Advantages of Customer Contact Centers

As the ecommerce industry continues to evolve, so too do approaches to customer service. For example, self-service support – where customers use FAQs, user forums, site content, or other means to solve a problem or answer a question without the assistance of customer service staff – is more popular than ever. While this approach to customer service certainly has benefits, it may be detrimental to make self-service content the sole focus of your customer service efforts.
    
Self-service content works best when it's supported by a customer contact center. The two work together – call centers provide personalized service and fill in the gaps commonly found in self-service resources. Meanwhile, self-service content lightens the load on your call center. Call centers can also provide some extra advantages over self-service content, such as:

  • Resolving order fulfillment, payment processing, and other problems not related to specific products
  • Assisting with social media engagement
  • Retaining customers who have a disappointing experience
  • Generating revenue through upsells, cross-sells, etc.
  • Providing customer feedback to management – resulting in new product and service ideas

Because of these advantages, choosing the right customer contact center is a major step in leveling up your overall customer service. To learn more about the call center services provided through Fulfillment Works, contact us today.

Assessing your Ecommerce Customer Service

Returning customers provide the best ROI for ecommerce companies. While there are lots of things you can do to retain customers, it’s important to remember the primary factor that influences whether a customer will continue to order from you: do you provide a good customer experience? To answer this question and make any necessary improvements, you have multiple options for assessing customer experience.
    
One excellent method is to become your own customer. Contact your company for help with placing an order. Buy something from yourself and evaluate your checkout process. After the order arrives, call customer service to troubleshoot some issues. Go through your returns process. Evaluate what you see from this perspective and ask yourself which areas have the highest need for change.

You can also assess your customer experience by looking at collected feedback. To start, you can analyze the latest product return codes to look for common themes (or, you can decide to implement new codes to get more granular data). If your customer service department uses call monitoring and/or complaint logging/reporting, that’s also an excellent way to find areas of the customer experience that need improvement. Finally, you can always ask your customers for constructive feedback with survey tools.

Don't forget: your competition's offerings and customer expectations are always evolving. Since it's a major competitive differentiator, it's critical to periodically assess your customer experience and make improvements where necessary.

Best Practices for a more Efficient Customer Service Department

From fostering repeat business to managing your brand's reputation, your ecommerce company’s approach to customer service is critical for lasting success. But before you can help your customers, you need to be able to help yourself - and unfortunately, many customer service departments struggle with underlying talent management issues that impact performance.
    
As representatives of your company, customer service agents can be a defining factor in the customer experience your business is known for. While innate people-skills are a valuable trait for agents, it’s useless to customers if the agent has not been thoroughly trained. Don’t exclusively focus on training agents to follow scripts and internal procedures – incorporate the same types of training you give to sales associates. Sales training can help customer service become experts on your products and brand, which increases their productivity since they can answer customer questions in the first response and handle multiple inquiries at once (over chat, email, and/or phone).

But in order to be effective, this productivity must be channeled according to specialization. For instance, customer inquiries can be grouped into two buckets:

  • Sales – customers want to clarify product information, shipping, and return policies, or get advice for selecting a product that meets their needs.
  • Service – customers want to solve a problem, which could require purchase history research, technical troubleshooting, escalations, and coordination with other departments or 3rd parties.

The workflow for each bucket is drastically different, so expecting agents to handle inquiries from both can negatively impact performance. Sales inquiries won’t get the speedy, responsive attention required because the agent may also be bogged down in technical research. Meanwhile, because service inquiries can take longer to resolve, distracting the agent with sales chats makes the service interaction take longer than necessary. While an experienced agent can handle both types of inquiries, you may see better results and efficiency by having agents focus on one type at a time.

By thoroughly training your agents and having them work on inquiries that follow the same workflows, you’ll increase the effectiveness of your customer service department – and in turn, you’ll have more satisfied customers.

The Potential for Artificial Intelligence in Ecommerce

Artificial intelligence is becoming more ubiquitous in our everyday lives. Even ecommerce giant, Amazon.com, is paving the way for advancement with Echo – its smart-speaker running Alexa personal assistant software. But, while Echo and Alexa are consumer products, the technology behind them could soon become a mainstream component in ecommerce business strategies.

The aforementioned Amazon products use advanced speech recognition technology to perform tasks – like searching for information or re-ordering specific products from Amazon. The algorithms that help Alexa understand people can be used to improve efficiencies in many sectors of ecommerce. Speech recognition technology can be used in a call center to understand caller questions, then direct callers to the appropriate responses or call queues based on their needs. While this use of AI is not widespread in ecommerce yet, it’s already used by many banks and telecom companies.

Earlier this year, Facebook launched "DeepText," an AI learning-based tool designed to make sense of all the data on the social network. Potentially, this could help companies strategize their social marketing campaigns – enabling them to send targeted promotions based on an analysis of content posted by users. Similarly, platforms such as Microsoft’s Cognitive Services can analyze positive and negative feedback in customer reviews, highlighting key trends in user sentiment.
    
Given how quickly AI has developed in recent years, there could be many more applications for ecommerce in the near future. We look forward to seeing what else is in store!

What to Look for in a Call Center Partnership

Because of its role in helping and retaining customers, your call center is a critical part of the overall customer experience you provide. If you opt to outsource your call center management, you need to consider how well a company can represent your brand, in addition to their capabilities and cost – just as you would do when choosing a 3PL provider.
    
The first thing you should do while vetting potential call center providers is to review their performance metrics. For example, the call center services provided through Fulfillment Works boast:

  • average hold times well below one minute
  • average abandon rates of 1-2%
  • average call time of 4 minutes
  • one-call resolution for 98% of total volume

When you find call centers with performance statistics that meet your standards, you need to ensure that the call center will maintain that performance for your customers. That’s why it’s important to evaluate each call center’s approach to training its staff – not just in handling calls, but how to handle calls from YOUR customers. Before agents start answering customer calls on behalf of your company, they should receive a detailed overview of your company’s systems, policies, and products to enable them to handle a wide variety of customer situations. And just as your company continuously grows and changes, so to should the call center’s training be ongoing. Our call center agents are thoroughly trained on new accounts before handling any calls. Agents stay up-to-date on account data through monthly reviews. This training approach provides agents with the continuous learning they need to provide the best customer service possible.

Choosing the right call center is a major step in leveling up your overall customer service. Carefully vetting your providers not only ensures a better deal for your business, it's also an opportunity to improve your customer retention and brand reputation.