What Is Good Retail Customer Service & How Best to Support Online Customers

Retail customer service is the art of helping customers through real-time assistance, problem-solving, and active engagement. Good customer service sets a business apart. Companies with a customer-centric culture are 60% more profitable than companies without.

However, the current state of retail customer service is sobering; The average UK CSAT scores are at their lowest since 2015, The average bounce rate of e-commerce stores is over 45%, and 89% of customers abandoned purchases due to poor service.

Whether e-commerce or brick-and-mortar, companies can’t leave the customer experience to chance.

What Is Retail Customer Service?

Retail customer service is like any other form of customer service. It involves a positive proactive approach to solving customer problems, in-depth product or service knowledge, and the ability to show genuine care to customers.

In this instance though, the focus is on retail – specially online retailers.

The three pillars of good retail customer service

Although retail customer service can refer to both in-person (brick-and-mortar) and online (e-commerce), the influencing factors vary. Whether up-selling, dealing with refunds, or providing information at the point of sale (POS).

Online retailers need to focus on unique areas that impact customer support, like:

  • Digital interactions through email, live chat, and social media
  • Automated assistance through self-service customer portals and AI chatbots
  • Virtual experience in ways of product/service imagery, descriptions, and reviews
  • Continuous after sales support with delivery tracking and customer satisfaction surveys

The use of specific retail customer service software and help desk tools has enabled online retailers and e-commerce stores stay competitive in crowded markets.

Use our sophisticated software comparison tool to find a retail help desk system that matches your retail customer service and support requirements.


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Why Good Retail Customer Service Matters

Improve Sales In the Long-Term and Short-Term

68% of consumers are willing to pay more for products and services from a brand with a good customer experience. 28% who rated an organisation a 9 or 10 out of 10 for customer satisfaction say they will buy again.

Higher satisfaction rates can not only command higher prices but also help to build a long-term brand. Joanna Causon, Chief Executive of The Institute of Customer Service, explains:

“Organisations that consistently earn higher levels of customer satisfaction than peers in their sector achieve better financial results, greater productivity by reducing costs associated with problems, and higher levels of trust and reputation – key sources of long-term value.” (2023 UK Customer Satisfaction Index report.)

Enhance Your Employee Recruitment and Retention

Delighting customers through retail customer service practices can also help attract and retain employees. A study found that 92% of people would consider leaving their current jobs if offered another role at a company with an excellent corporate reputation.

With recruitment costs at 15% of salary or more, a reputation for greatness could serve you, as well as customers.

Stand-out In A Crowded Marketplace

As of January 2023, there were over 300,000 listed retail businesses in the UK. Standing out through good retail customer service is essential if you don’t want to compete on cost.

The good news? Customers are actively searching for best-in-class businesses. 89% of global consumers say they check online reviews in a buying journey. 49% consider positive reviews as one of their top three purchase influences.

How to Provide Good Support to Online Customers

Step 1: Commit to a ‘Customer-First’ Ethos

“What’s the best way to build a brand for the long term? In a word: culture.” – Tony Hsieh, Founder of American online store, Zappos.

The top-rated brands for customer satisfaction don’t do it by chance. They all have a strong retail customer service ethos. As Simon Sinek once said, “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”

But what does that look like? Here are three examples of leading online approaches to retail customer service:

  • Buffer: “We believe in the “one-size-fits-one” approach. Customers might write in asking the same questions, but we avoid sending the same reply to each customer. We lean into developing a personal connection, looking for opportunities to go above and beyond for the customer, and utilising our deep product knowledge to give customers an exceptional experience”.
  • Zappos: “Employees can make decisions that lead to the best outcomes for customers”.
  • Amazon: “Employees are tasked with focusing on customers and working backwards from their needs”.

Digital Experience Is Essential for Delivering Good Retail Customer Service

Step 2: Enhance Your Digital Experience

From intuitive web design to responsive support and customer-first content, it’s essential to invest in the customer experience.

In a UK study, 35% of customers said the use of technology made them choose a particular company. Whereas 45% said poor use of technology made them avoid certain providers.

Essentially, there are three key areas to invest in:

1. Data Analysis

Delivering good customer experiences begins with a commitment to understanding the customer journey. There are many ways to capture feedback:

  • Internal team analysis and feedback
  • Heat maps
  • A/B tests
  • External surveys
  • Social media listening
  • Formal and informal customer research

2. Web Content

How can you invest in your content to beat the competition? Think about the potential bugbears of a retail customer service experience and fix them. That includes slow-loading pages, low-quality information, and poor mobile optimisation. Web content can be improved through:

  • Enhanced product information (images/guides/videos/FAQs)
  • Educational content
  • Augmented reality to show an item in their space
  • Video content/360 videos to show every angle
  • Premium photography/zoom functionality
  • Enhanced app functionality
  • A variety of payment options

3. Customer Service

  • AI: Generative AI chatbots can handle queries for simple customer questions.
  • Feedback: Integrate feedback into all areas of the customer journey, from pop-ups to post-purchase surveys.
  • Reputation management: What are people saying about you? Find out using the right tools.
  • Loyalty: Use login details to allow support teams to greet customers by name and make suggestions based on purchase history.

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Measuring the Success of Your Online Customer Support

  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Score: Measure satisfaction rates before and after customers use your product or service by asking them to score their service from 1 – 5.
  • Net Promoter Score: Gauge improvements in loyalty by asking customers how likely they are to recommend your business to others on a scale from 0 to 10. Repeat after your changes to customer service are made.
  • Customer Retention Rate: Measure the percentage of customers who stay with your business for a period (CRR).
  • Customer Lifetime Value: See if an enhanced experience has reduced abandoned baskets or improved add-on sales by calculating your CLV. (Average Purchase Value × Number of Purchases per Year × Average Customer Lifespan.)
  • Conversion Rate: Ensure you track conversions as a percentage (dividing the number of conversions by the total number of visitors and multiplying by 100.)
  • Average Transaction Value: See if a new approach to retail customer service has impacted spending patterns by dividing your total revenue by the number of transactions over a specific period. You’ll want to run this over a year to ensure seasonal peaks don’t skew the results.

Challenges Faced By Customer Support Teams

A best-in-class approach to customer experience is a business overhaul rather than a quick project. When it comes to delivering good retail customer service, there are challenges:

  • Budget: Acquiring the budget for internal and external-facing technology, website updates, funds for customer loyalty programmes/ internal reward and recognition, and Help Desk Software.
  • Upfront Costs: There may also be costs associated with employee training and even hiring fees.
  • New KPIs: As teams need to be prepared to deliver superior retail customer service experiences in the long term, an overhaul of the business objectives, incentives, training, and roles is required.

How to Utilise Retail Help Desk Tools For Better Customer Service

It’s common for e-commerce businesses to use multiple channels to engage with customers. This provides an omnichannel experience. Retail Helpdesk Software consolidates channels into one place to receive and resolve requests. Such as email, forms, phones, social media, and support feeds.

This is simple for service agents as well as customers. When a product or service doesn’t work, customers need to know where to go to get help.

Stand-out Help Desk Software Features For Retail Customer Service

  • Chat Bots: According to Dashly chatbot usage statistics, 50% of customers prefer to talk with AI chatbots. Live chat software allows real-time customer support while browsing the website, reducing response times and improving customer satisfaction.
  • Pop-up windows: Pop-up windows alert customers to support agents, popular guides, and articles. You may also want to consider a feedback survey pop-up, which has been shown to have an average 12% conversion rate.
  • Knowledge Bases: A knowledge base is a section of a company’s customer portal with helpful documentation. Such as FAQs, how-tos, best practices, and more. This delivers a self-service experience for users.
  • Community Forums: Having a dedicated forum enables customers to ask questions and have them answered by the community. They can also search forums to find similar issues and fixes.
  • Self-service Customer Portals: These enable customers to ask questions directly with service agents. These queries generate tickets, which are assigned to agents with a unique identifier.

Expert Tips For Excelling In Retail Customer Service

As a customer support leader in retail, you balance many roles. You’re managing support agents, matching customer expectations, attracting new customers, and more. It’s hard to be perfect.

As Simon Sinek explores (below), it’s not always about having the perfect answers. Some requests are impossible to meet, and customers can feel unsatisfied, upset, or annoyed. What matters is how you respond with a true customer-centric approach.

“Customer service isn’t about the customer always being right, it’s about the customer feeling heard. If we truly serve our customers with respect, we’ll cultivate loyalty that lasts.”