No matter their industry or niche, all companies have one thing in common:
The majority of their customers come to them because they are looking for a solution to a pain point.
The company’s duty, of course, is to provide the support needed for the customer to effectively solve their problems, overcome their challenges, and accomplish their goals.
While a major part of providing this support revolves around the actual products or services you offer, there’s more to it than that. Customer support also involves doing whatever needs to be done for the customer’s overall experience to be as pleasant and productive as possible.
This means, among many other things:
- Ensuring a smooth path to purchase
- Guiding the customer through proper use of your products or services
- Using every customer engagement and touchpoint as an opportunity to provide more value to them
Adopting this more advanced approach to customer support is all but essential by today’s standards. According to data collected by Hubspot:
- 90% of US consumers factor customer service and support into their purchasing decisions
- Consumers are willing to spend 17% more on brands that provide superb customer support
- 93% of consumers are likely to make repeat purchases from companies that provide excellent support
On the other hand, providing insufficient support to your target audience can lead to disaster for your ecommerce company. As Hubspot’s data shows, 78% of consumers will back out of a purchase due to poor service or support—with 50% saying such a poor experience would cause them to defect to a competing brand.
In addition to providing high-quality products to your customers, you also need to provide the support they need to get the absolute most out of the products or services you offer.
Of course, providing such valuable support to your audience will ultimately benefit your business in the long run. In fact, strong customer support efforts can allow a relatively small ecommerce brand to compete with even the largest companies in your industry.
Many retailers are falling short in terms of providing support for their online customers. As ASCI’s Retail and Consumer Shipping Report 2018-2019 shows, customer satisfaction actually fell across the board with regard to a variety of online customer support-related issues:
That said, if you’re able to “wow” your customers with the quality of support you provide them, you’ll be doing more than even the biggest names in the world of ecommerce. In turn, you’re bound to stand out from the rest of the companies in your industry.
In this article, we’re going to talk about how to do just that.
6 Ways to Effectively Support Your Ecommerce Customers
Now that we understand the importance of going above and beyond in supporting your customers, let’s discuss what this all entails.
Provide an Intuitive, Immersive Experience
Supporting your customers means making it as easy as possible for them to do whatever it is they’ve set out to do when engaging with your brand.
That might sound a bit broad—because it is.
The fact is, there are a number of reasons your online customers will engage with your brand. Some will be looking to learn more about your products or services. Others will want to check out your blog posts and other such content. Or, they may be fully prepared to make a purchase, and will navigate to your site with the specific intention of doing so.
No matter their current reason for engaging with your brand, they want to be able to accomplish their goals with minimal friction.
It’s up to you, then, to allow this to happen.
First things first, your ecommerce website should provide any and all information your customers will be looking for—or that you know they should know.
A good rule of thumb here:
The more important a piece of information is, the easier it should be for your customers to access and view it.
Take a look at Bohemian Traders’ homepage, for example:
With just a quick glance, site visitors can take in a variety of information, such as the company’s shipping policies, payment options, and contact info. All this, of course, in addition to information about the actual products the brand offers, as well.
Digging deeper into the brand’s website, we see this information continues to be displayed prominently throughout:
What’s more, Bohemian Traders goes as far as to break down the product’s price into installments upfront, making it easy for potential customers to weigh their options in this regard. Again, the idea is to proactively provide the information you know your customers will be looking for, so that they don’t have to look all that hard for it.
Of course, you can’t fit everything your customers need to know on just one page of your site. Still, your site needs to be structured in a way that makes it easy for your audience to navigate to the specific page they’re looking for.
Take a look at Best Buy’s homepage:
No matter what information a given customer is looking for here, their path is crystal clear. What’s more, the site provides multiple options as to how to proceed:
In providing an intuitive and navigable ecommerce website, you’ll proactively provide the support your customers need to do whatever they set out to do in the first place. The less friction they encounter while navigating your site, the more immersive their on-site experience will be.
Develop a Robust, Informative Content Library
Another key way to proactively support your ecommerce customers is to develop a rich content library for them to refer to as needed.
There are a number of ways your content marketing efforts can provide support to your target customers, such as:
- Providing surface-level tips and advice to help them experience quick wins
- Teaching them how to use your products or services for their specific purposes
- Helping them take the next steps after they’ve accomplished their initial goals
Scotts Menswear’s blog, for example, is full of articles detailing recent fashion trends, providing gift suggestions, and discussing various other topics within the men’s lifestyle niche:
Furniture retailer Furl takes a similar approach, creating content aimed at helping its audience efficiently furnish their living quarters:
In both of these examples, the goal is two-fold:
For one, each brand is providing valuable information they know their audience wants to know. Whether it be winter fashion advice or tips for keeping a bedroom organized, both brands are laser-focused on helping their audience by keeping them informed.
The company-facing goal, of course, is to engage the customer, build their trust, and get them to convert. In these specific examples, the companies used the content to point the reader to products that allow them to stay in style or stay organized, respectively.
(However, you should always focus more on the first of these goals than the second. While promoting your products as you provide valuable support and advice to your customers is all well and good, creating content for the sole purpose of promoting your products will likely be ill-received by your audience.)
As for what content to create, well…it depends on your audience’s needs.
Think about the most common and pressing issues they face before they’ve engaged with your brand, as well as any questions, comments, or feedback they have over time while using your products or services. Also, consider digging into your audience’s engagement and usage history with your brand’s offerings to identify areas in which they may need additional support.
You also want to create content in a variety of formats, catering to the individual needs of your various audience members. You’ll often be able to repurpose a single piece of content in a variety of formats such as creating an infographic from a how-to list or combining several pieces of long-form content and turning it into a video or podcast.
Whether attracting and engaging your target audience for the first time, or instructing your current customers how to best use your products, you can use your content to support them as they take the next steps in their journey with your brand.
If you always have the information your customers are looking for—and engaging with it always leads them to a positive outcome—they’ll have every reason to continue relying on your brand for support as time goes on.
Become Omnipresent via Omnichannel Operations
In aiming to provide efficient and effective support to your customers, taking an omnichannel approach to operations is vital.
Think about it:
By operating on multiple channels (and integrating them with one another), you’ll be able to provide support to your customers in just as many ways.
In terms of providing customer service, this means being able to troubleshoot your customers’ issues via the most convenient and advantageous channel given the situation at hand. For example, a customer may reach out to your live chat team for help with a small issue, or they may fill out a longer, more complete form in trying to get to the bottom of a more complex problem.
Looking at the overall customer experience, “going omnichannel” is the key to becoming an integral, almost omnipresent part of your customers’ lives.
The idea here is that you shouldn’t be looking to support and provide value to your customers only when they come to you. Rather, you should always be looking for opportunities to do so.
Consider the following hypothetical companies, each of which operates in the same niche:
- Company A has a website that offers a variety of content and information about the company’s products and the surrounding niche. The team has an active presence on various social media channels, and offers 24/7 support via live chat, phone, and email.
- Company B has a website that provides the company’s basic contact information. The company has a Facebook page, but isn’t very active. The team offers customer service via phone from the hours of 9-5 EST.
Without knowing anything else about these two companies, it’s clear which one cares more and works harder for its customers. Without a doubt, Company A understands the importance of being where their customers need them to be at all times—while Company B only wants to engage with their audience when and where it’s convenient for them.
What’s more, since Company A is more visible and active than Company B on multiple channels, it’s more likely that A will become more integrated in its customers’ lives over time. This means more opportunities to provide value and support—which, in turn, will lead to even more opportunities to continue doing so.
While your customers likely won’t always have your brand on the top of your mind, you want your brand to come to mind whenever they’re in need of your services. It all starts by providing them a continuous, interconnected omnichannel experience.
Provide Automated Support Whenever Possible
No matter how hard you work to proactively support your customers, there will always be instances in which they won’t be able to solve a problem on their own.
But, this doesn’t necessarily mean your support team will need to step in just yet.
Rather, you’ll want to provide automated, interactive support to your customers in the form of chatbots and overlay forms.
As we’ve discussed before on our blog, chatbots can be used for a variety of purposes, such as:
- Providing answers to common questions
- Connecting customers to further reading or other supplemental content
- Making product recommendations
- Facilitating transactions
- And with the right solution, chatbots can also process orders for you
The goal is for your chatbot to provide the exact information, service, or function your customers need at any given time—or, at the very least, to make their next steps as smooth as possible.
The benefit of doing so is two-fold:
For the customer, chatbot technology makes it easy to get what they need in order to accomplish the task at hand. This means the customer can spend less time and energy figuring out what they have to do—and spend more time actually doing it (whatever “it” may be).
And, since the customer will be better equipped to handle certain issues on their own (albeit with a bit of automated assistance), the company’s service and support staff will have more time and energy to focus on helping customers that do need some hands-on assistance. In other words, the company’s support team will be able to work more efficiently than ever.
You can also offer support when customers take certain on-site actions via chatbot or overlay form. For example, you can solicit feedback from customers like Poplyfe does in the following one-question questionnaire to visitors who add items to their cart but don’t continue to checkout:
There are three key benefits to this approach. For one, it aims to keep the customer on the page and on track toward conversion—heading off cart abandonment before it happens.
Secondly, if the customer does decide not to make a purchase, the company will at least understand the reason why—and can begin working on a solution that will satisfy the customer in question.
Finally, it provides an opportunity to get a customer’s contact information, which will allow the team to engage further with them should the opportunity arise in the future.
Speaking of actively engaging with your audience…
Provide Human Support Whenever Necessary
Of course, there will be times in which your support staff will need to step in to actively help your customers.
Needless to say, it’s essential that your team is able to handle these issues quickly and efficiently. For one thing, your customers will expect as much—and won’t tolerate much undue delay from your team. Secondly, the more able your team is to solve your customers’ issues, the lower your operational costs will be—meaning you’ll have more resources to reinvest in improving your various processes.
Now, as we mentioned earlier, a huge part of providing effective and efficient support is using the optimal channel for a given situation.
However, from time to time you’ll encounter situations that might not be so easy to fix.
(Or, more accurately, your customers will encounter issues that can most effectively be solved using a specific channel.)
For example, it may be more efficient for a service rep to walk a customer through a certain process via telephone, as opposed to typing it all out in a live chat window. Or, if a customer is facing a technical glitch on the brand’s website, it may be necessary for them to share their screen with support staff.
More than simply providing support on multiple channels, though, you need to ensure that each channel you use is integrated with one another. This will ensure that, should your team need to engage with a customer on multiple channels while solving a single issue, they’ll be able to pick up right where they left off when transitioning to a different platform. This will cut down on redundancies and frustration for both parties—and allow your team to cater to the customer’s needs in the most efficient way possible.
(This is another reason it’s vital to adopt an omnichannel approach to operations, as it inherently desilos your various channels, and keeps your customer data synced at all times.)
Give Your Customers Options
This has been a common thread running through this article, so let’s make it clear:
Providing options to your customers—in a variety of circumstances—allows you to support them by giving them control over their engagement with your brand.
This notion of choice weaves its way through pretty much every touchpoint your customers will encounter:
- When visiting your site, some will want to browse your product catalog, while others will want to search for a specific product
- When looking for informational content, some will want to read a blog post, while others might rather watch a video—and whether they do so on your website, social media channels, or other platform
- When making a purchase, your customers will have different preferences regarding payment method, as well as shipping and delivery options
…and the list goes on.
It’s important, then, that you know what your customers’ preferences are—and that you provide your audience with the choices they expect in a given scenario.
Now, this isn’t to say you need to provide every option under the sun for any possible situation. For one thing, it’s logistically impossible to do, period. Secondly, providing too many options can lead to analysis paralysis for your customers, causing them to decide not to engage further with your brand, at all.
Instead, you need to identify the moments in which customer preference and choice plays a major role in their overall experience. Then, determine which options your audience expects to be provided at these junctures (whether by soliciting feedback, analyzing on-site behavior, or any other such method)—and do whatever’s needed to provide them.
In providing options to your customers specifically based on their preferences, you accomplish two things:
For one, you allow them to engage further with your brand in a way that they’re comfortable with, and that will lead to the best outcome for them. Moreover, you make clear that your goal is to serve and support them as they want to be served.
In seeing how dedicated you are to catering to their needs, your customers will quickly learn to trust your brand—and will likely remain loyal well into the future.
Supporting your ecommerce customers means more than simply troubleshooting the problems they come to you with.
(If that’s all that comes to mind when you think of supporting your customers, well…you have some work to do.)
All kidding aside, to support your customers means to provide whatever they need to move closer to their goal at any given moment. Whether this means delivering quick-hitting content to help them solve a simple problem, streamlining their path to purchase, or helping them get the best use out of your products, the onus is on you to give them the support they need to succeed.
Author: Anthony Capetola
Bio: Anthony is the Chief Marketing Officer at Sales & Orders. Their platform, Marketing Software Built for Ecommerce, includes a full-suite of features and tools dedicated to helping retailers attract more shoppers and increase sales.