Master the 5 Channels of Customer Support to Increase Store Loyalty

There’s so much going on behind the scenes of an e-commerce store that customer support is often forgotten. Most e-commerce business are so focused on acquiring new customers that they tend to ignore existing customers. However, it costs 7 times as much to attract a new customer than it does to retain existing customers. And guess what, 89% of those existing customers will stop shopping at your store if they experience poor customer service!

What’s more, customers are twice as likely to talk about a bad experience at your store than they are to talk about a good experience. And every poor review on your site means another potential customer getting scared away. While acquiring new customers is always important, it’s just plain stupid to do so at the cost of existing customers.

In fact, these days customers just expect fantastic service, and if you can’t provide that you’ll lose them to your competitors forever. Over 80% of customers who require service want a resolution, or at least a response, within the first half hour. They also expect a consistent experience regardless of how they contact you and when. As more businesses catch on it’s starting to become standard operational procedure for any respectable business.

So how do small e-commerce stores compete with that? Resolving issues within half an hour sounds like you need a small army of service reps manning the stations. And providing a consistent experience sounds like you need a dedicated rep for each customer.

Fortunately, with the tools and technology of today, even your growing store can provide seamless, high-quality customer service and, in some cases, without human intervention. We’ll walk through the 5 channels through which customers will reach you with support issues, and the tools you need to master each channel.


A phone call is often the quickest way customers can reach you. Most often, customers will call when they have a general enquiry about the product and they can’t find the answer on your site. Of course, you’ll need someone to answer calls and that person will have to be knowledgable about the products you carry.

Even if customers don’t call, putting up a phone number on your site is standard practice. It just signals to the customer that you’re reachable. You may not even need to provide 24 hour phone support. People understand if you can only take calls during business hours.

With tools like Grasshopper setting up a dedicated number for your store is a breeze. You can generate a toll free 1800 number so that customers don’t need to pay to call you. The best part is, you can make it extremely professional with custom greetings and an automated concierge service that most big companies have. You can create extensions and forward all calls to your cellphone, which means you can answer calls yourself without needing to hire someone to sit at the phone all day!

Another option is to place a click to call button on your site. This removes the need for the customer to dial you, or the need for you to create a support number. Two softwares that allow you to add this button to your site are Agendize and Twilio. All the customer has to do is click the button and enter his or her number. The software then automatically calls the customer back and connects your phone to the call.


If you must have only one channel through which you support customers, it’s got to be e-mail. Whether it’s for enquiries, complaints, providing feedback, or just saying hi, e-mail is one of the most frequent methods people use to contact you.

The problem is people still expect a response pretty quickly via e-mail, so don’t ignore them. It’s easy to put off e-mails until later, but if you respond fast you’ll impress customers.

For a one-man shop with the odd support e-mail you can do fine using your regular mail client or Gmail. However, as you grow and receive more e-mails, some from the same people, you’ll start running into a few more problems. The first is keeping track of which e-mails have been answered and when. If you have multiple support reps, you might have two different people replying to the same mail.

Then you need to provide a consistent experience to the customer. That means the same service rep needs to respond to the customer. If not, you need to keep track of previous conversations and maintain an up-to-date profile of the customer so that other reps are immediately up to speed.

With a software like Help Scout, you’ll eliminate all these problems. It allows your support team to collaborate with each other so that you know who has responded to whom and when. Service reps can tag conversations and also attach notes for other reps to look at. It also has a feature called ‘traffic cop’ to catch multiple responses to the same customer. From the customer’s point of view it feels like a dedicated service rep.

Help Scout also keeps tracks of any voicemails or calls that customers have made and syncs that in with the e-mails. With customer profiles, you’ll instantly have access to any previous interactions with the customer, as well as public informations that’s been pulled in automatically. You can integrate Help Scout with your e-commerce software, like Shopify, and it will pull in previous orders and other data. No more asking your customers questions as if they are strangers.

Finally, Help Scout integrates with your e-mail service provider, CRM and live chat software (see below), making it a powerful hub for your e-mail support. You can keep your support team small while Help Scout makes life easier for them. Get reports and insights on how your team is doing, including response times and customer satisfaction, and optimize your support for efficiency.

Live Chat

I personally think live chat is pretty awesome, as long as there’s someone on the other end of course. I get the speed of telephone without having to call, and the convenience of e-mail without having to wait for a response.

The first time I used live chat was when my Kindle broke and I wanted to get it replaced. I was in South America at the time so I didn’t want to make an international call, but I wanted a quick response. So I got on to the live chat on Amazon and told them about my problem. The reply was immediate and I had a nice time chatting with the service rep. In fact, I even got him to promise me to refund any import tax on my new Kindle.

It turns out that refunding import tax is not in Amazon’s policy but at the time neither the service rep nor I knew that. So when I went back on the chat and asked for my refund after receiving the Kindle, I was told by the new service rep that it wasn’t in their policy. Fortunately the new guy could access the entire history of my conversations with the previous guy and when he saw what was promised to me he immediately refunded me. It’s no secret that Amazon has exceptional customer support, but without a good live chat tool this could have easily turned into a support disaster.

That’s why you need a software like Olark. It integrates directly with your e-commerce platform and you can have a customizable chat box on your store in no time. Olark also pulls in data from every visitor, including things like which pages they’ve looked at on your site and what their location is. With integrations to your CRM and Help Scout, you have instant access to all customer information and previous conversations. That means you don’t have to make your customer wait while you pull up information on him or her.

Olark also has advanced filtering options so that you only chat with customers most likely to buy. This means you can pre-empt cart abandonment and, with a feature called Cartsaver, you can see what’s in their cart and upsell them. You can even control their browser and guide them through your site, in case they’re confused about where to find certain products. Like Help Scout, they too have reports and analytics available.

Social Media

Wait, what? Isn’t social media a marketing channel? What does it have to do with customer support?

Well, if you’re ignoring social media as a customer support channel, you’re falling behind. Social media is where customers interact with you, and customer support is an important part of that interaction. With social networks like Facebook and Twitter being a click away on the phone, it takes no time for customers to hop on and post a public complaint or compliment.

If you want to set yourself apart from the competition, this is where you can do it. Over 70% of customers who experience great social media service are likely to recommend your company to friends. They will also spend 20% to 40% more on your store. That’s a healthy return on your social media service investment.

But the real potential of social media is much larger than that. People mention your brand online for numerous reasons so you need to understand the sentiment behind every mention. Figure out if they want service, or they’re just sharing a story. Sometimes people don’t expect a tweet or post to be noticed, and this is where you can really shine.

Take this example of exceptional customer service that went viral. Peter Shankman, an author and entrepreneur, once tweeted, while in transit, to Morton’s Steakhouse asking them to send him a steak for when he landed at the airport. He had sent it as a joke and probably didn’t expect a response. Turns out Morton’s was keeping track and they actually sent one of their people all the way to the airport to meet Peter with a steak and fries. It may have been a one-off incident but it certainly did earn Morton’s many new customers.

So how do you go about keeping track of customers on social media? The first thing you need to do is set up automated alerts for when your brand is mentioned online. You can use the free Google Alerts tool and set up e-mail alerts for certain keywords related to your brand. 

For more advanced features use Mention. They allow you to monitor brand mentions in real time across social networks, blogs and pretty much any site. You can also sync in your social accounts and directly respond to each mention.

As you grow, and more customers talk about you online, you’ll need to organize conversations. SproutSocial has a solution for that. They provide a unified inbox that collects conversations from across various social media sites. Your team can then collaborate, assign tasks, and handle each conversation, deciding whether and how they should respond.

If your support team is separate from your social media team, you can convert conversations into tickets and forward them to a service rep. Sprout Social also tracks previous conversations with customers and integrates with your CRM, giving your service reps access to communication histories  and important customer data.

Your Site

If customers could have their problems solved without having to reach out to you first, they would do that. That’s why your site is an important channel in servicing customers. Pre-empting questions about your company or product can save you and your customers time and money.


An FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section is a must-have on any site. This is where you answer common questions like how long it takes to deliver or what your returns policy is. You really don’t want to make customers call in for simple queries like these. In fact, if customers can’t find answers to their most basic questions, they won’t bother wasting time trying to contact you. They’ll go straight to your competitors instead.

Knowledge Base

For questions that require more detailed answers, you’ll need to set up a knowledge base. The knowledge base will contain documents and videos about your products, such as usage or installation instructions.


If you sell products that require a lot of technical know-how, advanced operational or installation procedures, or are just complex in general, setting up a support forum, online community, or knowledge base is a great way to solve customer queries.

Forums and communities allow customers to get quick answers to questions related to the actual product. They can search archives for answers, or ask other members for help. This helps you reduce customer service costs while increasing customer engagement at the same time.

Let’s say you sell DLSR cameras and accessories online. There’s a bit of a learning curve involved and you certainly can’t have your support staff giving customers a crash course on photography every time they have a question about how to use a certain feature. That’s where an online forum comes in. Seasoned photographers can answer questions by new customers and amateur photographers. In return they get to build their authority online.

With these tools set up you don’t really need an army of service reps. You can dramatically improve your customer service across all channels, in turn increasing customer loyalty and engagement. As you start delighting your customers, they’ll be more than happy to refer you to their friends. With some exceptional stories like Morton’s you’ll separate yourself from the competition and become known as a brand that puts customers first.

Have you started mastering the 5 channels yet? What tools do you use?

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