One of the most time-consuming aspects to running an online business is customer support. It’s a buyers’ market, and consumers are more savvy than ever. They expect businesses to respond to their messages almost instantly and, if they don’t, they will shop elsewhere.
But, if handled properly, customer service can be a business opportunity. Pre-sales contact can provide sellers with an opportunity to connect with potential customers and generate more sales.
xSellco has been developing software for multichannel sellers for eight years, and eDesk was created specifically to tackle the issues around customer service. Using artificial intelligence to generate automatic responses, eDesk can dramatically reduce response times, improving customer satisfaction and lowering the cost of support.
How did xSellco get started?
xSellco was founded by serial entrepreneur Ray Nolan. After many years in the travel industry, creating and chairing successful businesses like Hostelworld and Skyscanner, Ray caught wind of the burgeoning ecommerce scene.
The idea was sparked by a former colleague who had just dipped their toes into the online retail world. Ray noticed that he was struggling to manage data across different marketplaces, and was valiantly trying to stay on top of the issue with several different tools to handle all the different parts of the business.
Many companies have built all-in-one software that aims to handle everything that ecommerce sellers need, but customer support is rarely a strong point for these systems. In contrast, customer service had been key in all of Ray’s past ventures, and there was clearly a need from ecommerce businesses, so it was a natural first area for xSellco to focus on.
Development started at xSellco in 2011, and the company launched their first software in 2013. Today xSellco has three main solutions. Besides eDesk, the company has an Amazon repricing tool and an automatic feedback request tool for multiple sales channels.
What are the biggest customer service issues for online sellers today?
In the past, sellers would rely on email auto-responders that cheerfully told consumers to expect a response in a few days. Consumers today expect a response within a couple of hours, and have a lot more options of places to buy from if they don’t hear back quickly.
A major trend in ecommerce customer support is the number of different channels that customers expect to get support through. Besides all the marketplaces and ecommerce platforms that they sell on, buyers will often try to contact businesses via email, social media and instant messaging apps, and they expect to get a response back through the same channel.
It’s very difficult to create an efficient customer support process if staff have to navigate a dozen different websites and apps, all with their own unique logins and user interfaces.
This is particularly important in pre-sale inquiries. It’s been proven that, if a seller responds within the hour, they’re still in the game to win the sale. Leave it longer than that, and they’re likely to lose the customer to a competitor who replies more promptly.
Then there’s the importance of ratings and reviews in the online landscape. Consumers constantly look to their peers to help decide if a seller is worthy of their investment. Online channels have their own high performance standards in terms of customer support, which sellers have to meet to be allowed to keep selling there.
These big issues – speed, multiple channels, and customer satisfaction – are some of the main problems that eDesk handles.
Do online sellers have a lot of messages to deal with?
Ecommerce can appear to be a completely transactional kind of business, with no human interaction. Customers can find everything they need online, and then they either make a purchase or they don’t. You should only hear from them in the rare cases when something goes wrong.
The reality for many sellers is not like that at all. xSellco estimates that one in ten sales, on average, can result in some form of customer support requirement. However, the levels depend a great deal on the type of product being sold, and also upon the marketplace being used.
Sellers on eBay know that their customers can be high maintenance. eBay’s community atmosphere encourages interaction between buyers and sellers. Their “ask a question” link is easily accessible and customers use it regularly.
In contrast, customers on Amazon and other marketplaces are positively discouraged from contacting the seller unless they have a complaint. Nevertheless there will always be returns, exchanges and delivery queries to deal with.
How does eDesk help sellers save time on customer support?
eDesk has a sophisticated approach to making customer support replies as fast as possible.
It works by using machine learning, which essentially scans incoming support tickets and compares them to millions of past messages to suggest the best answer. This is not about the boilerplate replies that are so frustrating for customers. The suggested responses are closely matched to the question being asked, and automatically include personalized information including order details and delivery information.
Each of the suggested answers is assigned a confidence score. Over time, the machine learning software becomes more and more knowledgeable on specific queries and the best responses to go with them. This means the confidence score increases until sellers can often send a suggested response in one click.
eDesk uses live customer data from whichever marketplace or platform a consumer has come from. The software is fully integrated with each platform and automatically provides transaction information including product information and shipping data. This saves the time and effort it takes to login to various platforms and avoids unnecessary back-and-forth communication with the customer.
eDesk can also identify problem items. By reporting on the number of messages by product SKU, it will quickly become clear if certain products lead to more customer service questions than others. This helps empower sellers to make better decisions about the products they’re selling. Issues like bad descriptions or poor product quality come to light pretty quickly when you can see how many support tickets relate to each product.
Research has shown that eDesk can reduce customer service workload by 90%, compared to having no help desk software. On average, 30-40% of queries can be dealt with in a single click, without even needing to view all the related information. That’s a lot of time and money saved.
How can customer service be a business opportunity?
eDesk allows support staff to request feedback from marketplace customers. More positive reviews improves the seller’s overall reputation, which is fed back into search ranking algorithms and can lead to more sales in the long run.
The cost-saving aspect of eDesk also creates business opportunities. Sellers can provide better support with fewer staff. Support reps only need to be trained on one system, making onboarding quicker and improving job satisfaction. With less hiring, training and HR overhead, the business can spend more time on activities that add to the bottom line.
eDesk helps sellers treat pre-sale questions as opportunities. If a retailer can respond to a customer and answer their questions promptly, they’re more likely to secure a sale.
For example, if a question comes in asking about the color of a product, eDesk can identify what is being asked and form an answer based on the relevant product listing. Because eDesk is connected to marketplaces and other sales platforms, it has access to all the listing information related to the message in hand. This allows sellers to answer customers quickly and accurately, and have a better chance of winning the sale.
What about international customer support?
The cross-border nature of online retail these days means sellers are often operating in several different countries that don’t speak a common language. As a result, customer service can get murky when multiple different translations are needed.
eDesk can translate messages automatically. When a message comes in, the language is automatically detected and the message translated so the support rep can understand it. The reply can also be automatically translated back into the customer’s language. This way, support staff can answer messages in multiple languages even if they only know one language themselves.
eDesk uses a combination of Google and Microsoft Translate for automatic translation. This is usually good enough to make the meaning clear, but there can be errors in the grammar. An option for higher-quality translations is to use automatic translation for the incoming message but a prepared response template in the local language for the reply. This provides international customers with a seamless support experience, but no direct exposure to automatic translation.
Which features of eDesk get the most positive feedback?
For multichannel sellers, the centralization aspect of eDesk is usually the number one feature. It brings all customer service tickets into one place, regardless of where they originated.
Then there’s the order integration features. Reply templates are automatically populated with the customer’s information and order reference, so retailers don’t have to search different systems for the information they need.
Finally, the automatic AI processing of messages means that sellers get relevant answers put right in front of them. Support staff often don’t need to type a single thing, and can just click a button. This allows them to deal with routine inquiries very quickly and instead focus their time on those that really need a human touch.
What kind of businesses use eDesk?
A wide range of businesses use eDesk. The system is used by multinational brands like Suzuki and Superdry, with large teams of customer service agents, as well as small businesses with only one person working part time.
The volume of customer service tickets that a seller receives isn’t necessarily correlated to how big the business is. Product type and the channels sold on are also big factors.
Regardless of the business size, the purpose of eDesk remains the same: giving sellers the tools they need to provide fast, efficient and high-quality customer support.
What’s coming next for xSellco and eDesk?
eDesk has just released a feature that lets agents zone-in on pre-sale questions, so they can get to them quickly. The aim is to provide a chat-like experience and get to customers while they’re hot, not when they’ve already moved on to a competitor.
The new feature will essentially segment pre-sale messages from other questions and put them in their own area, color-coding their priority based on time lapsed since the message was sent.
The identification of pre-sale messages, also allows sellers to measure and reward team members on their success in converting questions into orders. Future questions can then be routed to customer service reps who are particularly skilled in dealing with pre-sale questions.
xSellco is also working on more integrations, as new marketplaces are launched and become popular. Another idea being explored is the gamification of the system for customer support reps, to help keep staff motivated.
Customer support has come a long way
There’s a lot more to ecommerce customer support than meets the eye. It can be a labor-intensive and costly activity, with many systems to navigate. Or it can be streamlined and efficient, with all the data brought into one place.
It can be frustrating work, spending time to answer questions that are already covered in the product listing, for customers who rarely follow through with a purchase. Or it can be a sales opportunity, using the product listing to create automatic replies so pre-sale questions can be answered before the customer loses interest.
Customer service can be tedious work, answering the same questions again and again. Or it can be a challenge, with most routine questions reduced to a few seconds so that only the most interesting messages remain.
Which is it for you?
Turning tedious work that adds nothing to the bottom line, into an efficient process with the potential to generate additional sales is a big achievement. Thousands of sellers are thanking eDesk for that every day.
This post was sponsored by xSellco.