-service (speed)

Most people are happy with self-service, as long as you don't force them into it (→ give the option to bypass a bot or self-service and get to human support quickly). This is because it's usually faster to find the answer on your own, than wait in line for a chat or on the phone. Thus, you should provide a great knowledge base. FAQs are a great option to tackle this (this also helps if you can't afford a large support team yet).

Investing in things like FAQs will give your customers a great source of information that they can rely on to answer questions they have. These can range from ‘I want to change my delivery address, but my parcel has already been shipped’ to ‘The billing address is incorrect on my order confirmation, did my order still go through?’.

The more information customers can consume without needing to get in touch with a customer agent, the better. Especially for the younger generations, who prefer doing things online than through actual human contact.

5 Prepare answers (speed)

Most questions will be asked again and again, so you can prepare answer templates that can be modified and sent out quickly by your support agents.

Having prepared templates will save time and energy for your support agents. It is important for them to have an instruction manual of sorts to assist them in answering the questions of customers in a consistent manner.

Another clever thing to do is use automation to your advantage. There are many tools out there that allow you to automate your customer support which allows you to save money, time and redirect your focus on how you can increase your revenue. Gorgias, for example, is a great tool to use.

With Gorgias, you can add an automated add-on for all generic questions. You can pre-prepare answers to questions that you receive often so that you have automated answers at the ready.

Automating the shipping and tracking part of an order is a clever option that Gorgias allows you. Send notifications about the status of orders to your customers so that they receive information before having to reach out to you. This saves you time as you do not need to have someone looking into each order status enquiry.

Automation means that you can use a robot to answer generic questions and keep your actual support team for the questions that require a human touch.

6 Empower support agents

The more information and rules that support agents have, the better they will be able to act on your businesses' behalf.

Provide them with a clear outline and understanding of what they are allowed to do and not to do. Examples of these could be:

  • Are they allowed to cancel or refund in certain scenarios?
  • Can they gift small products to wow customers?
  • Can discount codes be created for future use for disgruntled customers?
  • Are they allowed to refund postage should a delivery be delayed?

The more reliable rules there are, the more consistent your customer support is and the happier the customers will be. So be sure to create an answer that your customer support agents can follow in different situations.

Another important way that you can empower your customer support agents is through training. Make sure they have great product knowledge, so you can include them in the sales process. Help them to understand upselling potential (do you want some custom soles to your new sneakers? I think model xyz could be the better fit for you) etc.

7 Collect feedback

Great reviews are great for business. Every interaction with a customer is the potential to get a great review. If you manage to help a customer with an issue they might be having or a question that they cannot find the answer to, then they might be in a good enough mood to write a review for your business. 

After a call with a customer, try to incorporate a system by which you send out an automated email that goes along the lines of ‘Thank you for talking to us. We hope our customer service was to your satisfaction. Please rate your experience here and leave us a review if you like. Thank you in advance’.

8 Good Tools Help

You don't have to figure this all out on your own. There are great tools to help you. These are our favorites:

  • Trengo – Trengo is an omnichannel platform that compiles all messaging channels into one single view. This means that even if you are receiving messages from different portals, you will never lose overview of these or miss one, as they will all be collated together into one view.
  • Gorgias – Gorgias is a multichannel helpdesk that allows businesses to offer the very best support to their customers. It has recently broken through to be the most widely used helpdesk for Shopify.
  • Freshdesk – Freshdesk offers omnichannel support that is meaningful, fast and goal oriented.

Give it a shot

We hope that you now understand the great benefits that great customer support can give your business both internally and externally, you might consider having your very own customer support in place. This does not need to be a large investment or a very big team. You can keep it small and low budget to start with. Take advantage of the free trials that the above-mentioned helping tools offer, see if Gorgias or Trengo works better for you and your business. Create a guideline yourself and test it out on friends and family, if you don’t have a big team to test it out on yet.

Remember that if you are going to offer customer support, you need to do it well from the get-go. Here you are customer-facing and working in real-time (when on a live chat for example) so you need to be sure that you know what you can and cannot do for customers and be able to communicate this in a gentle way to avoid disappointment.

We hope that this has helped you understand the importance of great customer support and how to set up your support team for success.

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Natalie Miller
Written by

Natalie Miller

Marketing Manager

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