With the rise of Amazon and other customer-centric e-commerce brands, modern customers are conditioned to expect the same personalized service online as they would receive in a brick-and-mortar store.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that e-commerce brands that prioritize customer experience are most successful.
In fact, a study by Shopify showed that businesses that respond to a shopper’s chat within 5 minutes are 70% more likely to sell that shopper a product.
⚡ Response Times = 😀 Customers + More 💰
Data from Hubspot also supports this, with 90% of consumers rating “immediate” customer support as very important.
In this study, the definition of “immediate” is just 10 minutes.
While companies are catching on to the importance of instantaneous customer service, response times are decreasing from hours to minutes and even seconds.
Whether you’re responding to customers via SMS (you should) or Email, here are some benchmarks to help you keep up with your industry and strategies to meet each benchmark.
Key SMS Benchmarks
Consumers 💗 SMS support.
In a study by eWeek, more than half of consumers surveyed stated that they would likely text a customer support agent if given the option. Plus, 47% agreed that SMS improves their satisfaction.
31% of consumers stated that it was very important that a business offers SMS customer service options.
Overall, 77% of consumers are more likely to have a positive perception of a company that offers texting capabilities.
The amazing user experience of SMS support isn’t the only benefit. You’ll also likely see an increase in revenue simply because impulse purchases make up more than 40% of all ecommerce purchases.
So what differentiates good and great SMS support?
It all comes down to two key factors:
Most people prefer SMS support because it’s faster than email. So if your response time is slow, it defeats the purpose of SMS.
At Tone, we recently ran a quick study of several ecommerce brands and found some key SMS response time benchmarks by industry.
We texted a group of brands across different verticals and recorded the response times and response rates. Here’s what we found:
- Average Response Time: 102 minutes
- Average Response Rate: 100%
- Average Response Time: 23 minutes
- Average Response Rate: 89%
- Average Response Time: 47 minutes
- Average Response Rate: 67%
Response times vary from industry to industry. But the biggest finding was that all of these response times were WAY slower than what customers expect.
The average response time to a text message from a friend is just 90 seconds. That’s the real benchmark your customers will expect.
So how can you meet this benchmark?
One option is to use an SMS CRM integration to ensure that the customer support rep responding has instant access to all past customer data. This will help you avoid asking for repetitive customer information that lengthens the support cycle and increases resolution time.
You can also use some automation for certain questions such as store hours, shipping tracking, and other basic FAQs.
The only issue with automation is that your messages must be accurate. This level of accuracy requires a mix of software and real human agents – who can respond to complex questions.
If your customers receive SMS responses that don’t answer the question or don’t make sense, you’ll anger them more than you’ll help them.
We’re talking about an experience like this…
The biggest complaints in the above review were:
- Slow customer response time
- The SMS support never resolved the issue – rather, it passed them off to another agent
It’s important to use both humans and automation to provide the best experience possible.
Here’s an example of an outstanding SMS customer service response that provides a great personalized experience:
Notice that this response is clearly from a human, and the interaction is similar to a live interaction at a brick-and-mortar store. Check the timestamps. This was resolved in about 90 seconds, meeting the standard response time you expect from text messages.
Key Email Benchmarks
While SMS is a major player in the industry, 62 percent of customers still say that email is their preferred communication method. If you’re an e-commerce brand, you should offer SMS support. But that doesn’t mean that you should throw away email support.
Here are key benchmarks for ecommerce email support based on data from 1,000 different companies:
Average Response Time
- Best-in-class: 3 hours
- Average: 12 hours and 10 minutes
While email is typically slower than SMS, studies show that about 30% of customers still expect an email response within an hour.
So if you deal with a high volume of customer support emails, one of the best ways to improve your response time is to enable automatic message routing. This enables you to set parameters for who receives each type of email, which will allow you to have a more specialized support team.
For example, you may have one customer support rep that specializes in shipping questions while another customer support rep specializes in product information.
This avoids a lot of unnecessary back-and-forth questions.
First Contact Resolution
Only about 20% of companies answer all of the customer’s questions on the first email. This is a major problem (and opportunity!), as nearly half of all ecommerce consumers say repeating their question multiple times is the most frustrating aspect of customer service.
The best way to solve this?
Integrate your CRM with email support to enable sales reps to ask fewer questions and shorten your support cycle.
Only 2.4% of companies send follow-up emails confirming that their request has been answered.
Sending a follow-up confirmation email may seem like an unnecessary action as you presume the customer would reach out again if they did have an issue. However, it adds an extra level of personalization and will help you stand apart from other companies that don’t send follow-up emails.
It can also help remind customers about your brand if they didn’t purchase on the first response.
Here’s an example of a great automated follow-up confirmation email:
Automation is a great way to expedite common FAQs… but too much automation causes friction 😠and increases your support cycle.
You should have humans handling much of your customer support.
While this may seem counterintuitive, having humans respond:
- Adds a more personalized touch increasing customer satisfaction
- Improves first contact resolution as customers don’t have to repeat themselves
- Improves response times as you’ll have shorter ticket cycles and therefore less volume
This approach also helps you eliminate awkward errors that feel automated and impersonal. Check out the example below, in which the different fonts in the email are a dead giveaway that much of this message is automated.
Finally, one in three people says the most important aspect of customer service is connecting with a friendly and knowledgeable representative.
Be sure that you have strong customer service reps that take the time to send personalized emails with a friendly tone. Emails like the one below leave a cold first impression with the customer:
To ensure your customer service representatives are following through with this, consider sending a follow-up email with a survey asking the customer about their service experience.
If you notice customers feel offended, look through a sample of email messages to ensure they are friendly and knowledgeable.
How to Improve Your Ecommerce Customer Service
Modern customers expect their online experience to be just as personalized as their in-store experience. Unfortunately, most companies are faced with a tough decision to either:
- Use impersonal automation to answer questions (and risk angering customers with irrelevant responses)
- Hire more full-time human representatives to answer questions in a more personalized manner
The first option puts your revenue at risk. Fewer people will convert if responses are irrelevant. The second option puts your margins at risk, as more customer support dollars cut into each sale.
So what can you do?
Fortunately, there is a third option for SMS support…
At Tone, we combine technology with real humans to deliver the SMS response experience that your modern shopper expects:
- Lightning fast
- Always accurate
- In the perfect tone
We send the texts. You drive more sales.
We start with your FAQ’s. Our system intelligently learns how to answer questions about your product, and it enables our real human SMS agents to respond in minutes (or less) with the perfect answer. Every time.
All you do is sit back and drive more sales.
This is our formula:
Real Human + Tech = More Sales
Let’s revisit why it matters.
Fast response times are EVERYTHING. Impulse purchases make up more than 40% of all ecommerce purchases. So a fast response time is critical to your bottom line.
At Tone, we respond to everything in three minutes or less.
In fact, when we ran the same mini-study referenced earlier in this post on ourselves, our average response time was under one minute!
Real-time conversations drive conversion and LTV. Rather than feeding your customers a bot with canned responses, our team enables real-time conversations. This enables your brand to answer follow-up questions, leading to higher conversion in the short term and higher LTV over time.
Increasing conversions, brand authority, and ultimately revenue is no longer a matter of tweaking headlines or adjusting colors. It’s about matching the support experience that the modern customer expects in 2021.
Try Tone today to improve your response rates, delight customers, and increase revenue.