10 Tips to Help Your Clients Handle Surging Customer Service Demand

customer service demand

Recent data from McKinsey reveals that the equivalent of 10 years’ worth of ecommerce deliveries was completed in just eight weeks in the midst of COVID-19. This accelerating shift to digital shopping channels was also echoed by Shopify’s CEO, Tobi Lütke, who recently stated that, “The future of retail arrived 10 years early.” So, it’s no surprise that for many merchants, COVID-19 has been synonymous with explosive growth. Customer service demand keeps rising as well. In fact, at Heyday, we’ve seen on average a 300 percent increase in monthly conversations across all our retail and ecommerce clients.

If there is opportunity in chaos, the opposite is also true. Overwhelmed teams are working day and night to manage the constant influx of order tracking requests, returns, inventory restock inquiries, and more. As any agency or service provider will tell you: the past few months have been extremely trying for sales and service teams. And with holiday shopping and the Black Friday/Cyber Monday frenzy just around the corner, we’ve only just reached the next basecamp on this uphill climb. 

So the big question is: how can Shopify Partners and Developers better support their clients so that, in turn, they can provide better support to their customers? We’ve prepared a list of 10 tips to help alleviate the pressure on your clients’ customer service teams and keep their customers happy…at scale!

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1. Guide your clients towards reducing redundancy (the 80/20 rule)

When everything is going fast and furious, it’s hard to take a pause to take a step back to strategize a better modus operandi. That’s where great agencies and partners come in handy: they can add that extra layer of calm and cool support when the going gets tough.

Advise your clients to take a step back and analyze historical logs to identify the 80 percent of customer service requests that are redundant. These are typically the same 10 questions. Once identified, you can help them craft an action plan to radically reduce the time spent on answering these queries. These questions might be: 

  1. Where’s my order? 
  2. Do you ship to (your country here)?
  3. What’s your return policy?
  4. Do you sell gift cards? 
  5. How long will it take for me to get my order? 

Once these questions are identified, you can look into different tactics on how to automate or reduce the level of human input necessary to handle these repetitive questions.

You might also like: 22 Basic UX Laws That Every Designer Should Know.

2. Help clients go all-in on self-service 

We know, we know…the FAQ page is rarely the coolest page on a website. But it’s extremely important for a customer’s self-discovery journey, and far too often, it’s hidden on a footer rather than clearly accessible in the main navigation on a site. 

"The FAQ page is rarely the coolest page on a website. But it’s extremely important for a customer’s self-discovery journey."

As a first step, advise your clients to draft answers to the FAQs above, and position the FAQ page in a place where it’s easy to find. Recommending site optimizations to enhance discovery doesn’t need to be a huge undertaking. As UX designers, this is one of the simplest actions you can take to make your client’s site more helpful and frictionless.

At the end of the day, the goal is to help customers help themselves. Self-service is a win-win: customers find answers to their questions quickly and your clients get to delight them without lifting a finger.

3. Advocate for enriching product descriptions

Today, customer service is increasingly a sales channel—improving the show and tell experience on websites can alleviate added strain caused by product questions that might include: What’s the material? What colours does this come in? Do you have a sizing chart? By improving product tagging, search and descriptions, you can significantly reduce pre-browsing questions for your clients.

Again, this might sound obvious and simple, but details matter, and can make a world of difference in the overall user experience. Getting the basics right sets the foundation for everything else. Effective customer service leads to more sales.

4. Promote overcommunication and being proactive

customer service demand: yellow and green chat bubble

In times like these, there’s no such thing as “overcommunicating.” Beyond the navigation bar and product listings, leverage every inch of real estate at your disposal to communicate critical information about your client’s COVID-19 policies, holiday shopping, and return policy. Think: announcement bars for updated terms, pop-ups for holiday promotions, and key delivery information related to drop-off policies, BOPIS (buy online pick-up in store) options, or potential delays on the checkout page. 

As designers, you know how to perfectly mix words with pixels to convey the right message and the right experience. Help your clients envision every page on their ecommerce store as a place to communicate something useful to their customers. This will help both reduce the amount of customer inquiries and accelerate the sales funnel to boost their bottom line. 

In the end, your clients are better off overcommunicating with their customers than seeing them leave their sites because they have lost their way.

You might also like: How Cutting out Jargon can Help you Achieve Clear Communication.

5. Unlock the power of automation and AI to help handle surging customer service demand

Conversational AI and AI chatbots have gotten bad reputations in the past because a lot of solutions can only do basic automations that are falsely advertised as AI. That being said, good solutions can actually be an awesome asset for your clients’ team when leveraged the right way, i.e., automating answers to repetitive questions such as those outlined in point #1.

Chatbots can be a great first line of defense. There are many solutions in the Shopify App Store: Look out for solutions that are multilingual and multichannel by design, and that have the capability to tightly integrate with your product catalogue so you can automate product recommendations, restock alerts, order tracking, and more for your clients. 

By augmenting your site with automation capabilities, you can free up your client’s team from customer interactions that do not require high human input, so they can spend more time marketing and selling their products, or on higher-order tasks and requests from their customers.

6. Recommend creating internal playbooks, templates, and email shortcuts 

In the same way customers should be able to quickly and easily find the answers they’re looking for, so too should your clients’ internal team members. Quick-reply templates and easy-to-navigate customer service playbooks help customer support teams move faster, stay on brand, and provide consistent information. Not to mention, these tools can come in handy when you’re onboarding new team members so you can get them up to speed quickly. 

This becomes the brand’s knowledge base that can train and feed both AI assistants and team members. You can never underinvest in collaboration tools, especially when you are helping your clients future-proof their business.

7. Demonstrate the power of centralized channels 

Customers want to reach brands whenever they want, from wherever they are. From Facebook Messenger, web chat, email, WhatsApp, or Instagram, that means an explosion of channels to manage during the day-to-day of your client’s business. 

"Customers want to reach brands whenever they want, from wherever they are."

When implementing a new email or live chat solution for your clients, make sure to guide them toward a fast, efficient, and centralized app that aggregates all channels under one roof so that they can streamline customer communication and empower their customer service teams to do their best work. 

Bonus: You can also set up automated replies on certain secondary channels to redirect to the channel where your client’s team is the most available. For example, an automated email reply that recommends customers ask their questions via your client’s live chat on their website. 

8. Suggest outsourcing if bandwidth is strained

If adding to your client’s tech stack is out of reach for now, or if they cannot hire any more staff, you can recommend delegating quick and simple tasks to other service providers, freelancers, or consultants. Of course, if you can potentially support your clients that can be another great value add to them. However, if you cannot provide them with the services, some examples of resources to find help for your clients include:

You can just search for whatever help your client is looking for. Just remember to equip these external resources with best practices and playbooks so that your client’s brand and customer experience remain consistent (see point #6).

9. Advise your clients to manage expectations and be transparent

If your clients are lacking in bandwidth to respond quickly, managing expectations is paramount. In the world of customer service, being transparent is key. Not only will this reduce the amount of follow-up emails and calls, they can still get a great customer satisfaction (CSAT) score if their customers know what’s to come and when to expect it.

Note: Even the simplest chat message or automated email reply can help manage expectations, such as with communicating estimated wait times or other information transparently. This can make your clients’ customers feel seen and heard without overly irritating them.

10. Measure everything and never stop optimizing

customer service demand: woman looking at data

Last but not least: track and measure everything! 

Many ecommerce merchants and retailers had to adapt quickly in light of the pressures ignited by COVID-19. Moving fast sometimes takes precedence over moving with everything calculated, but they don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Preparing for the next wave of traffic is the ideal time to advise your clients to look back at the data from the past quarters (from the most frequently asked questions, to bounce rates, to checkout page conversion rates) to see what’s working, and what isn’t.

By doing this data dive, you’ll be able to help your clients be better prepared to respond to customer service inquiries.

You might also like: How to Choose the Right A/B Testing Strategy for Your Clients.

As ecommerce accelerates, there’s a huge opportunity this year for merchants to grab market share, increase CSAT scores, and boost customer LTV. Keeping the finger on the pulse of key sales and customer service metrics can help you make timely design and business strategy recommendations for your clients that help make you a trusted partner.

What tips do you have to handle times of surging customer service demand? Let us know in the comments below.

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