When things don’t go the way shoppers expect, customer support doesn't just make or break a sale: it can mean the difference between happy customers who come back again and again, and unhappy customers whose opinions drive negative publicity for your brand.
In an era when everything can be easily shared with everyone on social media, a single customer interaction with your support teams can quickly go viral. Satisfied customers on average will tell 9 other people about their experience, but dissatisfied customers are likely to share their experience with 15 other people1. You can begin to see why the quality and timing of your customer support makes a huge difference to how shoppers perceive you — and, by extension, whether they want to spend money with you.
Why Customer Support Should Be a Top Priority
The ubiquity of smartphones and the pandemic have permanently changed the e-commerce landscape. Social media and online review platforms have altered customer expectations. With so many ways to share and read opinions, customers now wield greater power than ever before and are better positioned to demand excellent customer support.
Let’s take a look at some relevant statistics.
More than 50% of Americans have changed their mind about a purchase because of poor customer service, and a single bad experience can make 51% of customers decide never to do business with the company again.2
7 out of 10 consumers say they’ve spent more money on brands that deliver outstanding service; Millennials are willing to spend the most on companies that deliver excellent customer care.3
A brand can spend up to 25 times more money to acquire a new customer than to keep a current one.4
About two-thirds (64%) of consumers say great customer support is more important to them than price.5
Customer Support Strategy as Competitive Advantage
High-quality products and competitive pricing are not enough to ensure continued business success. Great customer service completes the trifecta that will give your brand a significant competitive edge.
Customer delight is a key differentiator
E-commerce is a competitive business with tight margins, so you’ll need every bit of edge you can get. Unfortunately, most e-commerce transactions lack a personal touch. Fortunately, this is an area where you can choose to stand out. When your customer support team strives to delight customers, handles customer problems with kindness and authenticity, and cares about your customer satisfaction score, you're well-positioned to capture the attention and loyalty of online shoppers.
There’s only so much you can do in terms of offering competitive pricing. And you don’t want your customers to think that your lower prices indicate lower product quality. Instead, elevate the quality of your shopping experience through excellent customer support.
Customer success can improve loyalty and increase customer lifetime value
The decision to make a purchase isn't just borne out of a practical need; many consumers’ buying decisions arise from an emotional need. While practical purchases typically involve rational thinking, purchases that involve emotions are often also greatly influenced by the overall shopping experience. And for a lot of shoppers, a great customer experience is worth paying more for.
Especially if your marketing strategy appeals to your customer's emotions, you also have to make sure that you deliver the kind of customer interactions that cater to their emotional needs. These customers may identify with your brand the way they would with a friend, and they may value their shopping experience more than the actual purchase.
If your customer support team can assist customers by making them happy with the service they received, customers will associate your brand with the happiness they experienced and keep coming back.
Customer retention prevents even greater losses
If you offer an exchange or a refund to an unhappy customer, you may not just be losing that failed sale: you may be losing new customers, too. Remember that most consumers make purchasing decisions based on their own online research, so how you show up on social media channels and online review sites really matters. When dissatisfied customers share their bad experiences online, your reputation — and the impact it has on future sales — may be at stake.
Excellent customer service means doing everything possible to resolve customer issues, AND paying attention to customer feedback. Don't wait for customers to take to social media with their gripes: provide proactive support to avoid a product or service issue, listen closely to their support requests, and assist customers with grace and generosity. And if a customer does complain about you in a public online forum, make sure to communicate that you care and will work to address the issue.
Customer service interactions can be great (free) advertising
As a young e-commerce company, Zappos supported its customer service team to prioritize customer delight over factors like speed, sales, or the number of tickets it resolved. Zappos' high-quality support was a key differentiator for the company at a time when many shoppers were still hesitant to buy online and had lots of questions about sizing, shipping, and returns. But it also made the company famous for its customer support interactions: when the word got out, even more shoppers flocked to get in on that shopping experience.
Good customer support is a good way to go viral. A happy customer is more than likely to share their great experience with family and friends. Word-of-mouth marketing, such as recommendations on social media, can easily make your brand a trending topic — without even spending extra on paid ads!
When Do Your Customers Need You?
Assisting customers across their buying journey is key, and so is ensuring that they have multiple channels they can use to contact you. Here are the stages of the customer experience where you'll want to focus your support team's efforts.
Your customers may need technical support if they have difficulties navigating your website, or want more information about your products. The live chat option is an excellent way to make sure they receive immediate help. For example, shoppers often abandon their shopping carts when they get frustrated. Make sure you're following up on abandoned carts and responding to customer requests (two-way SMS is a great solution for this issue!)
Post-purchase, during delivery
Most customers prefer that you over-communicate, and many want to know about the status of their delivery or need help making a change to their order. Consider sending status updates in a timely manner, something you can do easily and with high visibility by integrating SMS into your customer support tools. Proactively addressing your customers’ needs even before they ask gives customers the impression that you've got things under control and you're taking good care of them.
Post-purchase, after delivery
Your customers will naturally want to speak with your company’s support team if they’re not happy with their purchase: if the order may have arrived damaged, is not what they expected, or they may no longer need or want it. Having SMS customer support will give your customers another option to reach out and receive a timely response. net promoter score
How to Optimize Good Customer Service
Here are some ways to improve your customers’ shopping experience, with or without real-time personal assistance.
Have an FAQ section on your website: discover and answer the most common questions and concerns your customers have.
Explain your company’s stance on sustainability, as more and more consumers prefer brands that offer environment-friendly products.
Regularly review your customers’ feedback, especially regarding the customer support they received and their common concerns. Modify and improve your marketing approach and customer service accordingly.
Be active on social media and make sure you’re adequately engaging with your customers via comments and direct message replies.
Provide your customers with a variety of ways to reach you: live chat, social media, SMS, phone, and email.
Even with automated responses, make sure the messages are personalized and friendly.
Take responsibility when mistakes are made on your end. And make sure to provide timely and satisfactory resolutions.
Serve Customers to Create Customers
Remember that a bad customer experience will cost you more than a refund, an exchange, or a lost sale. Whatever amount you end up losing to satisfy an unhappy customer’s needs will still be a lot less than what you’ll lose if you leave a customer with a bad taste in their mouth.
Great customer support provides a customer experience your shoppers will remember the next time they want or need products like yours. It solidifies your reputation as a brand that cares about quality, service, and customer satisfaction. And it keeps existing (and new) customers coming back to your store again and again.