Welcome to the first instalment of Vaimo Accelerate — our new content feature filled with pragmatic, how-to commerce advice to help your business grow and succeed. With contributors from across Vaimo’s Strategy & Consulting Team, Vaimo Accelerate provides you with insightful eCommerce knowledge that you can start implementing immediately.
In our first article, Henrik Feld-Jakobsen looks at ways in which you can ramp up your customer service offering in the digital era.
Seamless and great customer experiences have become a crucial factor for most companies these days. And while companies try to keep up, expectations are growing even faster. Expectations around 24/7 availability, same day shipment (regardless of the day of the week) — the list continues.
We talk a lot about omnichannel, providing seamless user experiences across channels and how this connects to a customer's user journey, up until the point of purchase. We also concentrate on good UX, snappy browsing experiences and inspiring content. An often forgotten area, however, is the role of your Customer Service team, and how this supports the pre-purchase and post-purchase part of the digital journey.
In this article, I’ll give you 8 ways to improve and measure your digital customer experience. Recommendations I know will improve your customer service and, therefore, also your customer experience.
#1 Experiment with opening hours
As an ultra-connected consumer, opening hours no longer exist. Availability is where I need it when I need it. Expectations keep on being pushed due to companies trying to create customer loyalty and be the preferred choice over their competitors. Today I can contact my bank on public holidays and outside opening hours, change my Amazon order up until they pack it and benefit from extended customer service hours that many online stores now offer.
So 9-5 customer service accessibility is being challenged, and there is good business in trying to become available when your customers are online. For one retailer, we did a test having clearly stated opening hours and contact information during the checkout process with the customer service team being available till 10 pm during a sales period. The test showed a significant uplift in conversion on late evening orders — with only a few calls to the customer service team.
- Analyse your traffic over a day — test for a period of time to have extended opening hours in your customer service
- Make customer service opening hours clearly visible
I understand that extended customer service opening hours are costly, and it can be hard to see the ROI short-term. But this is slowly becoming the de facto standard.
If you’re not convinced about extending the customer service opening hours, make sure your opening hours are clearly visible.
#2 Manage expectations
Ever tried to engage through an online chat in an online store, only to realise after you have filled in your details and typed your question, that none is online and your message has been turned into an email? Or, that you send an email, and it’s quite urgent for you to get a reply — and that you end up calling customer service anyway? I’m sure most of us have. Setting clear expectations will save you from frustrated customers.
- If you use chat, remove the availability of it when you’re not online
- Auto-reply to any new emails with average expected response time, when the customer can expect to hear back from you. Most customer service systems allow you to change the messaging depending on whether the response takes place during or after working hours
#3 Self-service is good service
The value of a good FAQ page or help desk is massively underrated. The possibility for the customer to be able to find the information when they need it, and the fact that they don’t have to wait is good service. Even better if a customer is able to perform order changes, returns and access their order history, without involvement from a customer service representative.
Typical questions you should answer on your FAQ page:
- Questions about delivery times and costs (the optimal would be expected delivery date)
- Making changes to orders (also after order placement)
- Order add-ons (I’ve just placed an order, but would want to order another piece, increase the quantity of ordered items etc.)
Self-service functionality to consider for your online store:
- Possibility to track the order status
- Changes to order (up until pick & pack time)
- Return registration, and booking of the return shipment
- Order history (invoices)
- Make your FAQs and information section easily accessible on your website
- Go back to the last two weeks of customer enquiries, and note the top 10 questions asked. Make sure these are addressed on your FAQ page
#4 Implement a proper Customer Service platform
Managing your customer requests in a shared mailbox is not the way to do it. With scale, you will start to run into all kinds of problems, such as multiple persons working on the same request, not to mention a lack of insight and automation of processes.
There are multiple customer service platforms on the market, but what you want to be looking out for is a platform that is:
- Easy to use for your team
- Easy to integrate into your existing technology infrastructure to:
-Look up last order automatically
-Return or warranty claims
-Information about customer’s account
- Supports multiple channels, such as email, chat, social, forms and calls*
- Offers help desk functionality
- Supports basic workflows
- Scalable when you need it
- Offers you insights and reports
Such a system will improve your customer service efficiency significantly. Most platforms make it easy to cross-link articles from your help desk or FAQ (or even automatically suggest based on AI), while you also get a better view of your customers’ engagement with your customer service team.
Another clear benefit will be that it’s easier in peak periods to onboard or relocate staff to your customer service team, without weeks of training.
- Get inspiration from other companies in your network that are using such a platform
- Implement light and fast, and avoid any larger customisations (this will lower the risk, build and maintenance costs)
- Plan for integrations and prioritise order information. You want to avoid creating “another” system for your customer service personnel to work in — they should over time get a single view of customers in one system
We’ve worked and partnered up with Zendesk for years — a leading Customer Service Suite. Reach out to us if you want to hear more about its capabilities and how we can help you create a business case.
#5 Enable the Customer Service team
Have you ever felt frustrated talking to a customer service person that is not enabled, and is limited with following very strict procedures? Which, in most cases is catering more for a company’s internal needs and policies rather than focusing on creating a good customer experience? I thought so.
The first step is to make sure that everyone in customer-facing positions is enabled to take the majority of decisions needed to get things done and leave a happy customer. You might have heard about the well-known US-based company Zappos, that over ten years grew from 0 to over a billion euro company in yearly online sales. They manage more than 8,000 calls and 1,500 emails — per day. 75% of customers do repeat purchases more than 3 times a year, and the repeat customers order more than a new customer. Zappos does a lot of things right, but one thing they specifically have been known for is to give complete freedom to their customer service staff to solve any customer request or problem, on the spot.
- Avoid strict policies and guidelines that will remove the responsibility from your Customer Service team
- You will have unhappy customers, where your rightfulness will be tested — close the case, move on — focus on creating a good experience for all of those that you want to keep
- Create a Customer Service manifesto that establishes a common agreement on how the team will deliver a great customer experience
#6 The what-if scenarios
Being proactive can help you in situations where something happens and your customer service team needs to be on top of it and be able to provide a solution then and there. Even if your customers aren’t able to check-out on your website for some reason, you want to have a clear plan to be executed quickly.
- Brainstorm what-if scenarios such as; payment gateway problems, data leak, problems with your shipping services provider
- Agree on actions and procedures for any unexpected scenario
#7 KPIs to keep track of and celebrate
Measurements, goals, targets, Key Performance Indicators — terminology that some are connecting to oversight and performance monitoring. Think of this as a source of insight to make data-driven decisions.
Decisions such as:
- Better capacity planning in the customer service team
- Identify correlations between specific products and the number of enquiries (sizing questions, returns and uncertainties)
- Number of customer service queries
- First-time response
- Average close time per customer query cases
- Average response per query
- Query Type (Product related, payment, shipment, returns, warranty claim, order changes e.g.)
The above queries have to be tracked with timestamp and channel. Most systems will also give you the ability to track customer satisfaction with the response after a case is closed. This can be very valuable to get direct feedback from your customers.
- Establish customer service team metrics
- Implement an easy to setup dashboard — such as Geckoboard to get data in a visual format
- Set goals on efficiency, celebrate the wins
#8 Mystery shopping
Mystery shopping is an effective way to evaluate your customer experience from an outside-in perspective. Most companies are divided into department and information silos, and the same goes for most of our technologies. We integrate and create bridges across people, processes and information — but often, it’s hard to understand the end-to-end customer journey from pre-purchase to post-purchase.
A mystery shopping exercise is the easiest and most efficient way for you to evaluate your end-to-end customer experience. Basically, you will act as a customer, engaging with your different channels, from placing an order to returning an order.
These are our typical findings when we perform mystery shopping:
- Emails are not consistent in language, design and messaging. An example:
- ERP/Order management system confirms the order when ready for picking
- Shipment management system sends notification and track & trace information
- ERP system sends an invoice
- Shipping provider sends text and email notification about the delivery of an order
- Engaging on social media. For example, we’re asked by customer service to send an e-mail in Facebook Messenger (this is inside-out thinking, and not a good customer experience). The reason is that marketing often runs social channels and sees customer service outside their responsibility
- Too much ping-pong in e-mail conversations (sometimes a single call solves open issues faster)
- Brainstorm on a hypothesis to test, as the closer to real-life examples the better
- Act normally in your mystery shopping
- Engage in pre-purchase with product related and ordering questions
- Place the order, receive it and return the order after a couple of days
- Document the end-to-end experience
If you practise and implement the above, I can ensure that you’ll be on the right track to improving your digital customer experience.
At Vaimo we help brands, retailers and manufacturers all over the world to drive success in digital commerce. Reach out to us if you want to hear more about how we can improve your customer service, and how we use Zendesk, a leading global customer service platform, to enable our clients to deliver exceptional customer experiences.