An estimated $4.8 trillion dollars will be spent online by 2.1 billion shoppers by 2021. Every dollar and every shopper offers e-commerce businesses an opportunity to win over customers for life. But how do you stand out above the crowd?

To differentiate, you may think about adding more products or reducing prices. But there’s a better way to outshine the competition: by providing top-notch e-commerce customer service. Research shows that customers who receive a great customer experience are 54% more likely to buy from a company, compared to those who received a poor experience. If you want to grow your e-commerce business, you need to deliver consistently great customer service. Let’s look at five strategies to deliver an e-commerce customer experience that will supercharge your brand growth.

How to use e-commerce customer service to build customer relationships

To understand how customer service can impact e-commerce brands, we asked five experts to share their experiences on how great customer service drives growth for them.

1. Harness the power of customer reviews

Laura Marciano, Head of Customer Experience at The DB Method, says that implementing Yotpo for customer reviews had the biggest impact on their growth. Not only are public customer reviews exceptionally powerful social proof, they also provide the customer service team with more insight into the customer journey. Marciano explains that The DB Method’s negative reviews are a huge source of learning: “Implementing Yotpo has influenced many of our shipping flows and customer experiences. For example, one of our customers was unhappy with the notifications during the order process (i.e., they didn’t realize their package was going to be delivered, didn’t have tracking, etc). Because of this feedback we changed our email provider to Klaviyo, which totally improved the overall experience for customers who are waiting on their shipment.”

The DB Method Dashboard

To harness the full power of customer reviews, it’s important to make it easy for customers to leave their feedback. It’s also essential to actually read the feedback customers provide in reviews and respond to them if possible. Marciano shares how they’ve implemented this in their workflows by adding a link in their welcome emails and encouraging happy customers to submit reviews. “We’ve had a lot of success turning bad reviews to good reviews which has been fantastic for our overall growth as a brand.”

2. Have a multi-channel strategy

We all have preferences, whether they’re about the food we eat, the places we shop, or the ways we communicate. Some customers still want to call, others are interested in chat or email, and some simply want to send you a tweet.

No matter what the case may be, you need to be ready to serve the customer where they are.

A Dimensional Research study found that 28% of customers say being able to contact a company on their preferred channel is part of a good customer experience.

Furthermore, the same study found that 27% of customers said not being able to contact a company on their preferred channel contributed to a poor customer experience. Offering multiple ways to contact you reduces the effort customers need to put into doing business with you. For example, for most people, picking up a mobile phone and messaging a business over Facebook or Instagram is easier than calling a 1-800 number, and it just feels more conversational.

Sephora uses modern customer service channels to provide on-the-go service to their shoppers. In addition to the traditional email notifications, customers can also sign up for shipping notifications or start a new conversation with their customer service team through Facebook Messenger.

Sephora chat

You’ll also want to invest in e-commerce customer service software that helps manage incoming requests across all of your channels. Having a multichannel strategy doesn’t always mean investing in more tools or spending more time on customer interactions, though. With all your conversations in one inbox, you can serve your customers wherever they are, while staying in the same place yourself.

3. Make customer service as easy as possible

Customers want to shop at businesses that make things easy for them. Antonio King, Director of Experience at Shinesty, has built this principle into every piece of the Shinesty customer service strategy. “We’ve focused on customer effort rather than customer satisfaction, as a low effort experience is a much bigger indication of customer loyalty,” says King.

Through measuring customer effort alongside customer lifetime value, King has been able to showcase the impact of great customer service on their bottom line. “Being able to associate customer retention directly with customer support has been an eye-opening move for everyone in our organization to the extent of identifying ways, across the org, to continue to minimize the customer’s effort.”

So how do you minimize customer effort? Investing in self-service options is one of the most impactful ways to make your customers’ lives easier. A SOTI survey revealed that:

73% of U.S. consumers were in favor of self-service technologies to improve the retail shopping experience as opposed to speaking to a company representative.

Using a live chat tool like Beacon, which is designed to surface instant answers, can help grow your business in three ways:

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Say farewell to overwhelming chat volume, staffing nightmares, and frustrated customers abandoned in chat windows. Ready to make your website more helpful?

4. Provide personalized, expert advice

Rachel Thaw, Customer Experience and Logistics Manager at Andie Swim, knows that e-commerce customer service is more than just tracking packages and processing refunds. To provide the best experience, agents need to offer guidance to help customers make the right purchases for them.

“Often times, our customers look to us to be “experts” when it comes to swimwear, fit, and all things Andie. And we are! At Andie Swim, I can tell women who love playing volleyball in swimwear what style works best for me when I’m running on the beach. We’re all more alike than not in most cases, and putting that front and center always leads to a memorable (i.e., reputation-building) customer service experience.”

This kind of personalized, knowledgeable service is what sets Andie Swim apart from other online retailers.

Today’s world is about treating each person as an individual, and your e-commerce customer service should be no different. According to Segment’s State of Personalization Report, 71% of respondents are frustrated by impersonal experiences. Providing thorough answers to a customer’s specific questions is a great starting point to remedy that. Using the context of a customer’s previous experiences to offer personalized suggestions is even better.

However, just like all humans, customer service agents don’t know everything. And that’s OK! Thaw says,

“In the same way that it is understandably difficult for a customer to share her measurements, swimwear preferences, and sometimes body insecurities, we meet our customers in that vulnerable space when we sometimes mess up, too.” She shares how they are honest but capable at Andie: “Showing our customers that we don’t always have all the answers but that we’re going to work until we do is infinitely better than pretending than being too afraid to admit your mistakes or your ignorance.”

5. Align your service with your brand values

Tracey Wallace, Founder of Doris Sleep and all-around e-commerce expert, knows a few things about growing a brand. For her, the most important thing to remember is to develop brand values and stick to them — even when it’s inconvenient. “The biggest thing I’ve done from a customer service standpoint is getting really specific about our mission and values. Our pillows are made from 100% recycled plastic bottle fiber all sourced from the U.S.”

However, there was a downside: “But until recently, our pillows needed to be shipped in plastic (ugh!) to keep them dry and clean.”

Recently, through conversations with customers, they’ve found a new packaging company that can provide recycled plastic poly bags big enough for non-compressed pillows –– and they’ll be moving all their packaging to those.

For your brand, sticking to your brand values might mean being generous with refund policies, spending time to create educational content, or bringing more fun into your customer service conversations. Branding isn’t just a marketing exercise. It needs to translate into every interaction with your customers.

Exceptional customer service is your competitive differentiator

More and more dollars are being spent online, and you don’t want to miss out. With the boom in e-commerce, however, comes the boom in competition. Investing in strong customer service by implementing the practices above will put you on track to stand out from the rest.

Sarah Chambers

Sarah Chambers

Sarah is a customer service consultant and the founder of Supported Content. When she’s not arguing about customer service, she’s usually outdoors rock climbing or snowboarding. Follow her on Twitter to keep up with her adventures.