Expert Round-Up: Best Practices for Building and Maintaining Customer Relationships

E-commerce is populated by countless companies, each vying for a sliver of the pie. In fact, there are more companies operating in the market than ever before, which makes the industry very competitive. Relaying the correct ideas and using the most efficient methods to communicate with our clients can be a defining focal point. We can all agree that staying relevant nowadays means being customer obsessed and providing a complete service. So what trends should we come to expect for the industry?

We used to think about how to produce the best possible product with preferential market conditions, and now the question seems more like how do we bargain for our customers attention with so many competitors? It takes a great deal of convincing in order to gain customer trust and having strong communication channels is a sure way to provide some much needed assurance and selling power. Here are some industry experts to give you some much needed insight into market trends and best in practice solutions.

Lisa Popovici, Co-founder and COO
Lisa Popovici
Co-founder and COO @ Cartloop
1. What are some of your best practices on building and maintaining strong customer relationships?

There is nothing more dynamic than having a live conversation with a real human. Just because you shop online, that doesn't have to change. In an era of DTC, remote, work from home, and safety first, brands started to realize the importance of humanizing the customer journey, by replicating the brick and mortar experience.

2. How should eCommerce managers prepare their customer support for the busy holiday/sales seasons?

I might be biased but live SMS would be my go-to choice. Basically using SMS as a help desk. Being able to use this channel to provide both support and sales is what's going to drive consumers' product adoption and increase their loyalty during holidays/sales seasons. On-site chat is never going to be the same as live SMS. There's always that element of inconvenience of keeping your tab open until someone gets back to you. With SMS, you reply whenever you want and if you want you to get to save that phone number in your contact list. Trust levels increase instantly. It gives both brands and shoppers the benefits of an intimate, personal social media platform. Brands should adopt it throughout the entire year, not only on special occasions.

3. In terms of customer support, what do you believe are the most important app integrations for any Shopify Store, and what impact do they have on the business?

First and foremost, meet your customers where they spend most of their time. If your audience spends more time on their phone, text them. If they spend time on social media, double down your efforts and open your DMs. Just be present and offer options. There are a bunch of conversational marketing ways brands can leverage these days such as SMS, Live Shopping, Live Chat, or Social Media. All these expound the possibilities customers have to interact with their favorite brands. If we take SMS marketing, over 74% of respondents aged 18-44 aren't just communicating via text, they are also purchasing. There's a lot of untapped potential within just one channel.


4. What are some of the main challenges Shopify merchants are facing when it comes to customer support?

Lack of time, resources, automation as well as high costs. Another challenge is figuring out how customers are behaving on various channels, and then how to best serve those customers on each channel. Shoppers are expecting too communicate with brands on their preferred channels, not rely solely on email or phone support. How can support teams efficiently leverage and connect all those channels to offer customers faster resolutions, drive better relationships, thus higher retention?

5. Do you foresee any emerging eCommerce trends related to customer support in 2022?

Customer support will become omni-channel. The customer experience will become seamless, and all channels will speak to one another in order to create a holistic shopping experience.

Imitaz Bellary @ Engati
Imitaz Bellary
Senior Vice President @ Engati
1. What are some of your best practices on building and maintaining strong customer relationships?

eCommerce has revolutionized the way we shop and brings the retail experience straight to your fingertips. The rising demands make it essential to maintain the uninterrupted flow of services around the clock.

Some of the best practices in building and maintaining strong customer relationships are:

1. Provide quick responses: 53% of customers are likely to abandon their online purchases if they can't find quick answers to their questions. A Bot can respond quickly to each user query with an option to transfer it to an agent when required.

2. Personalize your communication: Ask your customers what they’re looking for and provide them with the options relevant to their needs.

3. Be where your customers are: Communicate with your customers on a channel they prefer, making it easier for them to reach out.

4. Make customers feel valued and appreciated:. Reach out to your customers and ask for their feedback, set up loyalty programs, referrals, etc. to retain your customers.

2. How should eCommerce managers prepare their customer support for the busy holiday/sales seasons?

During the holiday season, stores would see a lot of traffic coming in, with a huge inflow of queries coming in as well.

1. Manage queries from the different channels on a single platform, where the bot and agent can answer queries

2. Order and shipment updates should be sent to the users proactively

3. Answer complex queries with live chat and video calling as well, if required.

4. Collect feedback from users.

Sales might go up due to promotions. However, it’s important for the brand to have customers coming back, even without promotions or offers. This can be done by providing an unparalleled customer experience.

3. In terms of customer support, what do you believe are the most important app integrations for any Shopify Store, and what impact do they have on the business?

For customer support, Engati is the app that the store owners would need.

Engati can help in getting your social media followers to your online store. With the bot and live chat solution available across platforms, all queries would be answered, inclining users towards a purchase.

In case of an abandoned checkout, Engati can send a notification with a cart URL, help in cart recovery.

After the order is placed, order notifications are sent to the user. User can also ask about order status, get tracking information, payment status, etc.

Post shipping, the bot can connect users to a store agent for returns, exchanges or refunds.

The bot can also collect feedback from the users.

Retarget users by sending promotional messages, loyalty programs, referrals, etc.

4. What are some of the main challenges Shopify merchants are facing when it comes to customer support?
  • Hopping between multiple channels
  • Answering repetitive questions
  • Responding to every post comment, story reply, mention and DM
  • Handling return, refund and exchange issues

5. Do you foresee any emerging eCommerce trends related to customer support in 2022?
  • Mobile commerce -  More and more people will start using mobile devices for shopping, and for pre-purchase and post-purchase services.
  • The shift from phone calls to messaging apps - Customers now prefer sending a message to the store or business rather than waiting in a phone call queue.
  • Omni-channel commerce - Bringing all conversations from different channels will help your customer service teams in providing support quickly and efficiently.
  • Video shopping - An increasing trend that customers would like to avail themselves prior to purchasing the product

Alice @ Growave
Alice
Customer Success Manager @ Growave
1. How should eCommerce managers prepare their customer support for the busy holiday/sales seasons?

No matter how well thought out your marketing campaign is, how fast is your shipping, or how attractive is your packaging this year, poor customer service can easily overweight it all and will leave your customers disappointed.

Busy holidays and sales seasons are an inevitable part of eCommerce life. For us at Growave, one of the most important things is to provide great customer support to our clients, no matter the time of the day, week, or season. So what we do is, predict the approximate volume of support requests that may occur during such seasons and try to calculate how many more support managers may be required to easily cover them all, just in case.

In addition, we advise checking and improving the following points to be prepared for a large flow of requests from customers:

- Prepare your FAQ list, Help Center and use automation tools for response;

- Try to provide 24/7 support;

- Make a list of scenarios of what could possibly go wrong and always be ready to act on the plan B;

- Prepare your product on the technical level, check all important points that may affect your customer’s experience and overall performance of the site.


2. What are some of your best practices on building and maintaining strong customer relationships?

I think it’s essential to build strong customer relationships. You can gain your customers’ trust by being genuinely interested in solving their issues and effectively providing support in a very timely manner. So that no matter what, your customers can always rely on you, they’ll know that they can reach out to you any time, and you will be there for them.

Here are the main points of our customer service:

- Blow away customers’ expectations: be proactive, know more about your customers and deliver exclusive, high-quality support;

- Timely response: always be there to help them with any questions or issues;

- Establish trust: be open and honest. Keep your customers posted on the progress in their cases, let them know that you care about them;

- Seek feedback and show that you value their thoughts and experience with your product;

- Reward loyal clients: develop a loyalty program for your customers offer them gift cards, discounts, and special deals.


3. In terms of customer support, what do you believe are the most important app integrations for any Shopify Store and what impact they have on the business?

Every professional apps needs to have a chat box, so that customers can easily get support. Resolution bots can be really helpful, both for customers and support managers - since they can instantly help with merchants’ requests and are available 24/7.

We also use series via Intercom - which helps reduce manual work and send a series of posts and emails automatically according to a specific rules. Also, having a phone support option is very helpful, as many customers prefer to schedule a quick call rather than going back and forth with emails for hours/days.

Here is a list of apps that can help your store to grow:

- Growave - all-in-one marketing platform (it has multiple important features like Loyalty & Rewards program, Reviews, Wishlist, Instagram galleries and Social Login);

- Klaviyo/Omnisend - these are the apps for email marketing;

- Gorgias - Helpdesk and Live chat for customer support.


4. What are some of the main challenges Shopify merchants are facing when it comes to customer support?

The time zone difference. It’s a common thing for the eCommerce business to have customers from all across the globe, and to provide great support to both the clients of UTC+3 and UTC-10 - is a real challenge. Btw, Growave has been known for its excellent support for a while. We’ve now broadened our support hours and are available 24/7.

Unawareness of your customer's journey. Business owners may often forget how it feels to be a customer. It is essential to have a clear vision of your product from a customer's perspective. This way, you can predict what hardships your customers may face with your product, and prepare multiple solutions in advance. Also, avoid neglecting the importance of responding to your customers' reviews, do not ignore their experience with your brand.


5. Do you foresee any emerging e-commerce trends related to customer support in 2022?

We assume that tools based on Artificial intelligence will be in demand. Provision of 24/7 omnichannel customer support will be a priority, and mobile experience is no exception. Despite the popularity of AI tools, the hyper-personalized customer experience will remain as important as ever. Additionally, I think resolution bots should be a must for every eCommerce business. They’ll become one of the most important marketing tools.

Dhananjaya Nair @ Glood.ai

Dhananjaya Nair

Sales & Partnerships Manager @ Glood.ai

1. What are some of your best practices on building and maintaining strong customer relationships?

The ability to please your customers through improved customer experience leads to more user engagement and, as a result, higher customer satisfaction and business success. We at Glood.AI, understand our customers and aim to give the best experience possible using AI/ML. You also have stronger customer relations when you provide your customers with exactly what they need. This requires you to understand who they are, what they need, and what their pain points are. We, as part of our customer service experience, offer solutions tailored specifically to our customers and their requirements, thus, improving customer relations and offering a complete customer experience.

2. How should eCommerce managers prepare their customer support for the busy holiday/sales seasons?

Anticipate demand during the holidays and if required, scale your customer support, while maintaining high-quality support. Ensure representatives are available on your website if consumers run into an issue while shopping. Foresee all the possibilities a customer might need help with and make use of automation systems to keep customers informed of any delays that may occur.

With the frenzy that comes with the holidays, build provisions for expedited stockouts, shipping services and guarantee returns that are as simple as possible to support customers and especially those in last-minute shopping distress.

3. In terms of customer support, what do you believe are the most important app integrations for any Shopify Store and what impact do they have on the business?

Different customers have different support needs. It’s important to choose a solution that unifies your support operation, customer conversations and information across all channels, so you can meet customers where they are and answer questions quickly without having to hire an army of support representatives.

Intercom

Organizations that used chatbots have saved an average of $300,000. Leveraging chat tools like Intercom on a store’s website enables a business to offer support around the clock, helps save on staffing costs and offset the loss of high churn. Intercom can improve the overall customer experience and facilitate improved relationships, resulting in faster growth.

Gorgias

With Gorgias, you can expect centralized interactions in addition to giving agents all the context they need to save time switching between tools and faster response time by automating repetitive support queries. This helps to engage with customers on any channel and is even as thorough as being able to respond to every post, comment or ad, increasing their sales and ad effectiveness by the equivalent of a 5% increase in ad-spend.

4. What are some of the main challenges Shopify merchants are facing when it comes to customer support?

Customer service promises exciting capabilities, but they come with their fair share of hindrances. To help your team exceed expectations, the following are common challenges you need to be mindful of:

  • Language can be a barrier when tending to customers overseas, making it harder for your support team to efficiently resolve issues.
  • While adopting an omnichannel strategy is important, ensuring effective support across multiple channels at the same time is difficult. You need to make certain you are managing all channels efficiently at all times as it is a massive differentiator.
  • A high volume of inquiries can lead to an overburdened support team and wasted conversion opportunities.
5. Do you foresee any emerging e-commerce trends related to customer support in 2022?

With the changes in consumer behaviour, we have more and more people becoming self-sufficient. This also applies to customer support, where consumers prefer self-serving tools when visiting a website. This can be in the form of FAQs, helpdesks or virtual assistants. However, implementing this change requires merchants to ensure resources are updated periodically and addresses all possible issues.

As per estimates, there are 1.4 billion people across the world using chatbots today. Hence businesses should focus on providing the best shopping experience to global consumers through their brands' unique chatbot. Businesses should ensure to embed high-quality scripts in their chatbots and not cause the customer to go in loops with repetitive answers by bots.

Additionally, social media has been gaining traction in providing online customer support. It is no longer only a means of creating brand awareness and promotions. It is important to connect and engage with customers too.

The key takeaway would be to deliver customer service more proactively rather than reacting, tailoring services to ensure your customers reach their goals. Also, the realm of customer service management is constantly changing, therefore, ensure your investments in it evolves too.

Talat Karataş @ Prisync

Talat Karataş
Customer Success Manager @ Prisync
1. What are some of your best practices on building and maintaining strong customer relationships?

Building and maintaining strong customer relationships is the key to success for a business. Firstly, you need to build good communication with your customers and to understand their needs and concerns about your business. It is hard to build strong relationships with your customers through online services because you cannot meet them physically. However,It is so crucial to make a connection with them to increase their loyalty.

Then, you need to solve their problems as soon as possible. To do this, you need to use sufficient customer service and organize your customers’ requests to solve problems.

Another practice to build strong relationships is for building good communication. They need to feel that we care about their concerns.  Milestone calls are really life-saving to build a strong relationship with your customers. It provides to keep periodically communication with new customers and it helps to increase their loyalty.


2. How should eCommerce managers prepare their customer support for the busy holiday/sales seasons?

Responding to customer questions as soon as possible is crucial for a business. Solving their question with quick answers increases customer loyalty and makes them valued. Another important thing that eCommerce managers should care about is to make their customers special.  They don't want to change their solution when they feel that they are important to us. To make your customers feel valued, we need to respond to their inquiries right away even on busy days or holidays.

Responding to your customers on busy days/holidays has some challenges. However, if eCommerce managers benefit from chatbots, it will help their businesses to send quick responses. If you train your chatbot effectively with the most askable questions, then the chatbot can help you as much as it can. Moreover, you can make a shift system in the customer success team therefore, your customers also get answers on holidays.

3. In terms of customer support, what do you believe are the most important app integrations for any Shopify Store and what impact do they have on the business?

In customer support, the important thing is the benefit from technological assistance. Using A. I. Chatbot helps to provide time management of the customer success and quick knowledge to your customers. If you train your chatbot with encountering problems, then, you can help your customers with your chatbot.

Another important thing is considering having descriptive service guidelines on your service page. As we all know, Shopify stores are very familiar with technology and if they present descriptive information on the help desk page, then It can decrease the customer success team’s work.

Additionally, 24/7 customer service and using virtual assistance can also provide quick and helpful information to solve customers’ problems.


4. What are some of the main challenges Shopify merchants are facing when it comes to customer support?  

One of the main challenges of Shopify merchants is too have many customers. As a result of this, they can have many customers’ problems. They can enlarge their customer success team according to their customers’ needs to solve this problem

Another challenge that Shopify Merchants can face is that their customers think that they don't get great value from their products. To eliminate this belief, they should build strong relationships with their customers, they should be sure that their customers use their service properly. Their customers should know your products’ advantages so their customers can utilize their products consciously.

Bad time management in customer support can also be a big problem for Shopify merchants. They should solve their customers' problems as soon as possible. To solve this problem they can benefit from CRM tools and they can work coordinately with other teams in the company. Therefore, they can improve their products according to their customer's feedback.


5. Do you foresee any emerging eCommerce trends related to customer support in 2022?

In 2022, customer support will be more important than ever in eCommerce. E-commerce grows faster and as a result of this fact, customers tend to do shopping from different eCommerce platforms. Therefore, in 2022, flexibility and differentiation of customer support platforms will be very crucial too surviving this competitive world.

Using AI technologies in customer support will be increased and AI technologies will provide correct and quick data. Therefore AI technologies will have a great place in customer support in 2022, as well.

Another trend that we foresee for 2022 customer support is creating support videos. People want to see how they can solve their problems as fast as possible. If we create support videos for faced problems, then we can save both time and money and our customers will also be happy to solve their problems quickly.

Marina Tsakiri
Content Editor @ Pandectes
1. What are some of your best practices on building and maintaining strong customer relationships?

For long-term business success, it's critical to cultivate and maintain good client connections. At Pandectes this was our priority when we started working for our GDPR solution for Shopify and still drives us to success. In fact, we don't consider our engagement with a merchant/client to be a customer relationship exactly, but rather a true partnership because they trust us to manage and provide compliance to their stores.

To accomplish this, we focus on communication first. This means that anytime we get a support ticket either by email or chat we work closely with the client to develop value statements that align with their goal which is the successful use of our services. We are available for communication because our client's success and satisfaction are of importance. Treating them as an individual is also important. While the communication takes place in a professional manner, we try to make it clear that we see them as a person which helps a lot.

When communication cannot do all the job to support a client, then sharing our knowledge comes to cover any missing information. We provide a solution about GDPR and other data privacy laws but in the background, our services are complex and require technical expertise to understand more details. If the client asks for more information and more details than we take the opportunity to share information with them that will help them further on what we do, why we do it, and how we do it. This will help them feel knowledgeable and in-the-loop.

Of course, each client has different needs and goals and this is something that we take into account when we support them. We first try to understand our clients and define if they need help with what we offer or if they have an issue with our service or even if they have new requests from our services. All of them are very important to be clear in the beginning because this affects their satisfaction and the final result of the support. The ability to understand your client's needs or issues will help to build a relationship of trust and mutual respect.

2. How should eCommerce managers prepare their customer support for the busy holiday/sales seasons?

Customer support is the way eCommerce businesses provide assistance to customers with everything from making online purchase decisions to resolving issues and this can be done by creating a seamless customer experience across channels and platforms. Busy holidays or sales seasons make this process even harder. Exceptional customer service is the one true defining factor for a business to excel. Better customer experiences ensure better brand perception in the market.

During such periods more people are entering an eCommerce business and the impact is larger. The influx of customers during these weeks means more conversations mentioning the brand would erupt among their customers which is in fact the target audience. Having so much traffic on the eCommerce website means that customers can make or break the business deal. In other words, how the business serves its customers would stand out from the rest. So in the end the more people talk, the more noise there is in the market.

Managers should be sure to provide a platform available with 24/7 support. The traffic may be high so he will need to provide support with the same consistency. This means that they have to allocate resources to make this happen. At the same time, they need to make information prominent and easy to find. Having high traffic doesn't mean that they will have to answer all kinds of questions. That's why they will need to be prepared to have some updated information on their website about contact and order-related questions.

3. In terms of customer support, what do you believe are the most important app integrations for any Shopify Store, and what impact do they have on the business?

First of all, any Shopify Store needs to provide trust for any new and existing customer. This is very important when it comes to personal data and user information. Shopify Store relies on apps which means that they add a lot of extra functionality that sometimes is not clear to merchants and their customers. This is where a Data Compliance app can take over and with the proper setup to provide this trust to the visitor and to the merchant as well. For us, GDPR Compliance and Compliance with other Data Privacy laws is the first priority that Shopify Stores should have. Our GDPR Compliance Center solution provides such a solution with a complete set of tools to cover any need and preference. It integrates with Shopify Consent API, Google Consent Mode, Facebook Data Processing Options, and other services as well.

4. What are some of the main challenges Shopify merchants are facing when it comes to customer support?

An online store caters to a large variety of customers. Each one of them is different and has different expectations in terms of product and service. Understanding customer expectations is the number one challenge they have to face. They need to put real effort into understanding what a customer expects from the business. The best way to do this is to be in close communication with the customer and understand their concerns. This may require the use of different channels of communication.

Another challenge is when the customer demands something that merchants cannot do. This means that they have to check if they can meet customers' needs or not. If they can, then they should evaluate the cost of it in terms of resources, time, and money and of course, they need to weigh it against the amount the customer is going to pay them. If they cannot, they need to politely say no to the customer and explain honestly that this is not possible.

5. Do you foresee any emerging e-commerce trends related to customer support in 2022?

As various pandemic-related business restrictions that prevented in-person activities crept across the world’s regions, businesses turned to the pandemic-proof e-commerce sales channels for basic survival. This turned the e-commerce field to become even more attractive both for the business side as well the customer side. As a consequence new trends are coming ups with first and foremost chatbots. Chatbots aren’t exactly new, but they are becoming more important. Chatbots are becoming smarter and more sophisticated. These days, chatbots can help your customers in various ways.

One of the top customer service trends for 2022 will be the implementation of omni-channel. Omni-channel means that customer service is accessible through multiple platforms, such as email, chat, and phone. Businesses are able to interact with their customers wherever they prefer. This also includes customer segmentation for the preferable channel to provide support as well as focus on traditional customers that still trust the email communication.

Concluding Remarks:

There is a world of possibilities for the customer centric business models, these are just a few examples of how we you can take 2022 by storm and really bring your business to life. We all understand the importance of keeping a strong relationship with your customers and now you should have the proper orientation necessary to stand out.