Michiel Gaasterland
Michiel Gaasterland
Chief Brand Officer
Apr 2, 2019

Should you try to reduce the number of customer service questions you are getting?

spaceship coming in too fast

“They’re coming in too fast!” — Luke Skywalker, Star Wars (1977)

We've seen it a million times. An eCommerce director sits down to talk with their customer service team lead about the pressure customer service is under and how to solve it, get it under control.

At some point, one of them says, “We really need to reduce the number of customer questions we’re getting in”. Both nod in agreement and walk away, happy they’re on the right track.

But are they?

Typically, decisions to focus on reducing the number of questions are driven by lack of resources and cash concerns. Less questions means less workload, which means less reps to pay. However, this is less than half the story.

In reality, some questions are much more commercially valuable than others. There are questions that could be completely avoided by fixing them at source (in a website, on a page, or in the cart, for example), so customer service can start making tangible contributions to your customer experience. Some questions are best automated. But some questions you absolutely want to encourage more of!

The trick is to know which are which.

Introducing The ROBIN Program

When you join the ROBIN Program your dedicated Expert Coach will share the data, skills, and tools to help figure out which questions are which, help you develop the internal business case, and help you get your customer service house in order —  quickly, safely and sustainably.

Down below are a few pointers from our Expert Coaching Playbook to get your customer service team lead and eCommerce director reading from the same hymn sheet.

# 1 Beware of killing customer loyalty!

In an ideal world, customers would prefer to have as few questions as possible. But when they do have one, they want it answered as quickly and efficiently as possible (and answered nicely, too). That’s a fundamental principle of great customer service. You need to meet these expectations at the very least.

However, many folks don’t do that. Instead, they try to avoid answering questions by, for example, sending customers to their FAQ section. 
But shifting effort from reps to customers can be an expensive mistake.

As the classic 'Stop trying to delight your customers’ HBR article helps explain, the more effort a customer has to put into their task to get something done, the less loyal they will be. As this research on customer effort and loyalty [PDF] says:

  • A huge 94% of respondents who only had to put in a little bit of effort in getting their issue resolved said they’d buy from that company again. But;
  • Only 4% of respondents who had to put a lot of effort into getting their question answered/problem solve said they’d buy from that company again.

Customers who experience low effort also spend more, and hardly ever spread negative word of mouth.

Infographic: correlation between customer effort and loyalty

So if, while trying to reduce the number of questions in your inbox, you end up creating more work for your customers, you are likely killing future revenue and generating negative word of mouth! Consider your solutions carefully.

#2 Identify ‘avoidable’ questions and improve Customer Experience too

One of the best ways to reduce the number of incoming questions is to make sure they don’t occur in the first place. To do that, you need to identify the sources of your questions — a bit like a root cause analysis (RCA) in software development.

ROBIN helps you do that by tagging service conversations and mapping them to your shopper journey stages (at its' most basic: pre-sales, purchase and after-sales). In that map you can identify the specific topic of the questions.

This helps you identify repeat questions and the root causes of questions (unclear information in confirmation emails, missing product info, or stock questions, for example) which you can then feed back to the right party to fix.

This way, you not only reduce the number of incoming questions, but also start making tangible contributions to your brand’s customer experience (CX).

From our own research, for companies still getting their customer service ‘house-in-order’ these types of questions typically constitute around 45% of your questions in your inbox!

#3 Identify ‘bottable’ questions and automate them

Some claim that 80% of shopper questions could be automated with a bot. We did research to explore that. Our findings are that this is way too high, and if you did aim to automate 80%, you would kill a tonne of commercial up-sell, cross-sell and loyalty-building opportunities in the process.

While it depends upon the individual company, product portfolio type, service team experience and more, our research shows that typically around 15% of eCommerce questions are suitable to bot. These include FAQs (so no sending folks away anymore), password retrievals, returns questions, and more.

So yes, automate whatever you can — but make sure the customer experience also benefits! Download our BS-free white paper on AI, chatbots & the eCommerce service conversations to find out what to bot and what not to bot — with what.

#4 Reallocate reps towards ‘desirable’ high commercial value questions

Once you have fixed all you can in the customer experience, and once you have automated all the questions you should, we conservatively estimate that you will have freed at least 50% of your resources that you can reallocate towards the customer service questions that you really want more of.

You could now shift the bulk of your reps’ time and effort from after-sales into your shopping cart to focus on closing, and into pre-sales; with all those lovely retention, up-sell and cross-sell benefits.

Now, you are really in control.

Over time, as you progress through the ROBIN Program, you are able to make quicker, more informed decisions about which questions to automate, which questions should be fixed in the customer experience — and which ones you can actually encourage more of.

To finish off, let’s come back to our opening thought… The next time you hear someone say, “We really need to reduce the number of customer questions we’re getting in” stop and think carefully. Remember; your focus determines your reality.

May the Force be with you!






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