The best customer support platforms for B2C and ecommerce businesses

The best customer support platforms for B2C and ecommerce businesses
By Diana Potter | On Oct 28, 2021
8 min read
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In our last post, we talked about finding the best customer support platform if you’re a software or SaaS company, depending on your stage of growth. But what if you’re an ecommerce business, selling products like household goods, clothing, or pet supplies directly to consumers? You need to manage not just product questions, but also order and shipping questions. In this post, we’ll be looking at the best customer support platforms to meet your unique requirements.

What we’ve learned is based on conversations we’ve had with support leaders at ecommerce companies that have support teams of various sizes. Some were just starting out, while others already had a medium-sized team year-round, and one had a team that grew to 100 agents during the busy season—they all had very different needs, and you will, too. However, there were some commonalities and things they all talked about. Those are the features and needs we’ll be discussing.

Which group do you fall within? 

As we mentioned in our previous post, we recognize that every company has different needs. However, we’re suggesting some groupings based on common elements that can help you reflect on your company’s current position. You may meet some criteria or all of them. If you’re sitting across more than one category (you might notice that the category characteristics do overlap in places), choose the one that matches your situation the most closely.

Mouse

Company attributesWhat makes you a Mouse?Company SizeAt least one personYou may be small, but you’re mighty, and have an oversized impact. You’ve probably been providing support from your email inbox, but it’s time to get better organized. Or you’re planning for the future.Since you’re small, you likely don’t have a person dedicated to support yet, but if you do, your team is unlikely to be more than a couple of people. Your product either just launched or has been a small cottage industry and you’re not selling at huge volumes yet. Plus, your business is mostly direct to consumer rather than wholesaling. Your main need is to provide the best support you can, as quickly as you can. Your customers find you via search and social media, and you need to meet them where they are to support them. You find it important to be very personal because your customers are a precious resource. You want all their feedback and also to encourage repeat orders. Your time is limited, and you want to do what you can to speed things up, meaning bulk replies and FAQs are a necessity. A platform that can integrate with your ecommerce software would be a bonus.Support Team Size Very small or non-existentCustomersA growing number, but you want a close connection and repeat business from your many loyal customersTop Features NeededEmail, social media integrations, bulk replies, macros, and a built-in support centerBudgetExtremely limitedTime AvailableExtremely limited

Raccoon

Company attributesWhat makes you a Raccoon?Company SizeAt least five full-time staff, and part-time or seasonal helpYou may still be on the smaller side, but you’re very busy and scurrying everywhere to get your work done. Maybe you had a product go viral or hit some success with your Instagram ads. Or perhaps your product line has seen small but steady growth over a couple of years and you’re outgrowing the processes you have in place. Either way, while building great customer relationships are vital, you also need to think about scaling and how your service will grow.Right now, your main needs are continuing to provide your current level of the service, but with more knowledge. You need agent and volume reports and might be considering reporting more on your cost of support. Your team scales up and down with the seasons and you want a platform that lets you change your team size as needed and also allows for adding light agents if you need to pull in help on a busy day. You also need to see integrations with your ecommerce store software because your team can’t function without easy access to that data.Support Team Size At least one full-time support agentCustomersGrowing rapidlyTop Features NeededSame as a Mouse, but add agent and volume reports, integrations with your other platforms, and an easily scalable team size/light agentsBudget$–$$Time AvailableLimited

Wolf

Company attributesWhat makes you a Wolf?Company SizeAt least 30 full-time staff and seasonal help OR you went viral due to something like Kickstarter or Shark TankYour full-time team is solid, but you always have more work than hours in the day, especially during the holidays or other busy periods.You want to offer the best service you can, but support costs are an increasing focus and you’re looking at ways to scale your service without necessarily scaling your full-time team. That could mean a focus on self-serve or looking at outsourcing companies to help you quickly scale up and down as needed. You might also have gone viral and shifted from tiny to rapid growth, and you need tools to handle that.Your focus is on scaling. Self-serve deflection is big and that means increasing your FAQs as well as your reporting so you know which areas to focus your service on. You also have a mix of insourced and outsourced team members and you need settings and permissions that handle that well.Support Team Size At least 10 full-time staffers and your team can easily triple in size during the holidays or high-volume timesCustomersLarge numbers of repeat customers as well as a constant influx of new customersTop Features NeededEverything self-serve and deflection, more granular permissions, automation, and ticket assignmentsBudget$$–$$$$Time AvailableYou have dedicated resources and an investment in support is worth it. However, if you just went viral you need something in place yesterday.

Elephant

Company attributesWhat makes you an Elephant?Company SizeAt least 100 full-time staff and seasonal helpYou’re a larger team and still growing. You’re also finding that while you have one main season when your team scales, you have multiple smaller seasonal shifts. As the team and their needs grow, support costs are something you have to focus on. Providing great support is a key part of your business, but you want to do it in a sustainable way.Right now, you’re looking at automation, self-serve, and deflection. You’re also reaching a limit on how useful built-in integrations are and looking at building your own integrations to the tools you use, and pulling data from your support platform. Support Team Size 50+ including seasonal helpCustomersA large group of casual customers along with a good number of loyal repeat purchasersTop Features NeededSame as a Wolf, but also advanced permissions, security and compliance features, powerful automation, and API accessBudget$$–$$$$Time AvailableYou have dedicated resources and improving/scaling your support is a key metric for the company

As your company and support team grow, you’ll want and need different features. In part, this is because you’ll have different priorities and resources, but also because your relationships with customers will shift over time.

You may notice that compared to our previous post for software/SaaS companies, this time we’re covering additional features, like integrations with commerce platforms. We also recognize that you’ll be more focused on social media, self-service, and scaling sooner. Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we're compiling a super helpful checklist of the common features needed by each group.

The best platforms for each group

Now that you know which group you fall within, let’s talk about the support platforms that might be the best fit for you. As always, this list is meant as a starting point. You will likely need to do a detailed evaluation to determine which platform is best for your situation. TestBox is a great tool to help you do that because it lets you test different platforms side by side. 

We’re looking at some of the same top platforms as we did in our previous post for software and SaaS companies, but also introducing some newer options, like Gorgias, that focus on ecommerce support. Notably absent from this collection are Salesforce Essentials and Salesforce Service Cloud. While both are excellent support platforms, they don’t have as many features aimed directly at a direct-to-consumer ecommerce business. However, if you use Salesforce as your CRM or are looking for a CRM to be tied to your support platform, they are both excellent choices to review.

GroupPlatformsNotesMouseGrooveHelp ScoutIntercomTrengoWhen you’re small, the time to get started and the price tend to matter a lot more than anything else. These four platforms are feature-rich and capable of meeting your early needs, but they don’t complicate things with settings and features you don’t need that would slow you down. The right software here comes down to your needs as well as the integrations you’d prefer, but all of these will do the job.RaccoonFreshdeskGrooveHelp ScoutIntercomHubSpotTrengoZendeskAs you grow, or if you need to hit the ground running, you’re going to find you need some of the complexity you avoided at first. All of the Mouse platforms can keep you going, but if you find yourself looking for more, we suggest taking a look at Freshdesk, HubSpot, and Zendesk.WolfDixaFreshdeskKustomerTrengoZendeskOnce you’ve hit Wolf size, or if you started there due to some viral success, you’re going to find yourself needing a lot more automation and deflection than previously. As much as you want a close relationship with all customers, it just isn’t feasible, and keeping an eye on your support costs will matter. Freshdesk, Trengo, and Zendesk will all keep going at this point, but if you need additional features, we suggest looking at Dixa and Kustomer as well.ElephantDixaGorgiasKustomerZendeskBy this point, you have a pretty clear vision of what you require — everything. You’re generally fighting multiple battles, from an ever-growing team and customer base to shifting product lines or new audiences (wholesaling!), each of which needs something completely different from you. It’s likely that your budget is less of a concern because a good platform with some advanced automation and deflection tools will save you enough in staffing costs to more than make up for the added expense.When it comes to which platform is best here, the sky is really the limit. Any of the previous platforms might still fit your needs, depending on configuration and your appetite for custom development between their systems and yours. Dixa, Kustomer, and Zendesk might have everything you want built-in. However, if you want another platform to throw into the mix, consider Gorgias as well as they’re focused on the needs of ecommerce companies and offer a lot of the more complex features an Elephant may need.

This table is meant to be a guide. We’re building a full chart that will list the features offered by each platform in detail. If you’re interested in receiving this when it’s ready, be sure to sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this post. As well, check out our detailed product comparisons chart that includes information on product tiers, pricing, security, and compliance features, as well as implementation support options.

Conclusion

Now that you have some potential support platforms to look at, it’s time to start your search. If you haven’t already read our series on finding a support platform, make sure to check it out here. We have some great posts to help you on your journey. You can also learn about some of our favorite features in Zendesk, HubSpot, Freshdesk, and Dixa (coming soon).

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Diana Potter

Diana is a support, success, and experience leader. She’s currently the Head of Customer Experience for Qwilr and previously led customer departments for a number of leading companies. When she’s not writing or helping customers you’ll find her off in the woods taking photos or curled up with a book.

TestBox empowers you to have a self-serve, customer-led experience so you can buy new software and feel confident that you made the right choice. Currently focused on Customer Support, TestBox allows you to test out Zendesk, Freshdesk, HubSpot, Dixa, and other products side-by-side. It takes a matter of minutes to sign up and take these products for a test drive. Find out more at TestBox.com or follow on LinkedIn.

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