This is a guest post from xSellco's Liam Keegan.
Let's face it. Customer support is a tough job. From dealing with angry customers, to getting through a mountain of queries, sometimes it can be hard to get that satisfying feeling at the end of a day's work.
But ultimately it's important that your customer support agents do get over that mountain of queries.
In this era of eCommerce, customers' expectations for support are ever-growing, and buyers can be both won and lost faster than ever.
Your customer might message you at 9.30pm on a Sunday night via Facebook and still expect a near-immediate response. Are you in a position to offer that kind of 24/7 support, through every site on which you have a presence? Have you got a system in place that helps you maintain high quality support?
As you scale your operations, your resources become more stretched, and even the most amazing team of customer support agents can't succeed alone. They'll need help.
That help will depend on how you manage the following key elements of your customer support operation.
Getting a full picture of the customer
If a customer asks you about their order or delivery time, have you got the right information at your fingertips? Do you automatically know what they bought? If they have contacted you previously, can you see the full history of interactions?
How you manage orders and customer support is very important, as one informs the other.
You could spend an age trying to piece together this information, when in fact you should have it all together in the first place. To do this though, you need extra help.
A solution to this problem is to invest in an order fulfilment solution, and and an eCommerce help desk. If they integrate with one another, even better.
By having an integrated view of the customer via an eCommerce help desk, you'll be able to see the customer's order information, delivery status and contact history in one place, saving you valuable time when responding to customers.
Speaking the customer's language
If you're running a business that serves international customers, your first concern might be how you build the right customer support team to serve your markets.
How do you provide the same level of support to each of your customers, regardless of the country they're in and the language they speak?
Your first thought might be that you need to hire multilingual support staff, and while bigger businesses have no problem doing this, for smaller operations, hiring several multilingual staff isn't necessarily an option for scaling international support.
The success of your business depends on how well you scale each core process, including customer support. At some point, you'll have to make a call - do you hire multilingual support staff, or do you automate message translation?
Automation should come before hiring multilingual agents because it will help you scale better.
Even if you have one Spanish and one Japanese speaker, you will only have one member of staff who can answer queries in those languages.
Instead of increasing reliance on individual team members and hiring multilingual staff, you need to share the responsibility. Using advanced automated translation tools can help your customer support team to answer queries in multiple languages.
Automated translation will allow you to scale the day-to-day queries, while hiring a language specialist will allow you to offer live phone support to the most valuable customers in your target country.
If you don't know which solution best suits your business, just look at your numbers. If you're getting significant sales from a country such as France or Germany, it might be worthwhile having a support agent who speaks that language. If you have a real mix of several languages, automation is the best way to scale successfully.
You can grow your business within a new market with low support overheads. Once you've established yourself in that country, you can have the freedom to decide whether it would be beneficial to invest in dedicated staff.
If automation is done at the right time and written in the right tone, a canned response can be every bit as effective as a real human response. After all, canned responses are written by humans too.
To respond at a speed that allows you to both satisfy your customers' growing demands and to meet the Service Level Agreements (SLAs) of marketplaces such as Amazon, automation is vital.
How do you save time responding to customers without sacrificing the human touch? By creating high-quality response templates for your most common queries.
Every eCommerce business gets the same recurring questions - where is my stuff, how long does delivery take, how can I go about returning my item etc.
If you know your most common queries, having a response template can transform your response times from minutes to seconds. Templates can literally save you hours of time each day.
Check out these five free response templates for the most common eCommerce customer queries to get you started.
Sell in many places, but support in one
The modern online seller doesn't just sell on one channel, instead they've got eggs in many baskets.
Our customers, who are most sellers in the US and Europe, usually sell on Amazon and eBay in multiple countries, as well as on other marketplaces such as Allegro, Rakuten, Cdiscount and Walmart. That's on top of selling on their own online store.
A typical online seller may have more than 10 different channels where they're selling products, and this means that managing customer support can get messy... very quickly.
Multi-channel selling is the future of eCommerce, but lots of sellers still haven't looked at ways of solving this fundamental problem. Customer support is a key ingredient to the success of any online business. It's where angry customers can be appeased, and where sales on the verge of collapse can be rescued.
Scaling customer support can't happen with divided channels for support. You've got to invest in an eCommerce help desk that brings it all together. This will save you and your customers a massive headache.
In the minds of potential buyers, customer support is the voice of your business. Make sure that your voice is heard loud and clear.