While acquiring new shoppers is essential, keeping your existing customers is just as — sometimes even more — important. In addition to being easier to convert, repeat customers are much more profitable.

One of the best things you can do to keep your current customers is to serve and support them in the best possible ways.

The Horatio team (L-R): Co-founder & COO Alex Ross, co-founder & CEO Jose Herrera and co-founder & CFO Jared Karson

Here to discuss how you can do just that is Jose Herrera, the CEO and co-founder of Horatio — pictured above in the middle.

Horatio is a tech-enabled customer experience outsourcing company that works with ecommerce, direct-to-consumer, and subscription-based businesses.

The company provides bilingual and highly skilled agents that interact with their clients' customers. One thing that sets Horatio apart is they offer dedicated teams who learn the brand's internal culture and mirror their clients' values.

We chatted with Jose about the latest trends in ecommerce customer support, as well as the do’s and don’ts the brands should implement.

Let’s dive in!

When asked about the customer service trends that he’s seeing in the ecommerce industry, Jose mentioned the increasing adoption of integrated technologies.

"The first trend that we're seeing is that most ecommerce companies are using an integrated help desk to handle all of their customer channels in one platform," he says.

Jose also mentions that more and more companies are leveraging technologies to serve customers across different channels.

“The most important channel nowadays that we're seeing is SMS. I think typically most companies leverage email and phone to communicate with their customers, but we are starting to see a trend with most ecommerce companies leveraging technologies like Attentive or PostScript to provide personalized messages that can actually help with retention and upselling for their clients."

The biggest mistakes retailers make with customer service, and what to do instead

The next part of our conversation was about the do’s and don’ts of ecommerce customer service. Below are some of the top mistakes Jose sees in the space, and his advice on what brands should do instead.

Being slow to respond ❌

"I think the biggest mistake is not getting back to customers quickly," remarks Jose. "Because of the acceleration of ecommerce due to the pandemic, a lot of retailers were not prepared to handle the sheer volume of inquiries that they received this year. And I think that it hurts a brand when you don't get back to a customer within a reasonable amount of time."

Often, this boils down to not having enough resources to handle customer support. "It's a huge mistake when you're not staffed appropriately for the channels that you're servicing. And I think it actually hurts for you to have a tool like live chat if you're not leveraging it to its maximum potential and responding back to customers in a timely manner.”

What to do instead ✅

Firstly, if you want to speed up your response time, you need to have the staff to do so. It’s best to equip your business with a dedicated team who can look after your customers.

From there, set certain benchmarks and goals for your response times, and strive to hit them. Jose recommends the following benchmarks.

  • Live chat: 1 to 2 minutes
  • Email: 12 to 24 hours
  • Social media: 4 hours
  • SMS: Instant, though your initial response can be an automated message telling users that you’re working on their issue.

Using negative words ❌

The use of negative words such as “unfortunately” is another big no-no in ecommerce customer service. According to Jose, these words trigger customers to feel that you're not being helpful.

What to do instead ✅

Jose encourages retailers to switch up their customer service vocabulary and focus on more positive words.

As an example, let's say a customer is calling about a particular item that  is out of stock.

Instead of saying:

“Unfortunately, we don’t have that in stock.”

Why not say:

“While that product isn't available at the moment, I'm happy to recommend another item that may also work.”

Doing so spins the situation in a more positive direction, and improves the experience of your customers.

Relying too much on automation and canned responses ❌

While tools like automated responses and artificial intelligence can certainly be helpful, Jose cautions retailers to not rely on these technologies too much.

“Don’t rely a lot on automated canned responses, as that can really hurt your brand. You have to be as personalized as possible when you're delivering a response to your customer and when you're providing a solution to them. I think trying to personalize your messages in a world where AI is dominating customer support, is critical for the success of a brand.”

What to do instead ✅

One of the best ways to offer superb and personalized customer support is to have a dedicated team. Whether you’re handling customer service in-house or outsourcing it to a provider like Horatio, you need to ensure that the people looking after your customers don’t have other tasks or clients on their plates.

“If you're an ecommerce subscription business or a retail brand, you definitely need a dedicated team. Sharing resources or using a partner that shares resources leads to a poor customer experience because the agents aren’t fully immersed in the brand’s culture and values.”

Another way to ensure that your customer support is personalized is to factor in customer lifetime value. According to Jose, this "gives the agent a lot of insight as to how valuable this customer is for the company."

He continues, “If it's a customer who shops on a regular basis and is spending a decent amount of money… Or, if they've never canceled, and they had an issue that is typically out of your traditional policy, I think being flexible and nimble with those customers is critical in order to retain them and actually have them continue to recommend your product.”

Viewing customer service teams as just a call center ❌

The final mistake is viewing the customer support department as just a call center. If you think that customer service agents are just there to answer questions or address issues, you could be missing out on opportunities to drive sales and customer loyalty.

What to do instead

Rather than seeing the customer service department as a call center, shift your mindset to view it as a revenue-generating tool, says Jose.

"We work with a lot of our clients on ways in which you can —number one — retain customers. Secondly, we help them upsell and leverage your loyal customers to become brand ambassadors. That’s because at the end of the day, this is cheaper than actually investing in ads and marketing.”

He adds, “When you focus on keeping your customers happy, they'll come back for more, and that will in turn translate into more revenue-generating opportunities for your brand and your business.”