Customer service is a big part of the customer experience. If they have a question, they want to be able to get a satisfactory answer as fast as possible. Great customer service reaps great rewards, with 52% of consumers saying they’ve made an additional purchase after a positive customer care experience, and 96% say that customer service is a key factor in their choice of brands to stay loyal to.
Getting customer care right is tricky at the best of times, but this is made all the more difficult when you add in time zones, different languages, and longer shipping times. Expanding your Shopify store across borders is an exciting prospect, but it’s key that you deliver the same level of great service to international customers as you do domestically.
What challenges do Shopify merchants face with international customer service?
Every merchant wants to provide top class support to every customer who gets in touch with their team. However international customers present a unique set of challenges that can complicate even the most robust of customer service strategies.
It’s inevitable that your customer support team won’t be able to answer every international inquiry as they come in. After all, they can’t be online 24/7. This can be challenging, as it doesn’t matter to customers where they are in relation to your business - they expect fast support any time of the day.
Working with different international couriers
If you’re shipping internationally, there’s a good chance that you’re using different couriers to what you would use for domestic orders. Keeping track of different logistics partners can become messy and difficult, especially if different countries require specific information or paperwork. In fact of all the challenges facing merchants when selling internationally, some of the most common were related to international logistics such as managing shipping partners, tracking, and customs compliance. This can make it difficult for customer service teams when trying to provide accurate information in response to international service tickets.
Unless you have dedicated customer support for each country you ship to, it’s unlikely that your support team will be able to speak all the different languages of international customers. This is made more difficult when 75% of international customers prefer to shop in their native language, meaning that they likely prefer to also communicate about their order in that language. It can be frustrating for both the customer and service representative if they can’t fully understand each other, leading to potential misunderstandings and poor service.
Luckily, all of these issues can be mitigated with some clever implementation of automation, additional customer service tools, and careful performance monitoring. Plus, all of these strategies don’t require the direct attention of your customer service team thereby reducing their time spent on tickets and lessening the impact of international sales on your team’s time and attention.
#1 - Provide self-service support options
Self-service customer support is a great tool for any Shopify merchant. It’s also a strategy that can also hugely benefit your domestic customers as well as your international ones. Most customers prefer to try to solve their issues on their own before contacting your team, so self-service not only improves their customer experience but reduces the number of tickets your team receives allowing them to focus on more important support queries.
The most simple way to offer a self-service option is by having a clear, detailed, and searchable FAQ page. More specifically, have an international FAQ that’s clearly separated from your regular FAQ about products and domestic orders. This should also be separated by country or region if you sell into several international markets as there may be different shipping information, pricing, and returns processes for each market. Give thorough detail about any restrictions on products for different countries, as well as if there are any additional import fees or taxes that customers may be subject to.
One of the biggest concerns for international customers is wondering where their package is throughout the post-purchase process. Shipping across borders can be tricky, and it’s common to see delays. When an order takes longer than expected to arrive, customers will start to worry which leads them to get in touch and due to issues such as timezones they won’t get an answer as soon as they may hope for. In this instance, you can integrate a real-time tracking app such as Order Lookup into your Shopify store so that customers can check in on their order any time of the day, and see exactly what its status is along with up-to-date tracking information.
Bonus: Localize your self-service options
If you want to really impress your international customers, then consider localizing your FAQ. That way customers can see the most pertinent information to their order, as well as being able to read it in their native language. If you’re already localizing some elements of your store, then it makes sense to adapt this information also.
#2 - Integrate a robust customer service platform
There are a few ways in which a great customer service platform can seriously improve your international customer support experience. Using a platform such as Gorgias will give your team access to a variety of tools and automations that will allow you to make the international customer experience just as great as your domestic one.
Automated responses can not only reduce the amount of time your team spends on repetitive tasks, but can also greatly improve response times and resolutions for international customers. Time zones are one of the biggest challenges to providing timely responses, after all if a customer who is several time zones ahead sends an inquiry it might not reach your team until many hours later and by then it may be too late for the customer.
Automated responses help in a few different ways. The first is that you can let your customers know when your support team is unavailable for live responses, along with your working hours. This helps to manage their expectations, instead of leaving them waiting and wondering when you might respond. The second is that it can help to redirect queries about common questions where the answer may be available elsewhere. For example if they ask about order status you can redirect them to your order tracking, or if they ask about a product you can point them in the direction of your product FAQ.
Machine learning and chatbots
We’ve already covered that customers expect fast customer service. In order to satisfy this, you can make use of machine learning and chatbots to give international customers great, relevant support that addresses their concerns even when your team is asleep. You can set up rules that detect what kind of inquiry a customer has, the type of information they’re looking for, and a satisfactory resolution. We mentioned Gorgias above, and on their platform you can even detect customer sentiment to help your bot respond accordingly. To help you along with international customers, the platform can detect up to 54 languages, and their sentiment detection supports 16 commonly spoken languages.
However, don't rely on chatbots and AI to solve all your international customers’ problems. Make it easy for a customer to get in touch with your team if they aren’t satisfied with the answers they receive, as 30% of consumers say that not being able to get in touch with a human representative is one of the most frustrating experiences of poor customer service.
One of the best features of a good customer service platform is being able to have simple, quick access to customer information. It can be frustrating for customers to be passed on to various people, and explain their situation over and over again to get a response. This is made even more frustrating if they’re an international customer where their order is potentially missing. In fact, 72% of customers see having to explain their problem to multiple people as poor customer service.
If you have easy access to their previous history and interactions, it helps mitigate frustration for customers who get in touch with your customer service. With Gorgias for example, you can see customer orders, information, as well as any other previous customer service interactions with a live representative as well as through any automations or chatbots. This allows your team to respond faster, as well as have a better understanding of the customer’s previous history with your store and provide better solutions.
#3 - Send relevant, detailed email communication
Email marketing is an excellent tool to have when it comes to international sales. By making use of powerful segmentation and automation tools, you can develop an effective, informative and personalized email experience even for your international customers. We’ve written previously about how to make use of segmentation as part of your international strategy, but today we’re going to focus specifically on what you can do with email to improve your international customer service experience.
When it comes to international orders, the more information the customer gets the better. Email is your direct line to each individual customer, so you should make the most of it to send them all the relevant information they’ll need about their order. This includes:
Dispatch and shipping time estimates
International shipping typically takes longer than domestic orders, and customers will be aware of this however it still helps to send an additional email about how long this might take. This helps to manage their expectations, and stop them from feeling the need to get in touch wondering where their order is in the fulfillment process. Send an additional email after the order is confirmed, detailing how long it will take the prepare their order and then how long it will typically take to receive the order depending on different shipping methods. You should also include any information about potential fees and taxes that might be incurred, just in case they didn’t read up on these ahead of time. You can use segmentation to personalize these depending on the region being shipped to.
International FAQ and support information
A few days after the item has been dispatched, it helps to direct customers to where they can find answers to any questions they may have. Send an email with details of where to find your international FAQ page, along with some common questions - e.g. “How do I track my order” - and direct them to relevant links. Include information about how to get in touch with your customer service team, should they have any additional questions or concerns about their order.
Returns are a fact of ecommerce, but they don’t have to be something negative. Quite the opposite, 96% of consumers say that they’d be willing to make a future purchase with a retailer who had an open and easy returns policy. Be open and transparent about your returns process by sending an email after the order has been delivered letting them know that while you hope they enjoy their order, you’re also letting them know how they can make a return. Include any details such as if returns are paid for by your store or if they need to cover the cost, as well as how long the returns window is.
International growth, while challenging, is extremely rewarding for Shopify merchants looking to expand beyond their domestic customer base. It can be difficult to not only deliver a good experience to customers who are based so far from your home country, but also to compete with the more local brands in their regions. By implementing different tools and automations into your customer care strategy, you can stay competitive and ensure that your international customers get the same quality of service and experience as they would domestically.