Great customer support is an essential part of any e-commerce business. It’s how you help shoppers determine the best products for their needs, make sure they’re satisfied with their purchases, resolve any issues they might run into, and ultimately turn them into loyal customers for your store. And there are now more options than ever for improving the level of support you provide to create the best possible experience for your customers.
While this means that there are plenty of opportunities for store owners, it can make it challenging to determine the best channels and approach for your needs. Fortunately, you don’t need to limit yourself to just one or two channels — but as you expand your support options, it’s best to take an omnichannel approach.
With omnichannel support, you can deliver a superior service experience on all of the channels in your strategy — and be sure that your customers can always get the help and information they need.
What is Omnichannel Support?
Before jumping into the details of a strong omnichannel approach to support, it’s important to define what, exactly this means. This is especially true when you consider just how often the term is confused with “multichannel” support — though the two have a few distinct differences.
A multichannel approach simply involves offering multiple channels on which customers can contact your business for help, like email, phone, and social media. Different teams often staff these channels, and though they may provide similar solutions and responses, they’re typically disconnected from one another. Omnichannel support, on the other hand, connects the experiences across each of these channels.
To better illustrate what this looks like in practice, consider a scenario in which a customer receives the wrong product in an order. They call the company’s phone support line to inform about the issue and ask for a return label to return the incorrect items. Later that same day, they use the company’s on-site live chat to ask for an expected delivery date for the replacement items.
If the company utilized a multichannel approach, the live chat agent wouldn’t know their previous interaction with the phone support team. This means the customer has to start from the beginning and re-explain the issue which leads to their frustration. But with an omnichannel approach, the live chat agent would be able to access all of this information directly in a helpdesk tool and pick up where the phone support agent left off. This way, they can help the customer more efficiently — and provide a resolution as quickly as possible.
4 Tips for Offering Omnichannel Support in E-commerce
If you’re looking to shift to an omnichannel approach to support, the following tips will help you create a seamless experience for your customers and deliver a high level of service on each of the channels you use.
1. Choose Your Support Channels Wisely
The first step in creating an omnichannel support system is simply choosing which channels to include. And it’s important to note here that your strategy doesn’t need to include every possible option. After all, omnichannel support isn’t about offering as many channels as possible. It’s about selecting the best ones for your customers’ needs and providing the best possible service on each. In most cases, the most logical starting point is the group of channels you’re already using for customer service.
So instead of viewing a switch to omnichannel as an opportunity to add more options for your customers, it’s best to focus on integrating the ones you already use — with the knowledge that you can always add more later in the process. That said, as you evaluate your options, you’ll want to make sure that at least some of them are mobile-friendly.
One survey found that 24% of U.S. adults seek customer support on mobile devices “a few times per week,” and 63% do so at least a few times per month. This means that to help a large portion of your customers, you need to offer support channels that are compatible with mobile devices. So if this isn’t yet the case, adding mobile-friendly options should be a top priority for your customer service strategy.
2. Select the Right Support Platform
Once you’ve determined which channels to include in your support strategy, you’ll need to select a platform to manage them. That’s because the key to omnichannel support (and what sets it apart from a multichannel approach) is seamless communication between each of your channels. This is what enables your team to keep track of customer interactions and access the information whenever they need it.
Fortunately, if you’re already using a support platform for your online channels, like Freshdesk’s Helpdesk Software, switching to an omnichannel approach may be as simple as integrating your other channels. For example, as you can see in the following screenshot, Freshdesk’s Helpdesk Software enables businesses to see support requests from a website portal, phone support line, social media channels, and email — all in the same dashboard.
That said, before you commit to a specific platform, you’ll want to make sure that it supports each of the channels you currently use, as well as any you’re planning to incorporate in the future. This way, you won’t have to worry about the software you use limiting your ability to help customers, and can continue to grow your strategy over time.
3. Invest in Building a Strong Support Team
While many businesses adopt more advanced support technology, they make the mistake of losing sight of the importance of their teams. This is a mistake you’ll want to consciously avoid. No matter how great the technical elements of your approach, customer service is ultimately about people — and that requires having an excellent team of agents. In fact, if your team isn’t currently providing the level of support you’re aiming for, this could be an issue to address before introducing new tools and approaches.
As Michael Ringman, CIO of TELUS International, explains, “Technology certainly has a significant role to play, but it shouldn’t be the first challenge to tackle when moving from multichannel to omnichannel.”
Ringman continues, “Technology doesn’t operate in a vacuum, and no matter how great the solution, there is always someone needed behind the curtain to help create the magic.”
So instead of viewing omnichannel technology as a solution to your customer service needs, see it as a tool that your team can use to do their jobs more efficiently. Hire great agents, train them with a focus on the customer, and make sure they’re equipped to provide exceptional customer support — then look for ways to help them do their jobs even more efficiently.
4. Use Automation Where You Can
Efficiency is an essential element of any customer service team — and automation is one of the best ways to maximize the efficiency of your support agents. Many tasks that used to require time and energy from customer service agents can now be automated. And because these tasks are typically simple ones, this enables your team to focus their efforts on more important, complex issues.
For example, online retailer Reformation uses automated emails to follow up with customers after each interaction with their support team (referred to as their “Customer Love” team)
The email asks customers to rate their support and includes separate links for satisfied and unsatisfied customers. This way, happy customers can let the company know what made their experience so great so that they can continue providing similar experiences. Unhappy customers, then, can opt to speak with their team member for additional help or to provide feedback. Either way, the company gets to collect valuable feedback and provide assistance when it’s needed — without using any more of their team’s time than necessary.
Providing excellent customer service is a necessity, but it isn’t always easy. That’s especially true if your support team isn’t all on the same page with customer situations and interactions — but an omnichannel approach can eliminate this issue and help you assist each of your customers more effectively. And regardless of whether you’re new to the concept of omnichannel support or looking to improve your existing support, there are a few ways to make sure you’re providing the best possible customer service.
First, select your support channels and management platform carefully. These play a major role in shaping your customer service, and though you can change them later, researching your options early in the process can save you a ton of time in the future. From there, you can continue to improve the customer service experience by building a great team and incorporating automation where it makes sense.
This way, you can be confident that each aspect of the support process is being handled as efficiently as possible — and that when one of your customers needs to speak with someone from your company, they’re guaranteed a positive interaction.