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Areas to improve your Customer service team during peak season

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customer service

Your CS (Customer Services) team is the front line of your eCommerce business. Any help customers need, any additional information required, complaints to be made, refunds demanded or other inquiries will go through them.

During peak season, when Christmas is coming in and customers begin their festive shopping, calls to customer service can increase rapidly. To combat this problem, and ensure that your CS team cope with the pressure this Christmas, you might find a solution in fixing other parts of your eCommerce business.

 

The product

customer service

A product can have two major issues that will cause your CS team problems:

  1. If the product makes promises it can’t keep
  2. The customer misunderstands the product's function or promise the product made

These points can be the most common problems that customers call your CS team about, as they don’t want to feel they have made a wrong decision about purchasing a product. If your product doesn’t live up to expectations, or fulfill a customer's needs, there is a strong chance they’ll complain.

Extensive testing of your product, even when you’re satisfied with its design, function and ability to perform, will ensure that you can discover any potential problems that might arise with the product after multiple uses. It’s important to constantly evaluate how well your products are doing and analyse where they can improve so that they can constantly develop and meet your customers needs.

By doing this, not only do you ensure success of product but you’re also delivering the promise of your product, but you’re also guaranteeing customer satisfaction. If a consumer buys a product that doesn’t meet their needs or fails to meet their expectations they will air their grievances either to your CS team, in your social media or leave poor reviews, all of which will impact your CS team and give them more to respond to. This is a particular problem when in peak season as more products are being bought, if they’re faulty, more problems will be reported.

The website

customer service

If your website doesn’t contain enough information about products, pricing, delivery, people can become very confused. If they want to know about a product and they’re very interested, they want to have access to proper information.

82% of consumers view accuracy and quality of information as the most important attribute of customer experience. It's important that your website is also optimised for mobile for ease of customer experience.

If your information isn’t updated or is misleading, people will become upset and most likely complain to your CS department. If the website goes down, especially during peak season, customers will understandably be unhappy and quite rightly complain. If you’re unable to maintain a website, why should your customers come to you?

Maintaining your website should always be a high priority. 55% of consumers say easy access to information and support can endear them to your brand. So, keeping information clear, updated and easy to access, makes it easier for customers to find out what they want to know, without contacting your CS team.

By improving the help section on your website, teams can reduce calls by 5%. Test all elements to ensure that links work. Make sure that the checkout is optimised and completely up to scratch.

Another excellent way of optimising to take some of the strain away from your CS team is by employing the use of chatbots. These can be programmed to answer questions and communicate with customers just like a human would - as well as be available 24/7 - removing the need for your CS team to be available around the clock.

Not only does more information all your consumers to feel in the know, it means that there will be less calls into your CS team asking for explanations or more information. 91% of consumers would use an online knowledge base if it were available - imagine how many calls that would cut down. If you had chatbots, any questions customers did have could be answered without the need for the CS team to get involved, taking the strain off them so that they can handle more urgent problems.

The payment

customer service

When it comes to payment for an order, customers expect it to be a stress free experience. If their preferred method of payment isn’t available, their card isn’t accepted, their paypal rejected, your website doesn't seem secure or your own checkout down, customers will be upset that they can’t complete their order.

If buyers don’t receive a thank you for payment screen or an email detailing the transaction (an e-receipt) they will likely contact your CS team to find out what’s wrong: has their payment gone through, or why hasn’t it worked? These calls in particular can be very stressful for both customer and CS team members.

There are a handful of things you can do to help ensure payments go smoothly. Be sure to offer as many different payment options as you can justify (credit, debit, master card, american express, paypal etc.) so that customers have options. Ensure that your checkout runs smoothly so that there is no reason people shouldn’t reach the payment screen. Also ensure that customers can pay on the go through a mobile device -  60% of consumers said being able to pay with a mobile device increases their satisfaction.

Automated email receipts that go straight to the customer upon payment of purchase will make them satisfied that their payment has been accepted and all is well. It also means if they want a return later on they have a proof of purchase that you can trace.

By ensuring that customer’s needs are met and that their payments are handled securely and safely they will feel comfortable that the transaction has gone well. The importance of payments is that customers feel comfortable and happy sending their money to your business.

If they don’t, they will either call and be very unhappy (especially if the money has come from their account but no purchase has arrived or been recognised as paid for), or leave your business all together. If you provide a service and they don’t receive what they’ve paid for, they’ll demand a refund.

The fulfilment

customer service

So many things can go wrong within the fulfilment process that can bring unnecessary grief for the customer and unpleasantness and stress for your CS team.

  • Poor stock management could mean that items are lost, so an order is unable to be fulfilled, or the wrong item is sent due to confusion of how they are stored
  • If orders are not sent out in a timely manner a customer will become angry and want to know where their order is
  • Items can be damaged or lost in transit - whilst this is the fault of the courier, the customers will complain to you - the business

These issues can result in a high demand for refunds which, especially during peak season can be a nightmare for CS.

By ensuring that proper stock management is employed, product forecasting is utilised and the fulfilment time are well trained and speedy with their job, you can ensure that not only does a customer get the right item by the right time, but that they will be satisfied (even delighted) with the service that they receive, lowering the number of calls chasing an order.

Make sure that your business uses couriers that they can trust to deliver items on time and in excellent condition - if they damage or lose a product, it’s important to hold them accountable. When the call for a return/refund does happen, a request should be dealt with quickly and without fuss.

There are so many positives that come from having organised stock, well trained staff and a well managed warehouse. Not only are your products cared for and protected, you’re always able to fill the orders that come in and your customers receive their goods in a timely manner - but all of these elements ensure a positive experience for the buyer, ensuring that problems are lowered by a significant amount. During peak season, this can be a godsend for CS teams.

The Customer Service team

customer service

Sometimes the problem can lie with the CS team themselves. If staff members aren’t trained up enough, do not have enough knowledge of the product, or have a poor attitude, there is a strong chance of problems escalating and being passed around the department until they’re either solved, the customer gives up or takes it even higher. According to a Harris Interactive report, customer service agents commonly fail to answer customers questions 50% of the time.

Not having enough staff can also be an issue during peak season. Problems, or ‘tickets’, can build up until there is a backlog. This will upset customers even more as they will feel that their problems are being ignored.

The most important thing to ensure is that your staff are trained to the highest standard. New employees need to spend time with more experienced staff to build up their knowledge base and understanding of how to answer and solve complex questions and demands. There should be frequent meetings on how to ensure the standard is upheld at all times, even when peak season is causing additional stress.

Bringing in new staff is a good way of ensuring your CS team aren’t stretched too thin, but again it's vital that any new staff are trained. Prioritising tickets can be an excellent way forward, but they must all be dealt with. An automated email sent out to promise a response within a set amount of time can satisfy your customers until you can get to them, as long as it's done within the time period.

Having a well managed, well trained team will carry you through even the most stressful periods. It’s important to maintain an excellent standard that your company will be recognised for. If they’re efficient at their job, they will be able to deal with the challenges of a lot of problems - especially if their numbers are supportive. 78% of customers claim that a positive customer experience comes from interacting with competent customer service agents, so it’s worth the time and effort.  

Concluding Thoughts

By advocating change in your business, in all areas, you will determine enough positive change that your CS team will be under less pressure by proxy. If all elements are working well, customers will have less to complain about, and a more positive opinion of you.

However there is another point which needs to be made: understanding that certain times of year are busier, no matter what changes you make, can really help your CS team manage. If they’re all under pressure, standards will slip, customers can be lost rather than won and your company’s reputation can suffer as a result.

If you take the time to care about your CS team, to ensure that their needs are met as well as the needs of the customer, they will be supportive. They will be responsive and proactive.

 

August 4th, 2017 by Hannah Newman

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