Building a robust and loyal customer base is no easy feat. Ecommerce business owners find success not only by providing a terrific product, but by adding a personal touch to their coveted customer relationships. Handwritten thank you notes, special offers, and consistently empathetic customer service have been known to delight customers and keep them coming back for more.
So it’s no wonder that business owners may be reluctant about outsourcing customer service (and there are pros and cons to it, for sure). However, it’s hard to scale this kind of high-touch customer service as your business grows.
All businesses, particularly high-growth ecommerce startups, must come to a reckoning: At what point does it make the most sense to outsource customer service?
As we move full steam ahead into the holiday season, let’s look at the landscape of outsourcing customer support.
Why customer service is integral to ecommerce
Customer service is the backbone of any ecommerce shop, because customers rely on it for questions, concerns, and overall uncertainties. Having a reliable customer service team (or team member) makes everything run smoother for your ecommerce shop. In a sea of competitors, one of the best ways to segment yourself out from the others is providing a truly professional customer service experience.
5 types of customer support you can offer
Ecommerce brands can offer a variety of support options for customers that need to get in touch. Here are a few of the most common methods.
Call center support
Call centers can help with phone customer support. These support agents need to speak the native language of your customer fluently.
In recent times, call centers have also evolved to contact centers that offer service solutions going beyond phone customer support. These include covering other digital channels such as text messages and social media.
Live chat support
Live chat support is done over a site-hosted chat interface. You can even automate parts of chat using a chatbot, which is a computer program that simulates conversation through AI before the shopper ever speaks to a human.
One of the most standard forms of support, email can be slower as it’s queued but it’s very effective.
Social media support
Reaching out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram also is a full time job for many active companies.
SMS or texting customers in real-time is a great way to address their concerns or questions before purchasing, useful especially for millennials or Gen Zers.
What does it mean to outsource customer service?
Outsourcing customer service is having a third-party handle managing inquiries and responding to customers who have questions, need help, or are reaching out to your brand.
How outsourcing ecommerce fulfillment saves time and money
Outsourcing your fulfillment can take a huge weight off your shoulders. If you’re running your business out of your closet, spare bedroom, or trunk of your car, inventory management can be daunting. When you outsource your ecommerce fulfillment, you not only save hours every week of not having to store, sort, pack, and ship, you also get cost savings like shipping and packaging discounts (if you’re with a 3PL like ShipBob).
Note: ShipBob even integrates directly with the leading ecommerce customer service and helpdesk platform, Gorgias, allowing brands to have seamless customer support and shipping data in one place to streamline any post-purchase order inquiries and actions.
Signs you should outsource customer service
Sometimes, it goes unnoticed how much you need to step up customer service. Outsourcing is one of the many ways ecommerce shop owners keep customers (and themselves) happy and stress-free. If you’re feeling like customer service is taking away a big chunk of your time, it may be a sign outsource!
1. You’re behind on your to-do list (and sleep)
CEOs and their teams often take on the customer call, email, and chat load themselves in order to save money, deliver a personal customer experience, or learn from the conversation to help drive sales. This approach is scrappy yet unsustainable. As more customers flood your e-commerce site, the more thinly stretched your team becomes across departments and locations, use team meetings to remain connected. The moment customer inquiry volume gets in the way of growing the business, it’s time to consider outsourcing.
2. You need to get more competitive
Today’s ecommerce customers crave a 24/7/365 on-demand shopping experience. In fact, 58% of consumers shop online instead of in-store because they want to shop 24/7. A third-party customer support partner can provide after hours and weekend customer support for basic inquiries, such as questions around sizing, shipping, and returns. This can help increase your customer satisfaction, give your business the competitive edge, and help convert those middle-of-the-night inquiries into sales — without any lost sleep.
3. The holidays are coming
It goes without saying: Holidays are bonkers for ecommerce businesses. There’s no better time to bring on an outsourced customer support team than during the ramp up to Black Friday… and Small Business Saturday… and Cyber Monday… and Hanukkah… and Christmas.
4. The holidays are over
Ecommerce customer traffic doesn’t just fade away like New Year’s Eve confetti. In fact, January can be one of the busiest months for a small business. Customers may want to return a gift they’ve received or given, which demands a ton of staff time and can stifle new business goals for Q1. And if your business sells a self-improvement product that aligns with everyone’s New Year’s resolutions? Forget about it.
5. You need to scale your business
If you’re finding trouble in scaling your business due to the amount of time it takes to respond to customers, outsourcing may be the appropriate step to take at this stage.
How to find an outsourced customer service team
Handing over something as important as customer service to anyone outside of your organization can seem daunting. Here are the three main options you have.
Call centers and international service providers are plentiful and often very inexpensive. However, language barriers can be an issue.
Hire remote, local workers
Hire local workers in the US (or your home country) to work remotely. Remote support workers are usually far cheaper than in-house support workers. Just make sure they are trained on your processes.
Set up automated chatbots
You can minimize your reliance on physical workers by implementing AI chatbots to answer common questions. Companies such as Intercom offer these types of chatbots.
Work with an ecommerce customer support solution
Companies like Simplr provide high-quality customer service for premium brands. Their US-based, on-demand 24/7 customer service outsourcing solution can be up and running within hours.
Is it time to outsource?
Sometimes entrepreneurs just need to hear it: Outsourcing customer service is okay! It’s possible to do so without jeopardizing the brand and voice you’ve cultivated after all these years. Take the leap and enjoy the lighter ticket load.