Customer service is likely to be the last touchpoint for the shopper as part of their ecommerce journey. If that journey has been well-executed, there should be no reason for the shopper to reach out at all, however, things can go wrong, and when they do, an exemplary customer service experience can mean the difference between a happy and a not-so-happy shopper.
Contacting customer service should be a last resort for shoppers, particularly if all information they might need is available on the website or easily found through any communications they receive. To provide excellent customer service often means anticipating customers’ needs and providing answers before the questions are even asked – if the shopper does need to reach out to the team, there are ways to improve that experience too.
10 tips to Improve Customer Service for Cross-Border Ecommerce Brands
- Know products and markets inside out
- Clear communications across all channels
- Clear product and size descriptions
- Flag delays
- Consider the market’s language
- Clear returns policy
- Make it easy to talk to customer service
- Respond in a timely manner
- Adopt new technology
- Implement chatbots
1. Know products and markets inside out
Trade compliance is a critical part of selling internationally, which means that products must be accurately described (with raw material composition etc) in order to facilitate the clearance process. Different markets and regions will have different requirements regarding importing particularly around items made of or containing animal products, so if your product has feathers or camel hair, for example, it might be restricted in entering some regions.
Customs can potentially hold up shipments if the commercial invoice does not clearly describe the product – this can lead to increased pressure on customer service agents, as shoppers reach out to enquire about what has delayed their packages. To ensure that the clearance process is as smooth as possible, make sure that all customs documentation is accurate, including country of origin, product description and all relevant transactional info.
2. Clear communications across all channels
At all stages of the journey, across all channels – from website to social media to email – being clear with the shopper about what they can expect, and when, will help to reduce contact with customer services. Communications can cover anything from product description to returns policy (covered further below).
One way to improve customer service is to look at the trends and themes of customer enquiries. By analyzing customer service communications, it is possible to identify where improvements in messaging need to be made, in addition to making it easier for shoppers to find and understand all relevant information. For example, if 40% of communications relate to returns, it would indicate that messaging around returns on the website and in all communications outreach needs to be clearer.
3. Clear product and size descriptions
Returns can be a major cost to retailers and one reason shoppers return items is due to items not fitting. In fact, due to a lack of clarity around sizing, they may buy more than one of the same item in different sizes, returning those that don’t fit. One way to resolve this is to ensure there are clear size descriptions – making sure to localize for different markets – and potentially using virtual reality technology such as Virtual Wardrobes (discussed in greater detail below) to assist shoppers in their purchases.
4. Flag delays
Sometimes delays to deliveries are inevitable, despite the best efforts throughout the supply chain. If this is the case, flagging with customers where possible that their package has been delayed is likely to remove the need for them to contact customer service when their package doesn’t arrive on the estimated delivery date. Customers will not be happy with delays, of course, but being upfront about them will reduce contact with customer service when their package doesn’t arrive as expected.
Major shopping days such as Black Friday or big online sales result in higher than normal order volumes, so flagging this on the website as well as in any email confirmations will help manage customer expectations around delivery dates.
5. Consider the market’s language
Whether to translate the website or not is an important consideration. According to David Milne, Head of Customer Service & Ecommerce Operations at ESW,
“Languages are key for customer service. When deciding to move into new markets, if translating the website into a new language, all communications must also be available in that language.”
Equally, if the decision is made not to translate the website, it sets the expectation for the customer that they will be communicating with customer service in the language of the website.
6. Clear returns policy
Returns are a key factor in ecommerce businesses and having a clear returns policy – how to return, where to return, when to expect a refund – will anticipate customer questions and free up customer service from answering the same questions repeatedly.
7. Make it easy to contact customer services
Contacting customer services should be as easy as possible. Customers who are frustrated trying to get answers from a brand are unlikely to become a repeat shopper, and not only that are likely to actively persuade others against shopping with the same brand. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs:
“A dissatisfied customer will tell 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers will tell more than 20 people.”
8. Respond in a timely manner
Timely responses are, of course, key to providing a good customer service experience. There are processes that can be set up in order to deal with the same type of queries coming through – either scripts for email or social media that can easily be tailored to the particular query or by analyzing the communications across all media to try and answer questions before they’re asked, in an FAQ.
9. Adopt new technology
There are constant innovations in technology that affect all areas of an ecommerce business and these can especially be applied to customer service. For example, virtual wardrobes – where shoppers are able to ‘see’ how they look wearing a particular product using augmented and virtual reality technology – are becoming more popular, and are another way to preempt returns and increased demand for customer service, as shoppers are more likely to be sure about the purchases they are making, rather than buying something to try on at home and possibly return.
10. Implement chatbots
Other forms of technology that can help the customer service team include using artificial intelligence (AI) to support the team in the form of chatbots which can filter requests, and even answer certain requests up to a certain point.
Using chatbots can help speed up customer service queries, direct customers to the right place to find out more information and be available outside of customer service hours if the retailer doesn’t have a 24/7 presence. In fact, studies have found 80% of questions could be handled by a chatbot and BI Intelligence found that businesses can reduce customer services costs by up to 30%
In order to provide the best customer service to shoppers, the shopper journey must be looked at in its entirety. Analyze all customer touchpoints and communications to ensure that messaging is clear and answer as many questions in advance as possible. If customers do reach out, make sure to respond in a timely manner. Applying the tips above will help to create the best experience for shoppers.
If you’d like to find out how ESW can help your ecommerce business enter new markets, you can speak to our Sales team here.