In a sea of online businesses, how do you stand out? Top-notch customer support is one of the best ways you can differentiate your brand.
After all, companies that offer great customer support– as well as overall great customer service– see major benefits. Not only do these brands build a steady base of loyal customers, but they also see boosts to their bottom line.
In this guide, we’re sharing everything you need to know about customer support so that you can offer it at your ecommerce company. We’ll be covering:
- What is Customer Support?
- Why Customer Support is Important For Your Business
- Customer Support vs Customer Service: What’s the Difference?
- Key Features to Consider in Your Customer Support
- How to Deliver Excellent Customer Support
- Real-Life Examples of Companies Offering Great Customer Support
What is Customer Support?
Customer support is a subset of customer service focused on helping people get the most value out of products and services. Customer support teams answer questions, resolve issues, and suggest solutions.
Customer support teams are much more than a stereotypical customer service department, which is traditionally viewed as a cost center. Instead, these teams play a critical role in product development, word-of-mouth marketing, as well as the overall customer experience.
Because customer support teams spend so much time working directly with customers, they have a lot of insights into how a company can improve the overall customer experience. As such, customer support should have a seat at the table.
Here’s what customer support looks like in the wild:
Imagine you buy a product that you’re super excited about. For example, maybe you’re traveling and get a new pair of headphones for the trip. But when the headphones arrive, you can’t connect them to your phone via Bluetooth.
Your heart races a little bit. You know they’re just headphones, but you’ve got to solve this problem before your flight leaves. It’s going to be a long flight if you can’t listen to your audiobook.
Thankfully, you contact customer support, and they’re immediately able to help. They instruct you to push a button three times, and suddenly you’re able to reset the headphones and seamlessly connect them to your phone. Thanks, customer support!
Why Customer Support is Important For Your Business
Customer support is critical. Yep, it’s much more than a nice-to-have. After all, today’s customers expect a lot from the brands they buy from. Not only do they want x, y, and z, but they also expect to get support if they have an issue.
Ultimately, customer support is critical for your business because…
- …it helps retain customers. According to Salesforce, 89% of consumers are more likely to buy another product after having a positive customer support experience.
- …it helps win more customers. Happy customers will spread the word, which will boost your reputation.
- …it helps your bottom-line. According to HubSpot, 68% of consumers are willing to pay more for products from a brand known to offer good customer experiences.
Customer Support vs. Customer Service: What’s the Difference?
Customer service is an umbrella term that covers any and all instances where customers interact with a brand. In contrast, customer support is a smaller subset of customer service, focused on helping customers get the most out of a particular product or service.
Customer support is also a more modern term for activities traditionally relegated to customer service teams. Traditionally, customer service was seen as a cost center with disempowered agents. But modern customer support teams employ skilled agents who can help with complex questions.
When customer support first became a widely used term, it described teams that offered support for more technical products, as these often require additional help. Today, customer support teams can be found in many industries, such as SaaS, ecommerce, and more.
|Modern Customer Support
|Traditional Customer Service
|A smaller subset of customer service, focused on helping customers with particular products or services
|Covers every instance where customers interact with a brand
|Seen as a business engineer with skilled agents who can provide service without oversight
|Seen as a cost center with agents reading from a script
|Customer support agents are well-integrated with other teams, regularly sharing their insights
|Limited interactions with product, customer experience, engineering, marketing, and sales teams
|Provides 24/7 help via knowledge bases, email, phone, live chat, social, media, and other channels
|Requires customers to call a 1-800 number to get help or support, often during limited hours
|Agents are integrated, often working from the same location or in constant communication with the rest of the team
|Agents are separated, often working from other locations or other countries
Although customer support is considered a subset of customer service, the two terms are often defined differently at every company. So, don’t fret if your brand defines things differently than we do!
At Groove, we prefer the more modern take on customer support, as we want our customers to empower their agents. We believe empowered customer support agents, who are well-integrated with a business, provide the best possible customer experience. However, we also use customer service as an umbrella term to describe the overall experiences and interactions we have with our customers.
Key Features to Consider in Your Customer Support
Excellent customer support is critical, but how do you make sure yours is not good, but GREAT? Here are the key features to consider in your customer support:
Overall quality of your customer support is most important, and it all hinges on your ability to not only solve customer problems, but also make them feel good while you do so.
Are customers getting answers to their questions? Is your customer support team helping them get the most possible value out of your products and services?
There are a number of different ways you can respond to customers. It doesn’t necessarily matter what your response style is– you just want to make sure you’ve decided.
You can use long, comprehensive answers that cover every possible avenue, or shorter answers that focus on answering questions as quickly as possible. There is no right way. You just want to make sure you’ve defined a response style that everyone will use, so that you’re providing a consistent experience to customers.
What does your brand voice sound like? You’ll want to make sure it’s consistent across the board. You can use a more formal style or a more casual style. You can choose certain words or greetings that you always use, or create a list of terms you never use.
|Formal brand voice
|Casual brand voice
|Hello, how may I assist you today?
|Hi! What can I help you with?
|Can you describe the extent of your problem?
|What exactly are you having trouble with? Be specific.
|Thank you for contacting us today.
|Thanks so much for getting in touch.
According to Zendesk’s 2021 Customer Experience Trends Report, 73% of customers believe that quick resolution is the top factor of good customer support. Additionally, one-third of people report being frustrated when they’ve been put on hold. So, how fast can your customers get answers to their questions?
Speed is a factor of level of coverage (see below), as well as number of agents available to answer questions. It can also be a factor of how good your self-service options are. If a customer is able to get the support they need from their knowledge base without contacting you, then that’s a big win on the speed front.
Is customer support coverage limited to certain hours of the day or days of the week? Forty-seven percent of customers believe 24/7 support is a key component of great customer service, according to Zendesk’s 2021 Customer Experience Trends Report.
If you can’t staff your customer support with live agents at all hours of the day, you can offer support in the form of a self-serve knowledge base or a chatbot.
No matter how much coverage you choose to offer, make sure you’re communicating your hours with your customers. Don’t forget to include your time zone! In the example below, UPPAbaby, a manufacturer of children’s strollers and car seats, provides ample information about customer support coverage on their contact page.
You can offer customer support on a wide variety of channels. Depending on your particular business, some channels may be important than others. You’ll always want to offer email support, but you might also want to offer support on Instagram, particularly if you’re an ecommerce brand with a large following.
Channels for offering customer support:
- Email – Email is often the number one channel used for customer support– with good reason. This is a non-negotiable channel! You must offer customer support via email.
- Phone Call – Phone calls are sometimes seen as a legacy way of offering support, but customers still expect it. Often times, it’s easier to resolve issues over the phone than over email.
- Text – Did you know that text messages are opened 98% of the time compared to emails, which are only opened 22% of the time? In a world where text messaging is used so heavily, many companies are opting to provide support via short message service (SMS).
- Live chat – Customers like live chat over email, phone support, and even social media. That’s because it’s easy! Customers can visit a company’s website, instantly receive help via live chat, and then go on with their day.
- Social media – Many customers give feedback and request support via sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even Tik Tok. Much of offering support on social may just be acknowledging complaints and making sure they’re resolved–a Gartner study found that companies who ignore support requests on social media see an average churn rate that’s 15% higher than companies who don’t.
- Self-serve knowledge base – A self-serve knowledge base allows you to provide support for your customers without the aid of a live agent. This is a win for customers and a win for you. According to Forrester, 67% of consumers report that they regularly use self-service support online.
- Forums & message boards – You might have your own forum or message board as part of your community. These spaces allow fellow customers to help others. But, you also need to be present on forums and message boards where your brand is being discussed. For example, it might be a good idea to respond to a reddit thread that details issues with your product.
For more information on customer support channels, we recommend: What Are the Most Effective Channels for Customer Support?
Great support doesn’t happen automatically. It’s the result of a defined process put together deliberately by leaders at a company. So, ask yourself: what happens when someone contacts customer support? What is the standard process?
It’s not only important to define this process for the company, but it’s also essential to train all customer support staff on the process.
Many customer support teams rely on automation to support their efforts. Automation is much more than serving up answers to customers via a chatbot. It can also take the form of customer support tickets automatically being populated into a Slack channel.
|Key Features for Awesome Customer Support:
– Defined Process
How to Deliver Excellent Customer Support
How do you deliver excellent customer support to your customers? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Define what customer support means for your business
You can’t offer exemplary customer support unless you’ve decided, as a business, that it’s a priority. Great customer support is the result of deliberate decisions that your company made– or didn’t make.
Here are some examples:
A customer waits 48 hours to get a response from you because you chose not to prioritize speed.
A customer asks a question in French but does not receive a response in their preferred channel because you chose to only offer support in French via email.
A customer visits your knowledge base and receives information that is incorrect or outdated because you chose not to prioritize making sure your help content is up-to-date and always accurate.
Hire support agents based on key skills
First things first: we recommend hiring the absolute best. Because customer support can make or break your reputation, you want to have the best possible customer support agents on your team.
Although you’ll want to look for agents who have the technical know-how to help your customers, these technical skills can be more easily taught than soft skills. That’s why recommend hiring support agents based on the following:
- Clarity in Communication
- Continuous Improvement
For more information on hiring for customer support: we recommend: How to Find, Interview and Hire Your First Customer Service Agent
Give your agents everything they need to be successful
It’s not enough to hire an amazing customer support agent. You need to give your agents everything they need to be successful. That means…
The right tools
Customer support agents need best-in-class support tools to best serve customers. That means providing the right customer support software, ideally something that is customized to your particular use case or industry.
Not only do these tools need to be best-in-class and feature-rich, but they also need to be well-integrated into the overall customer support process.
The right training
Customer support agents need to know where customer support fits into the overall company. They also need a comprehensive understanding of your products so that they can help customers.
For information on training customer support agents, we recommend: Your Guide to Training Customer Service Team Members in Ecommerce.
The right leadership
If the people at the top aren’t committed to customer support’s role at the company, then they’re going to struggle to be successful. Leadership needs to be committed to integrating the customer support team’s insights and expertise into other areas of the company. They need to be willing to invest in the best software, the best training, and the best people.
Prioritize reaching a resolution during first-contact
Customers contact customer support usually because they have an issue that they need to be resolved. They’re struggling to use a product or are unhappy with the service they’ve received.
A customer support agent’s job is to resolve the customer’s issue as quickly as possible. That means prioritizing reaching a resolution when a customer first contacts customer support.
Make every customer support interaction feel personal
When a customer contacts your customer support team, you want to reach a resolution. But, you also want to make sure customers feel as though they’ve been heard. In order for the interaction to feel like a positive one, you’ll want to personalize your responses.
Personalization goes beyond using someone’s first name. It requires you to gain a deep understanding of their particular problem, as well as why that problem matters so much to them.
Before you argue that personalization is too difficult and time-consuming, understand that new tools, such as Resolution Bot, can provide the right answers to 33% of commonly-asked questions, which improves the overall speed of customer support. In short, there are other ways to improve the speed that don’t compromise personalization.
Use templates to deliver stellar support more efficiently
You want every customer support interaction to be personalized, but you also need to run an efficient customer support team. That’s why it’s a good idea to rely on templates.
After all, your agents may find themselves answering the same questions day after day. Rather than having them create the same response over and over again, you can create templates to answer some of the most common ones that you receive.
Include every team member – not just support agents
One of the best ways to improve your product– and therefore the overall customer experience– is to have every member of your team spend some time doing customer support.
Team members will not only be required to practice skills such as empathy and patience, but they’ll also have a better understanding of the customers you serve.
If this is unrealistic at your company, you can have every team member review tickets or listen in on customer support calls.
Track customer supports metrics– and adjust accordingly
There are a number of metrics that customer support teams use to track customer satisfaction and the overall quality of customer support.
Some are based on customer responses such as Customer Effort Score (CES), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS)
Others are indications that your customer support is doing a good job. These are things like % of support requests solved during first contact, the average time to resolution, and average customer wait time.
Real-Life Examples of Companies Offering Great Customer Support
Canyon offers chat support in multiple languages
Canyon Bicycles is globally recognized for their products. As such, their customers speak a wide variety of languages. To best serve these customers, Canyon uses intelligent chat routing rules to connect customers to support members who can speak their preferred language.
UPPAbaby offers one-on-one video consultations
Installing a car seat or setting up a stroller can be surprisingly difficult, even when the gear is as straightforward as possible. Rather than simply direct customers to installation videos, UPPAbaby actually offers one-on-one video consultants to anyone who wants to ensure proper fit or troubleshoot an issue.
OLIPOP responds to every Tweet
OLIPOP sells unique sodas and serves many customers directly. The brand is incredibly active and responsive on social media, especially on Twitter. When a customer experienced issues with shipping times, OLIPOP worked to make it right. They sent a customer a new batch of soda, explained the shipping issues, and assured the customer that they’d changed carriers.
LOGO.com trains every team member to talk to customers
At LOGO.com, every team member helps to offer customer support. The customer support channel is integrated with Slack, which means the team receives notifications as soon as customers make contact. Since they work different time zones, whoever is available and online attends to the query.
“For us, customer support is crucial. We try to answer every query in less than 24 hours– preferably, as soon as we see it,” said Alisha Shibli, Head of Marketing at LOGO.com. “And if one of us isn’t sure how to resolve an issue, we tag the person who can help so they can attend to it.”
According to Alisha, the training started with a simple principle— don’t leave the customer hanging. Even if an individual team member isn’t sure of the answer, they can still let the customer know that they’re working on getting their issue resolved.
Sainsbury changed a product name at request of a customer
When Sainsbury received a letter from a young girl about changing the name of one of its products, Tiger Bread, they did an interesting thing. The young girl requested that they change the name to Giraffe Bread. Initially, Sainsbury reached out with a gift card and a personalized note.
You could accurately say that interaction alone was an excellent customer experience. But one issue remained. The name. After the girl’s mother posted the interaction online, it started a mass frenzy to have the name changed.
Sainsbury could have ignored the request, but it proved itself adaptable. The product officially became giraffe bread.
The lesson? Customers already shape your company by their behaviors. What they buy will shape what you produce. Don’t ignore customer experiences that can inform, alter, and even improve the quality of work you provide.
Customer Support: It’s Critical for Your Business
Customer support is critical for businesses today. It helps retain customers, bring in new ones, and ultimately will provide a boost to your bottom line.
When someone buys a product, they’re hopeful that it will be everything they wanted. When they contact customer support, their hope is that a resolution will soon be reached.
Customer support teams can provide these resolutions, but only if companies prioritize customer support.