Skip main navigation

How to cope with customer service

Learn how you can you create a customer service plan.
A mother at a desk working on a laptop whilst her daughter hugs her from behind.

Customer service and support is an integral part of eCommerce. How can you create a customer service plan?

No matter what industry you’re in, you’re being measured against the best customer service a consumer has had. Seems like a lot of pressure, right? Well, it is! Because if we are in the eCommerce business, we are in the customer service business. Good customer service is about how effectively you communicate and connect with customers and resolve their issues. Bad customer service can have serious consequences for your ratings and reviews.

Remember, you will always have customer service and support requests from day one. The question is, how can you provide fast, effective customer service without it costing a fortune or taking up lots of time? Today, customers expect a quick response to their requests for support whether they contact you through email, phone calls or messaging. Understandably, increased sales around Christmas or Black Friday will also cause a jump in messages.

No matter where you are on your eCommerce journey, there are some customer service tenets that are always applicable. Here are the ‘Six Commandments of Customer Service according to the FutureLearn Fundamentals of eCommerce ExpertTrack(!):

  1. Get the issue resolved quickly.
  2. Get the issue resolved in one interaction.
  3. Ensure a friendly customer service approach is used.
  4. Enable the customer to follow up with the same person if necessary.
  5. Be able to record, print and save a copy of the interaction.
  6. Make sure you follow up afterwards to ensure the customer is satisfied.

Let’s use the various phases of how a typical eCommerce business grows as a guide as to how to deliver customer service and support.

Start-up phase: as we know, the owner does everything; that’s the nature of being a start-up. Everything is a priority – as is customer service – but there is not an easy way out of this. Having just an email address and phone number for support is enough at the start-up phase. Make sure you have saved replies for repeated questions. Create hints, tips, or advice on your site which customers can easily access. One of the benefits of talking directly to customers is that you will understand your customers’ needs and wants by speaking with them, which means you can further refine your store, product and customer service.

Scale-up phase: with growth in revenue and in your number of customers, you will start getting lots of enquiries and customer service questions. You are likely to need at least one if not two dedicated people to cope with customer service and support. A pattern will start emerging. In Course 3, we learnt that 80% of questions will end up being the same:

  • ‘Where is my order – I have not received it? Has it been shipped?’
  • ‘Have you got XYZ available or in stock?’
  • Product issues – ‘this is not the product I ordered’
  • ‘What will it cost me to return or refund my product?’

These are repetitive queries. Given this, one option is to automate these repetitive queries using customer support software or to implement a messaging application. Revisit what we learnt about role of messaging in sales and customer service in Course 3, Week 2. eCommerce customer support software may be required to cope with volumes and deliver decent response times. Two pro-tips are to ensure that you have an FAQs – frequently asked questions – section on your website and use pre-recorded videos (made on your smartphone) explaining how to use products, ‘getting started’ materials or detailed walk-throughs of advanced features of your products.

Sustainable phase: when your eCommerce store has proper operational, financial and marketing systems, processes and procedures around customer service and support are required to scale even further. At this stage, there should be dedicated resources and processes around customer service and customer support software to manage the volumes.

eCommerce stores can receive, on average, one query for every eight sales. If your sales are increasing but you’re unable to keep up with incoming queries, this means that you might need to look at using customer service software. Customer support and service software typically provide:

  • A centralised hub that manages customer service regardless of the source – email, social, call or live chat.
  • A customer service help desk with a ticketing system to track all customer interactions and reply much faster.
  • A live chat that enables live interaction with customers.

There are lots of different customer service and live chat software tools available directly on the eCommerce platform marketplaces that we discussed earlier in the ExpertTrack. For example, eDesk or Gorgias – just search ‘customer service’ on their app marketplaces here:

Now that you know about customer service, where do you think you are on your customer service journey? Do you want to provide excellent customer service? Is it a real hassle that you need to get handled – might you need to make an investment in support software?

Once you understand how to manage customer service, this neatly brings us onto our next topic, which will be a big constituent part of customer service: how to manage returns.

This article is from the free online

Creating and Measuring Success in eCommerce

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education