In the first part of our musings on photo products customer support, we concentrated on customer support channels. The second and final installment is devoted to helping you organize your support into one neat e-commerce sales machine.
Individual talent vs process
Customer support is an entry-level job. Turnover is usually rather high outside of tech companies because many people flee at the first sight of a more prestigious and a better paid job. At the same time, great employees must start their careers somewhere so attracting top customer support talent may prove not as difficult as it seems. By “top customer support talent” I mean agents with fantastic soft skills, who can get your online store out of trouble simply by being natural at interacting with people.
In e-commerce customer support world soft skills are crucial. You’ve got to know in detail what you are selling and be comfortable around people online. The ability to empathize is a big bonus.
But there is a danger. Relying on a couple of good performers means that when they leave the team there is no continuity. And this is where the process comes in. The process carried out by people is a major step towards making customer support consistently good.
The photo products customer support can be divided into pre-sales and after-sales support, with support also having to play a big role somewhere in between the two (during the photo product creation phase, which doesn’t happen at standard online stores, and is closer to pre-sales).
Pre-sales support concentrates on two main aspects: knowledge and time. Time, because online sales requires speed otherwise impatient customers opt for competition. Knowledge, because besides standard questions about purchase costs and delivery, customers may ask very detailed photo product related questions.
The photo product creation phase is a tricky one. Here a beautiful and well-designed editor can make customer support’s team work much lighter by simply reducing the number of queries thanks to great UX. A good editor will do most of the job, but it must be backed up by self-support options like FAQ or knowledge base. Some photo product stores use screen-sharing software which can be helpful to people with limited computer skills.
After-sales support (dealing with delivery, returns, gift wrapping etc.) usually requires a bigger number of interactions, because if someone gets in touch at that stage, they have a problem and it’s rarely solved within the first contact, which makes workflow harder.
The process is all about who does what and when and what to do when something goes wrong. Nothing is left to chance, although some situations require individual talent from agents.
The most popular approach in small and mid-sized online stores is “everyone does everything”. There is no specialization, everyone participates in all the support stages. Queues like “Delivery” are set up for a greater order, calls/chats are distributed to agents who have been idle the longest, emails land in the shared inboxes and then agents assign themselves to them or a ticketing system uses special rules to assign tickets (emails) to agents. Screen-sharing must often be booked in advance on the website as it’s too time-consuming to fit into a regular agents’ schedule. Enterprise stores often choose to separate pre-sales and after-sales support for improved efficiency.
But that’s not all, obviously, as there are various policies involved, let’s take a look at some of them:
Photo products support teams usually work longer hours than standard online store support teams, as photo products are often created in the afternoon or in the evening. Due to the nature of photo products sales process, it’s advisable to offer as many after-hours support options as possible (self-support, a simple chatbot, chat window turning into contact form when no one’s present in the office).
Customers don’t like their phone calls being transferred, because usually they have to repeat themselves. That’s why it’s so important to use warm transfers only (when the new agent is quickly introduced to customer’s problem by the agent who answered the call). Live chat transfers are easier to perform, as the new agent can quickly scan the conversation to understand the problem.
It’s impossible not to miss a call in the customer support department. There is always this temptation to use callbacks as they are said to win back abandoned shopping carts, especially when performed very soon after the call was missed. It’s a great idea, but one has to bear in mind that during peak hours callbacks can disorganize the process if your team is lacking in resources.
KPIs to monitor the process
Business conditions are changing all the time, the company hopefully keeps growing, so either the team must get bigger too or the processes need to be readjusted, or possibly both. Customer support is on the brink of a performance-driven revolution similar to the one marketing departments underwent a decade or so ago. Keeping your numbers in check is always worthwhile as this gives you control over the process.
It’s highly recommended to measure customer satisfaction, just to get that external perspective on how your company and the customer support are doing. Three indicators are used most often: Customer Satisfaction Score, Net Promoter Score and Customer Effort Score. It’s more than enough to track only one of them, it seems like everyone’s new favorite is NPS.
There is no fixed set of internal customer support KPIs, as most managers have their own preferences. As speed is a stable determinant for customer satisfaction and leads to sales, performance indicators like First Response Time are super important for online stores. The other important factor is actually solving the issue – Average Resolution Time will tell you how your team is doing in that respect. You can also allow customers to rate individual interactions (by using emojis for example), it is a very simple way of immediately identifying unhappy customers. A quick follow-up may do wonders every time that happens.
Customer support is the new marketing. The right choice of channels coupled with a well-organized process will get you the upper hand as far your customers’ satisfaction goes.