staffing

Staffing for E-commerce Customer Support

Written by on September 12, 2018

Every e-commerce business needs a great support team in order to succeed. No matter how well you design and manage your site, shoppers are bound to have questions and concerns. The way your team handles these can be the determining factor in whether those shoppers leave forever or become loyal customers for your business. This means that staffing for e-commerce customer support isn’t a task to take lightly.

Keep reading to learn why the staffing process is so important and how you can build an excellent team for your e-commerce store.

Why Hiring a Great E-commerce Customer Support Team Matters

As an e-commerce store owner, you have plenty of tasks to handle. Your goal, then, is likely to accomplish each one as quickly and efficiently as possible. But considering how big of an impact your customer support can have on your overall success, staffing this team isn’t a process to rush.

The members of this team will often be the first to interact with potential customers, so they need to be able to make a great impression and guide shoppers through the process of making a purchase. And possibly even more importantly, this team is who your customers will turn to when they run into issues. You need to be confident that they can not only address these issues appropriately but also make sure that your customers are fully satisfied with the resolution.

And this is a job that can be particularly challenging within the e-commerce industry. In fact, e-commerce companies receive five times the conversational volume of service-based businesses every month.

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This means that your team needs to have the ability to handle a high volume of inquiries while ensuring that they fully address each customer’s needs. While having an adequate number of employees plays a role in reaching this goal, you’ll also want to make sure that each member of your team is capable of efficiently addressing customer needs. Then, you can work toward structuring your team in a way that maximizes each employee’s ability to help shoppers and provide great service.

5 Tips for Building a Strong Ecommerce Customer Support Team

Whether you’re looking for your first customer service hire or working on improving your current team’s efficiency, the following five tips can help you build a strong customer support team.  

1. Look for Empathy

In order to succeed in their roles, your customer support team needs to care about your customers. And while this may seem like a universal ability, it’s one that can quickly wear thin after handling dozens of issues and concerns on a daily basis.

So as you interview potential support hires, look for people who are naturally empathetic. Though it’s easy to train a team on the details of your products or the technical aspects of your support software, empathy is a trait that you simply can’t teach. And, to be clear, this doesn’t just mean looking for patient people with above-average listening skills.

The ideal employee is one who is willing to not only listen to a customer’s concerns but to also imagine themselves in that customer’s position. They’ll make sure that each of your customers feels understood, and your customers will know that your company is taking their concerns seriously. This way, even if their issue can’t be resolved immediately, they’ll be confident that it will be handled with the appropriate level of care.

2. Consider Building a Remote Team

While building your support team, you’ll also need to consider logistics. This is especially true if the rest of your staff is in an office. If you’re accustomed to having your entire team on-site, you might not give a second thought to a different setup. But thanks to advancements in customer support software, this is no longer a necessity.

In fact, a remote support team can actually be beneficial to your customers. That’s because it makes it much easier to provide 24/7 support — which many of today’s consumers have now come to expect.

As an online retailer, your customers are likely to spread across several time zones. And while some of them might contact you for help during standard, 9-5 business hours, others will want assistance during the evenings and weekends. Allowing your team to work from their homes and different locations makes offering this much easier. So if you haven’t yet considered the possibility of a remote support team, this is an option that could be beneficial to explore while building your team.

Even if you choose to hire a core staff of on-site employees, building an extended remote team can be a great way to offer your customers support whenever they want it. It will also ensure that you never miss a sale simply because no one is available to answer a shopper’s question.

3. Hire Self-Motivated Employees

The role of a customer support agent can sometimes be a difficult one. Your team will be responsible for handling all of the inquiries you receive on a daily basis. While some of these inquiries may be straightforward questions, not all of them will be easy to address. In fact, a solid portion of them will be from frustrated or otherwise dissatisfied customers in the case of e-commerce businesses. As a result, keeping support agents engaged can be challenging.

And while you can certainly take steps to incentivize great performance, it’s in your best interest to hire employees who are intrinsically self-motivated. This is especially important if you’re building a remote customer support team since checking in with individual employees can be more challenging if you’re scattered across different locations and time zones.

It is better to look for support professionals who are comfortable setting their own goals and working toward them accordingly, and you’ll be much better equipped to provide the level of support your customers want.

4. Make Sure Your Team is Familiar with Your Products

As you find and hire new employees for your support team, you need to equip them to help your customers as efficiently as possible. Beyond training each employee on any support software or tools you use, this means making sure that they’re familiar with your store’s product line. After all, as the first line of contact for your shoppers, they’ll likely receive a lot of inquiries about product features and specifications.

And depending on the type of products you sell, they may also field questions from current customers about how to use and resolve issues with the items they’ve already purchased. For example, Apple’s customer support team received so many of these inquiries that the company created a separate Apple Support Twitter account for dealing with the technical questions.

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In these cases, the support team is required to have a good knowledge of every product. Giving your team the opportunity to use your products for themselves and training them on solutions for common issues can go a long way in improving the service they provide. This way, they’ll be able to answer questions based on their personal experience instead of fully relying on product manuals and guides.

5. Encourage Communication

Once you’ve built a support team for your business, your employees will spend the bulk of their time interacting with and helping your customers. But it’s important to give your team opportunities to communicate with one another on a regular basis. This is particularly true if any of them work remotely.

Give your employees the chance to trade stories about their experiences with customers (both positive and negative) and to share any lessons they’ve learned from those experiences. This not only helps your team learn from one another’s mistakes and successes but it can also foster a sense of teamwork and camaraderie. Plus, if any of your employees are facing a challenging week, having open lines of communication with the rest of the team can serve as a positive break from a string of unhappy customers.

Conclusion

Excellent customer support is an essential part of any e-commerce store, and your staff can make or break your ability to deliver it. So as you work on staffing your customer support team, you should aim to hire empathetic, self-motivated employees. Then, you’ll need to make sure that your team is structured in a way that enables them to succeed.

With this approach, you can be confident that your support team is made up of skilled individuals and that they have all the tools they need to provide the level of support your customers want.

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