How To Excel At Customer Support In 2021

2021 is knocking on our door. The relationship between consumers and businesses is rather different than it was a year ago. This is due to coronavirus which has impacted e-commerce worldwide.

It is time to reflect on the past 12 months and take some attained knowledge into the new year to enhance your brand’s chances to outshine the fierce competition.

The rise of e-commerce

The rise of e-commerce

The shift towards the digital world both in people’s everyday communications and their shopping habits is undeniable. This has been triggered by store closures, social distancing and fear of the infection, which has forced people to stay at their homes and get on with their lives from there. 

While at first glance it might seem that the shift could be temporary, it is believed that COVID-19 will have long-lasting effects on e-commerce. 

In fact, this is already backed up with a SearchNode study which, among other things, analyses how the online revenues were affected after the lockdown was lifted. 92% of respondents who had seen an increase in their sales during the lockdown were still seeing growth once it’s ended.

The results clearly demonstrate that consumers’ behaviours are changing. Take the following insights into consideration as you are adapting your business to the changing landscape. 

Customer behaviour during the global pandemic

Customer behaviour during the global pandemic

From July to September alone, consumers spent $199.44 billion online with U.S. retailers. This is up by 37.1% for the same quarter compared to the previous year, as stated by the Commerce Department

This comes as no surprise as shopping online is a convenient way for consumers to purchase a wide range of items from the safety of their own homes. Likewise, e-commerce platforms have become essential tools for brands to survive and be connected with consumers.

New segment of customers shopping online

It’s worth noting that besides the increase in the number of people shopping online, there is also a substantial change in the customer segments purchasing goods on the internet.

The biggest risk group for coronavirus are the seniors. And these are the people who rarely used to surf the internet and make purchases on online stores. But due to the pandemic, the times have changed and they too are using the internet more often, making it their daily habit. 

New segment of customers shopping online

As reported by Mintel, fifty-six per cent of over-65s were worried or extremely worried about being exposed to the virus. And this is one of the main reasons why the presence of seniors online has seen immense growth.

Indeed, the older generation is also getting more accustomed even without the virus to browsing the web and making purchases. There’s no doubt the presence of the elderly online will only keep rising in the future as well. 

With this in mind, it is time to start thinking about how to modify your shop to make the experience smooth for a customer segment that most online stores have not had in mind before.

Increased number of inquiries

Naturally, with the increasing online traffic and many more people shopping in e-stores along with the addition of customers who have never shopped online before trying to get accustomed to doing so, many more inquiries arise than ever before. 

These inquiries might often be of a simple nature, yet still require more working hours from your side to cover everyone’s needs in a timely manner. Therefore, it is crucial that you emphasise the importance and quality of your customer support. 

Let’s take a look at how to get started and marvel at communicating with your potential buyers and loyal customers. 

The importance of understanding your customer 

The importance of understanding your customer 

Customer expectations evolve quickly. More opportunities, advancements in technology, the prevalence of social media are some of the reasons for customers’ ever-growing standards. So how to stand out, win the loyalty of your shoppers, and attract new customers?

The first and foremost key is to learn about those expectations your customers have. To understand your customer’s expectations, involve them in your ideation, meet their needs, collect feedback, offer services, and create better experiences to make them happy.

Once you have managed to get an overview of what your customers value, you will be able to provide more in-depth customer support.

Communication between a brand and its clients 

Customer support has become crucially important for brands during coronavirus. People need to feel that the merchants are easily reachable during their shopping journey. Just like they would be if they were shopping in a local store. 

Communication between a brand and its clients 

Based on RightNow research, 73% of customers fall in love with a brand and remain loyal because of friendly customer service reps. Relying on these numbers, it is undeniable that communication with your clients needs to be among one of your top priorities. 

So how to enhance your customer support strategy and understand how it is affecting your business? 

Measuring customer experience (CX) and analysing customer support effectiveness 

“When the customer comes first, the customer will last.”
– Robert Half, founder of Robert Half International

HubSpot research shows that 93% of customers would presumably shop again with brands where they have experienced outstanding customer service. However, 51% of people claim that they would never return to a company where they have had one negative customer service experience. 

Measuring customer experience (CX) and analysing customer support effectiveness 

This is a clear indicator that both customer support and how the shoppers feel they are treated are all an important part of your brand’s success. It also means that it is essential to track and measure both how satisfied your customers are as well as how your customer service is performing. This in turn will help you to judge your actions and adjust accordingly. 

At first glance, measuring CX and analysing your customer support seems rather abstract. Yet, there are ways this can be achieved. We have brought out 4 KPI-s that could and should be tracked.

1. Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

Customer satisfaction score is a short and simple rating tool, which can be used immediately after an interaction with a customer. You can ask anything about your products or services including feedback on your customer support by simply raising the question “How satisfied are you with our customer support?”

Usually, the rating is conducted by numeric rating scales, emojis or stars. There is no right or wrong option when choosing among these, however, you should know your audience and modify the system respectively. 

One of the advantages of using CSAT to measure a certain part of your business is the high response rate. Shoppers don’t have to take a long time to give you an overview of their experience and are more willing to rate their encounter with your brand. 

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

2. Customer Satisfaction Surveys

To get a little bit of a more in-depth overview from your customers, you can conduct a Customer Satisfaction Survey. This is a questionnaire specifically designed to help businesses understand what customers think about their products, services, and also, their customer support. 

This sort of questionnaire will help you to get an understanding of what aspects need improvement, how to optimize your user experience and adjust your brand to the current market and customer demands. 

Survicate has divided questions into 4 groups of interest that you could take some useful ideas from. 

  • Feedback on the product
  • Customer effort, while dealing with the website and the product itself
  • Your company’s position against the competition
  • General experience with your brand

One way to reach out to a lot of people is to use SMS messages. As SMS messages have an open rate as high as 98% it’s an excellent way to communicate with your customers and direct them to fill in your survey. 

When conducting a survey, try to remain precise and have a structured system so people could give you informative feedback.

3. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promoter Score is another simple way to measure customer experience and also to predict your business growth. This is done by first simply asking “How likely are you to recommend us to your friends and colleagues?” The answers are given on a zero-to-ten scale.

Net Promoter System provides a guide on how to get started with measuring and calculating your NPS. Once you have started with the ultimate question, you need to calculate your Net Promoter Score. 

Your NPS is the percentage of your users who are promoters meaning those who scored 9 or 10. These people are truly enthusiastic about your products and services and will most likely put a good word out for you.

From this, you will have to subtract detractor who are customers who have scored you 0 to 6. These customers have had a somewhat negative experience and might voice their concerns to their acquaintances and on the internet making damage to your brand. 

The ones who stay in between – seven and eights – are simply called passives. These customers are satisfied, but are not overly enthused and not loyal to you.

Remember, your way of handling customer support and dealing with inquiries from your shoppers is a huge factor determining how likely someone would give you a recommendation. 

First-time response rate

4. First-time response rate

The time you take to get back to customer support inquiries determines a lot how satisfied people are with your services. Crucially important is the time it takes for you to answer the inquiries the first time a customer has reached out. 

The sooner you get back to them, the more valued and appreciated they will feel. This is an indispensable way to build trust between your brand and your customers.

SuperOffice investigated the customer support responsiveness amongst 1000 companies as well as the expectations of 3200 consumers on how fast they would like to get a reply. The findings are shocking. 

Their annual customer service study revealed that 62% of companies don’t respond to their customers’ emails at all. Yet the companies that do respond, have an average first-time response rate of 12 hours – the slowest response taking up to 8 days. 

While companies are taking their time responding to their clients, if at all, customers, however, expect much more swift reaction. 88% of customers hope to receive a reply within 60 minutes and more than one-third of the respondents would like to receive a response within 15 minutes or less. 

This clearly shows that this area of customer support needs a lot of improvement to meet customer expectations. This is your chance to stand out and make a good impression of your brand. 

Ways to enhance your customer support

Ways to enhance your customer support

Luckily, you are not on your own with getting started offering great customer experience and customer support. There is a vast variety of tools and customer service software you could implement in communication with your customers. 

Customer self-service

Customer support as such doesn’t necessarily start when someone reaches out to you via email, social media, by phone, etc. It starts way before. 

Customer self-service is one of the most important customer support techniques. As the term self-service suggests, it means that your page visitors have to complete an action or task without any assistance from company staff.

This is nothing new to the commerce world. Think of supermarkets. Surely you have come across self-service options in grocery stores, for example. Such things improve the customer experience as they can choose to avoid long queues and get on with their day. 

The same thing happens in online stores – customers might prefer to get by on their own. In fact, according to Nuance Enterprise, 67% of people admit they prefer self-service over speaking to a customer support worker. 

So how can you implement self-service functions on your e-commerce platform in order for your visitors to be able to troubleshoot their problems in a manner they prefer? 

You should start with creating a customer Knowledge Base, which gives your customers an effective overview of how to use your page and your services. The knowledge base could include:

  • Frequently Asked Questions section
  • Step-by-step guides
  • Introductory articles
  • Video tutorials

A knowledge base is something that you can improve and update frequently. Once you get an overview of which information seems not to be accessible to your visitors, you can implement new questions to different parts of your knowledge base.

Helping your customers troubleshoot their problems on their own will give you and your team more time to focus on the more time consuming and demanding inquiries. Thus, keeping more customers happy at the same time.

Omnichannel communication

Omnichannel customer support and experience are one step further from multichannel communication. It is much more immersive putting the customer first instead of your product. 

While multichannel means that you are using different platforms to communicate with your customers where they are active, omnichannel communication is bringing those touchpoints all together in one place. 

You can combine all sorts of ways of communication into your omnichannel support strategy whether it is in person, the use of chat, in-app, email, social media or even via SMS messages.

One of the most important sides of this is that your support team will have a clear overview if you have been in contact with a certain person before and how to personalise the experience for them. 

Furthermore, as all the channels are intertwined, your support agents can be more productive and all the information can be shared with multiple people without losing focus. 

Yet, before trying to integrate omnichannel strategy, make in-depth research to understand the difference between multichannel and omnichannel communications and how you can benefit from each.

Ticketing systems

Ticketing systems

A ticketing system is a management tool that helps you to process and catalogue customer service requests. Ticketing provides a great way to execute your communication and customer support strategy. 

Tickets or issues will be stored in threads together with relevant user information to enhance the customer experience when they are reaching out to you, especially if they’re doing it multiple times. Additionally, customers themselves are able to track the status of the ticket and feel more in control of the situation.

Using a ticketing system is an excellent way to save your team’s time for more challenging requests as you can already prepare templates of replies for frequently arising questions, solving simpler requests much faster. 

Most ticketing systems also provide analysis of things such as your first-time response rate as well have integrated CSAT within them. Besides, there are systems developed for both multichannel and omnichannel communications.

Bring it on 2021

The past year has been challenging for everyone and there’s been a lot of unknown. People have drastically changed their shopping habits and the customers’ expectations are the highest they’ve ever been. Businesses need to adapt fast to meet those expectations and swift changes in customer behaviour.

When creating your brand’s strategy for the new year, don’t forget to put emphasis on developing customer experience and enhancing your customer support.

Keep in mind that customer’s expectations are ever-growing so you need to keep analysing their behaviour to understand their demands and needs. 

In order to analyse their satisfaction, you can measure things such as customer satisfaction score, your net score or conduct customer satisfaction surveys. To understand the effectiveness of your customer support you can track your first response time, collect feedback and make necessary modifications. 

You should also give your customers the chance to troubleshoot their problems themselves by providing them with an in-depth knowledge base with frequently asked questions and step-by-step guides. 

Research customer service software and tools that can benefit your business in terms of CX and customer support. It’s time to own the communication with your clients and stand out from the competition. 

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Writing has always been a part of Mirjam’s life in one way or another. Up until now, she’s been mostly focusing on creative writing and turning her skills into screenplays for stage and short films. To bring it even further, she’s joined Vertex team as a content writer where she’s now learning the ins and outs of SMS marketing, customer service, and overall e-commerce experience.