The holiday shopping season has started. Walmart has come out swinging: they’ve already opened their seasonal layaways, and their 25 Top Toys predictions have garnered a lot of attention. Amazon, not to be outdone, has answered with their Top 100. Retailers who want to compete need to bring their A game. That means making sure every aspect of your eCommerce operation is functioning properly, including customer service.
Identify Your Customer Service Channels Now
Online shoppers are just like the shoppers you’ll encounter in the brick and mortar setting. They will always have questions – about the merchandise, about your shipping and return policies, about discounts, sales and premiums, about the payment process and more. There are several ways customers will ask you these questions:
• Through your website chat program
• Via email
• Calling or texting your store
• On social media
Understand Customer Expectations
In the brick and mortar setting, customers expect an instant answer when they talk to one of your sales associates. In digital spaces, the expectations are only slightly less. Chat window inquiries are expected to be answered within minutes; the window for emails and text messages is only slightly longer. Many customers believe they’ll get faster responses to their inquiries by turning to social media, because of the public nature of these conversations.
These expectations consistently go unmet. The 2017 Customer Service Benchmark Report, produced by Super Office, found the average response time to handle a customer service request via email is 15 hours and 17 minutes. This certainly aligns with what I experienced shopping with a major fashion brand over the holiday weekend.
Want to Do Better Than Average? Review Procedures Now
If the holiday season eCommerce sales are critical for your business, you’ll want to take some time to review your customer service procedures now. Identify who is responsible for inquiries that arrive via each of your channels, and make it clear what expectations are.
If your team is not robust enough to provide timely responses, identify technological solutions that can help you. Sometimes these solutions are surprisingly simple: posting hours that live chat support is available sets shoppers expectations appropriately, and reduces the frustration that occurs when shoppers feel their inquiries are being ignored. Auto responders can be put in place for email inquiries: these messages should make it clear that the inquiry has been received and when a response can be expected.
Your Customers Shouldn’t Be Test Subjects
Letting your customers discover the weaknesses in your customer service channels is the single most expensive, brand-damaging option you can choose. You can test your operation yourself. Don’t tell your customer service team what you’re up to – simply ask a typical question via each of your channels and track how long it takes to get a reply.
Are the results within your acceptable parameters? Let your team know they’re doing a good job: the behavior that is recognized and rewarded is the behavior that is repeated.
Do improvements need to happen? This is the ideal time to provide corrective training and get everyone on the same page. Providing superior customer service is a definitive competitive advantage, particularly during the holiday shopping season. Take steps now to make that happen.