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.

How to Enhance the Customer Experience

Ecommerce businesses have access to a humongous audience. But getting a hold of the attention and trust of customers (and keeping it) in an industry packed with competitors is nothing short of challenging. That's why focusing on the customer experience your company offers is critical for standing out from competitors and retaining customers. Below are some tips for enhancing the foundations of your customer experience efforts.
    

Start with staffing

As representatives of your company, customer service staff can be a defining factor in the customer experience your business is known for. Give your current staff the authority and flexibility to come up with novel solutions that satisfy customers, then grow the team by looking for candidates who can use their creativity and customer-empathy to make the most of that flexible environment.

Be proactive with information

Even if you don't have the fastest shipping or the best order incentives, the value that clear and easy-to-find information adds to the customer experience is paramount. Make sure that your shipping fees, returns policy, and other information that customers would want to know before ordering is understandable and available. The same principles should apply to your methods for data collection. Since personal and financial data privacy is so important to users, be as clear as possible with customers about the data you collect, how it is used, and how it is protected.

Make your return policy more convenient

A good return policy is a great way to emphasize your commitment to the customer experience while improving brand perception and customer trust. By easily accepting returns, you’re showing customers that you stand behind your products and that you’re willing to fix any issues that cause returns.

Incentive Ideas for Increasing Sales

Ecommerce companies already use a lot of resources to get users talking about their products and interacting with their website. But sometimes, the best way to influence user behavior is to sweeten the deal. Use these ideas to recruit your customers into helping increase your sales and brand awareness.
    

Refer-a-friend

Referrals can be a great way to generate new business. Of course, if you incentivize your referral program, more people are likely to participate – and at higher volumes.

"Follow Us" Rewards

A simple way to boost your word-of-mouth marketing is to offer social media-exclusive incentives. Provide a coupon code, shipping discount, or some other type of reward to users who interact with your business on social media. Alternatively, running a contest or giveaway through social media can accomplish the same goals - more so if you offer a worthwhile prize.

Post-purchase sharing

Shoppers love to brag about recent purchases on social media. Some ecommerce sites prompt customers to share their purchases on social media immediately after checkout, but there are more effective ways to encourage your customers to talk about their purchases. You can include calls-to-action in your packaging such as social media instructions (“follow us at…”), post recommendations (“take a picture and tell us how excited you are to start using this product”), and hashtag suggestions.